THE Zambian government has written to Washington to withdraw its envoy Daniel Foote following his controversial remarks over the jailing of a gay couple in the country, the state broadcaster reported.
‘President Edgar Lungu says this is because Zambia does not want people who support un-Christian values such as homosexuality,’ Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) quoted him as saying when he appeared at a Church fundraising event south of the country.
The tension between Zambia and the United States has deepened following the sentencing of a homosexual couple to 15 years in prison by a central district court.
The US ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote described the relations between the two countries as ‘decaying.’
The sentencing of the couple, which Foote called ‘harsh and barbaric,’ appeared to be the trigger for the undiplomatic release of frustrations including over access to President Edgar Lungu and implementation of a US-led reform of the country’s energy sector.
Zambia’s Foreign minister Joseph Malanji said Lusaka had complained to Washington over what it viewed as the envoy’s interference in its internal affairs.
Amid threats of severance of ties by the US, President Lungu told Sky News that his government was ready to forfeit aid if it was tied to acceptance of homosexuality in a predominantly Christian nation. The US says it has spent more than $4bn in the last 15 years in HIV/Aids support.
More than one million Zambians are on anti-retroviral medicine.
Foote appeared to threaten a US aid cut as he complained about corruption. ‘I hope the government of Zambia commits to improving its decaying relationship with the United States but that is a decision for it to make.’
He accused critics of his and the US position on homosexuality of hiding behind Christian values.
Foote said Zambia’s Constitution protected the fundamental rights of all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation and accused the government of high handedness in dealing with dissent.
He blamed ‘domestic politics’ for delays in implementing energy sector reforms jointly developed by Zambia and US energy experts by 2018 that would have ensured better access to electricity.