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Nigeria, Ghana reject MDC funding claims


- NewZimbabwe

(Monday, October 31, 2005)

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"Sikhala claimed that the split which have rocked the MDC in the past week were not connected to the participation (or boycott) of senatorial elections but a fight over funds donated by Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo and Ghanaian leader John Kuffour."


Nigeria and Ghana have rubbished claims that they channeled up to US$500 000 illegal funds to Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The shock claims which are now subject of a police investigation were made by the controversial St Mary's MP Job Sikhala on Sunday.

Sikhala claimed that the split which have rocked the MDC in the past week were not connected to the participation (or boycott) of senatorial elections but a fight over funds donated by Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo and Ghanaian leader John Kufuor. He further alleged the MDC received US$2 million in 2002 which caused similar divisions.

But Nigerian officials reacted with anger, lodging a fierce protest with Zimbabwe's ambassador to that country over the "ludicrous and false" claims.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Olu Adeniji expressed Nigeria's discomfort with the reports -- also carried by the state-run Herald newspaper -- to the Zimbabwean High Commission in Nigeria.

Adeniji said the allegations, which first surfaced in the pages of the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper last year, were "ludicrous and false," adding that Nigeria least expected such "patently untrue publication in the press of a friendly country for which Nigeria has sacrificed so much."

When the Sunday Mail first reported the claims last year, the paper said Britain had channeled the money to Nigeria for redirection to the MDC.

Ghana's presidential spokesman, Kwabena Agyepong, said: "This is preposterous and baseless. This is pure speculation."

The MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube also rubbished the reports Tuesday, saying: "It's a complete fabrication which only Sikhala himself can explain. There is no foundation to those claims."

However, Zimbabwean police said Tuesday they had opened a criminal investigation to discover if the MDC had breached the Political Parties (Finances) Act which prohibits foreign sponsorship for Zimbabwean political parties.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said: "We are studying what has been said seeking an explanation from those involved. If an offence has indeed been committed, we follow the law and the responsible persons will be prosecuted."

It was not clear if Sikhala, now considered to be an "informant" by police, would cooperate with the investigation.

African heads of state in a group photo in Abuja
(From L front row) Ghana's President John Kufuor, Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, South Africa's President Thao Mbeki and Sierra Leone's Ahmad Tejan Kabbah pose for a group photo in Abuja.
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