Following an ongoing dispute with the government over gay rights, the State Department recalled the US ambassador to Zambia.
Last month, Ambassador Daniel Foote expressed dismay at the jailing of two local gay men. A judge sentenced them to 15 years each for a consensual private sex act in 2017. A worker at a holiday lodge they booked into, spied on them through an open window.
Following his criticism of the sentence, death threats prevented the ambassador from attending World AIDS Day events in the country.
Zambia more homophobic than Uganda
Zambian laws on homosexuality remain basically unchanged since colonial times. Social attitudes to LGBTIQ people in Zambia are overwhelmingly negative.
Despite Uganda’s notoriety for homophobia, social acceptance of homosexuality remains higher there than in Zambia. 11% of Ugandans find homosexuality morally acceptable compared to only 2% of Zambians.
Ambassador’s dispute with Zambian government
Following the ambassador’s denunciation of the trial, Zambian President Edgar Lungu declared him persona non grata.
“We don’t want such people in our midst. We want him gone.”
This despite Zambia receiving approximately US$500 million in aid annually.
Earlier this month, the ambassador spoke publicly on the aid, pointing out that millions went missing without the Zambian government taking any action on the endemic corruption.
Daniel Foote characterised the Zambian government as wanting foreign diplomats “with open pocketbooks and closed mouths.”
However, the Zambian foreign minister accused the ambassador of blackmail.
“You cannot ask a government to make a decision at gunpoint – ‘because we are giving you aid, we want you to do this’ – you can’t.”
US Ambassador to Zambia recalled
While the US State Department made no official comment on the recall of the ambassador, unnamed sources within the department spoke freely to the media. One source told AFP that the Zambian president’s attitude to Ambassador Foote raised security issues.
“Lungu said he does not want to work with the man and so there was no point in him remaining here. Remember that there are issues of security and so Washington want their man back. We do not expect a replacement soon.”
It seems Zambia may soon struggle to retain that annual US$500 million in aid.
Unless, of course, President Lungu can come up with some stories about corrupt conduct by Joe Biden.