The US has withdrawn its ambassador to Zambia after the diplomat criticized the African nation’s government for imprisoning two men for engaging in homosexual activities.
The diplomatic row began in November when the ambassador, Daniel Foote, said he had been horrified to learn that the men were sentenced to 15 years in prison for having sex in 2017, an act which is considered “against the order of nature” by the high court.
Zambia’s president, Edgar Lungu, expressed his anger over Foote’s remarks in a letter to the White House dated December 15.
Zambia’s Minister of Home Affairs, Stephen Kampyongo, said that Foote had “crossed the line” with his remarks on the court’s decision.
“The dos and don’ts for those who represent nations in other nations are very clear. So if one crosses the line, it’s not about bilateral relations between the two countries,” said Kampyongo.
According to an embassy source, Lungu’s refusal to work with Foote left the US with no choice but to recall the ambassador.
“Since Lungu says he does not want to work with Foote, there was no point of him remaining. Also don’t forget that there are security issues so Washington wants their man back,” the source said.
There are no immediate plans to send another diplomat to Zambia.
Zambia receives $500 million dollars every year from the US for financial support, much of it earmarked towards HIV/AIDS prevention.
Africa’s conservative stance on LGBT rights
Many African nations have strict laws against homosexuality and the only country on the continent that recognizes gay marriage is South Africa.
Homosexuality in Zambia is, as in many other African nations, punishable by imprisonment of up to 15 years. Certain African countries, such as Zimbabwe, criminalize only male homosexual activity.
In October, Uganda announced plans for a bill called “Kill the Gays” which would impose the death penalty for gay sex and, in November, the country’s police arrested dozens of people in Kampala’s only openly gay friendly bar.
The international community has begun taking action against countries that criminalize homosexual behavior by launching protests and implementing sanctions.
Anti gay-remarks by a senior official in Tanzania in November resulted in the withholding of $10 million in aid by its second biggest donor, Denmark.