US Ambassador Challenges Zambian Government After Two Gay Men Jailed

Ambassador Outraged by Zambian High Court Verdict

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December 2, 2019

Lennox Kalifungwa

Diplomatic tensions are rising between the United States and Zambia after the southern African nation sentenced two gay men to fifteen-year years in prison for “crimes against the order of nature.”

The U.S. Embassy condemned the sentences handed down in late November in an official statement which said the sentence would do “untold damage to Zambia’s international reputation.”

The U.S. Ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, told the press he was “horrified” by the decision. Foote went further, criticizing the sentencing of the two men even as “government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution.”

Zambian officials and commentators on social media quickly condemned Foote. Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Malanji issued a statement stating, “Regarding the position of Zambia as a Christian nation in view of the Court’s decision on this matter of homosexuality, the Ambassador may wish to confine himself to matters that are within his competence.”

Foote said he cancelled his scheduled appearance at a World AIDS Day event on Tuesday after receiving other unspecified threats.

ZNews can confirm that the perimeter of the United States Embassy in Lusaka is now protected by additional Zambian security forces — should anyone attempt follow through with threats made against the Ambassador on social media.

“I was shocked at the venom and hate directed at me and my country, largely in the name of ‘Christian’ values, by a small minority of Zambians,” Foot wrote in a statement posted online by the State Department. “I thought, perhaps incorrectly, that Christianity meant trying to live like our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Gay sex is against the law across much of Africa. As Western nations have embraced more liberal views regarding homosexuality, some African nations have cracked down on same-sex couples. The Uganda parliament considered a bill in October that would make gay sex a capital crime. It was withdrawn following international condemnation.

Zambia receives hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid each year. The nation’s president, Edgar Lungu, said he will not back down. “If you want to be tying your aid to homosexuality,” he told Sky News, “… if that is how you will bring your aid then I am afraid the West can leave us alone in our poverty.”

After cancelling his appearance at  the World AIDS Day event, Foote issued a  press statement which read:  

“In my two years, I have strived to improve the U.S.- Zambia partnership, with minimal success. Let us stop the façade that our governments enjoy ‘warm and cordial’ relations. The current government of Zambia wants foreign diplomats to be compliant, with open pocketbooks and closed mouths,” Ambassador Foote wrote.

Ambassador Foote also challenged the Zambian government to grant more freedom to its citizens in the same statement.

“If this is how you’re going to bring us aid, then I’m afraid the West can leave us alone in our poverty, and we will continue scrounging and struggling and see how we can get going,” said Zambia’s President Edgar C. Lungu in a television interview this past weekend as he threatened to reject any aid that might compromise the values and traditions of the Zambian people.

Most Zambians support the legislation and have sided with the government in the current feud. This includes many in Zambia’s many churches.

“From a Biblical point of view, it is clear that homosexuality is a sin against God,” said Pastor Saidi Chishimba, a Baptist pastor in Zambia’s capital of Lusaka. “… the church has a provision for those who struggle with this sin; we offer counselling for these people. We do not treat homosexuality like it is a greater sin than others. It’s hard to say whether or not we should have legislation that imprisons … but the remedies of the government are different from the church.”