Edgar Lungu, President of Zambia
Washington has pulled its ambassador in Zambia after he publicly criticised the Zambian government for allowing two men to be jailed on homosexuality charges.
The US State Department confirmed that Ambassador Daniel Foote’s position was “no longer tenable” as Zambia had refused to work with him.
A spokesperson told Voice of America that despite his removal, the US “firmly opposes abuses against LGBTI persons. Governments have an obligation to ensure that all people can freely enjoy the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to which they are entitled.”
The Zambian government had written to Washington demanding Foote’s recall because he’d issued an outspoken statement expressing his horror at the courts upholding the 15-year sentence imposed on Japhet Chabata and Steven Samba for having sex.
The two men were also forced to undergo an anal examination, a practice internationally recognised as a form of torture, which was conducted 10 days after they allegedly had sex.
“Decisions like this oppressive sentencing do untold damage to Zambia’s international reputation by demonstrating that human rights in Zambia [are] not a universal guarantee,” Foote wrote in his statement.
He said that the severity of the sentence was particularly outrageous considering that “government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution.”
Zambia’s government was infuriated by the ambassador speaking out, with President Edgar Lungu claiming that Foote had been disrespectful towards Zambian culture and values.
The ambassador, in turn, said that he 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.”
He added that “The current government of Zambia wants foreign diplomats to be compliant, with open pocketbooks and closed mouths.”
In addition to the criminalisation of homosexuality, the LGBTIQ community has few legal protections in Zambia. This year alone, at least four other individuals in two separate cases have been arrested on homosexuality charges.