Malawi president says UK's expelled envoy insulted him

Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika Bingu wa Mutharika recently purchased a presidential jet

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The president of Malawi has explained his decision to expel the British High Commissioner for the first time.

Fergus Cochrane-Dyet was told to leave after he was quoted in a leaked cable as saying President Bingu wa Mutharika does not tolerate criticism.

President Mutharika said he would not accept insults just because Britain was the country's largest aid donor.

Britain ordered the acting High Commissioner of Malawi to leave the UK in response to the move last month.

According to the diplomatic cable published by the local Weekend Nation newspaper last month, Mr Cochrane-Dyet described President Mutharika as "becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism".

He said local civil society activists were afraid after a campaign of threatening phone calls and said the government was restricting the freedom of the media and minorities.

Following the move, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "It is a worrying sign that the Malawian government is expending its energies in this way, rather than focusing on the real and substantial challenges facing it, including the need for improved governance."

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 75% of the population living on less than $1 (60p) a day.

The UK recently expressed its disappointment with Malawi and reduced aid after the government purchased an extravagant presidential jet.

It is also among the countries which condemned a new law which gives ministers power to ban publications deemed not to be in the public interest.

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