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Arrest of Zambia’s Anti-Drug Czar Welcomed

The Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) has welcomed as a step in the right direction the arrest of Zambia's anti-drug unit czar over graft charges and abuse of office. But it said the arrest and charge of Ryan Chitoba with theft of public funds was long overdue. The arrest also comes at a time when there are corrupt allegations being leveled against the director general of the Anti-Corruption Commission, which political observers say significantly undermines President Levy Mwanawasa’s promise to weed out corruption in his country.

Ryan Chitoba, who is a former senior police officer, was recently recalled from retirement to head the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), but was Wednesday arrested and charged with theft of about 345 million kwacha (about $93,000.00). He is the latest high profile figure to face graft charges in President Mwanawasa’s anti-graft crackdown.

Reuben Lifuka is the head of Transparency International in Zambia. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the president’s fight against corruption is perceived as skewed towards his political opponents.

“Firstly, I think this case has taken very long. Transparency International Zambia started calling for the suspension of Ryan Chitoba, the Commissioner General of the Drug Enforcement Commission, and Jacob Koye the Deputy commissioner general, almost three or four months ago when allegations first surfaced that the two most senior persons at the Anti- Drug Enforcement Commission (were allegedly involved in corrupt practices). The Anti- Corruption Commission has not been totally independent in the investigations involving the two gentlemen,” Lifuka pointed out.

He said although TI welcomes the arrests, it is not surprised about the lateness of government’s action.

“Whilst the arrests are welcome, we feel that the fight against corruption has taken a big dent in that the Drug Enforcement Commission equally run activities on anti-money laundering. And to imagine therefore, that the people charged with the responsibilities to clean up the act as it were, are involved in these activities to tarnish the image of the Drug Enforcement Commission,” he said.

Lifuka said President Mwanawasa has not backed up his promise to fight graft with the needed action.

“Other than the political pronouncement such as made particularly in the first term of office, we have not seen the sort of leaps and bonds that we expected particularly standing on the platform of zero tolerance to corruption. He has not managed successfully because even in parliament today the Auditor General’s report keeps showing results of huge amount of public resources being misappropriated, mismanaged or out rightly being embezzled,” Lifuka noted.

He described the president’s ongoing graft fight as purely selective.

“We see that the fight against corruption has also been selective because there has been cases involving some of his own ministers who have been alleged to have been involved in corrupt activities. And he has publicly so to say defended or shielded some of these ministers,” he said.