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Zambia Promises Fair Trial for Former President Banda

Zambia's President Rupiah Banda arrives at the Presidential Guest House for Extra-Ordinary Summit in Pretoria, South Africa, January 26, 2009.
Zambia’s attorney general has said former President Rupiah Banda will get a fair trial when his corruption trial commences this week.

Mumba Malila also said Zambian courts have demonstrated their independence.

The former president is accused of abusing his powers by procuring an oil contract with the Nigerian government meant for Zambia.

The government insists that Banda and his family actually were the beneficiaries.

Malila said a head of state is given the trust by the people to do whatever is in the best interest of the citizens and not to make best deals for him.

Malila said leaders who abuse the citizens’ trust will eventually be called upon to answer.

"Our investigation has revealed that this was an oil deal with a Nigerian company in which he was involved and in which he didn’t perform quite to expectations as head of state. And so, we want to see if the court can make some guidance on it. We think, as [head of] government, that he may very well have abused his office contrary to the provisions of the Anti-Corruption act," he said.

Malila said the government has also asked its investigators to look into lavish campaign spending of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) during the run up to 2011 election.

"The MMD ran a very lucrative campaign. They had all these branded balls, balloons and lollipops, motor vehicles and bicycles, those kinds of things coming in. Quite obviously, those things cost quite a lot of money, and we asked our investigators to look at the source of that funding, and it may appear as if, again, the monies were acquired in a manner that is less than honest," Malila said.
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The Zambia National Assembly last month removed Banda’s legal immunity from prosecution paving the way for a trial.

Malila dismissed concerns in some circles that, by prosecuting a former president, Zambia was making it harder for other African leaders to voluntarily leave power for fear they, too, might be prosecuted.

“A head of state is given the trust by the people to do what is in the best interest of the people. And, they are not given the power to make the best deals for themselves. Once that power is used properly, it’s fine. But, the moment that power is abused, then, quite obviously, the trust that the people have reposed in the president is equally abused and, in that case, I think it’s justified to try and bring the former president to account,” he said.

Malila said prosecuting Banda also sends a warning to those aspiring to be president and those currently serving as presidents that, while they exercise state power on behalf of the people, they are expected to carry out their responsibilities above board.

He said the Zambian judiciary is independent enough to give Banda a fair trial.

"Mr. Rupiah Banda himself is on record as having stated many times that our judiciary is very independent. And, it’s the same judiciary; nothing has changed; it’s the same judges, the same magistrates. These are the same ones that Mr. Rupiah Banda praised and he’s appearing before them. So, we do expect that they will be as independent as Mr. Rupiah Banda has always professed they are," Malila said.