LUSAKA, Zambia — The United States ambassador to Zambia has cancelled a public appearance for safety reasons after threats were made against him for saying he was “horrified” by the sentencing of a local gay couple to 15 years in prison.
Ambassador Daniel Foote told reporters Monday he would not be intimidated by officials in the southern African nation, where same-sex relationships are criminalised. It is a legacy of British colonial-era laws, as with several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The ambassador’s statement last week said the men’s consensual relationship hurt no-one but “meanwhile, government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution.”
Zambia’s foreign affairs minister, Joseph Malanji, says the government is sending a protest letter to Washington over the remarks and accuses the ambassador of meddling in Zambia’s internal affairs.
Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba were sentenced in the capital, Lusaka, by a High Court judge on Wednesday last week for “crimes against the order of nature” – Zambia’s legal term for gay sex.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu warned of a breakdown in relations between Zambia and the United States unless President Donald Trump took action against the ambassador.
He also insisted that nothing would change his mind on homosexuality.
He told Sky News: “We are saying no to homosexuality. Why should we say we are going to be civilised if we allow it… are you saying that we’re very primitive now because we’re frowning on homosexuality?
“Even animals don’t do it, so why should we be forced to do it?… because we want to be seen to be smart, civilised and advanced and so on.”
Ambassador Foote was due to attend World Aids Day commemorations on Tuesday but said he was cancelling his appearance “because of threats made against me, via various media, over my comments on the harsh sentencing of homosexuals.”
He added: “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.
“The foreign minister accused me of interfering with Zambia’s internal affairs, as he has done each time any foreign diplomat accredited to Zambia offers an opinion different to that of the current Zambian government.
“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.”
Source: Zim Live