A senior U.S. State Department official criticized the government of Zambia on Thursday after the Trump administration called its ambassador back to Washington amid a fight over gay rights.
Zambia’s high court sentenced two men this month to 15 years in prison for engaging in a sexual relationship ‘against the order of nature,’ a euphemism for gay sex.
Ambassador Daniel Foote was openly critical of Edgar Lungu’s government in Lusaka, saying he was ‘personally horrified’ by the imprisonment. Lungu shoved back publicly, saying he wanted Foote to leave.
‘We don’t want such people in our midst. We want him gone,’ Lungu said in a public speech at a revival tent-style church fundraiser, broadcast by the state-owned TV network ZNBC. He also thanked churches in Zambia ‘for voicing out against unchristian values such as homosexuality.’
Tibor Nagy, the Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs, tweeted Thursday that he was ‘[d]ismayed by the Zambian government’s decision requiring our Ambassador Daniel Foote’s departure from the country.’
A State Department spokesperson declined on Friday to say why it was ‘required’ to recall Foote. The spokesperson said that the Zambian government had called Foote’s position ‘no longer tenable,’ a declaration ‘which we consider to be the equivalent of a declaration that the Ambassador is Persona Non Grata.’
The State Department has engaged in a full-court press this year against nations that treat LBGTQ citizens as criminals. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, the Trump administration’s most visible openly gay official, has been an outspoken leader in the program.
‘I want them to understand that you cannot put someone in jail or kill someone for simply being gay,’ Grenell said last week at a United Nations event. He called decriminalizing homosexuality ‘absolutely a uniting issue.’
On a per capita basis, Zambia is among the biggest recipients of U.S. foreign aid. This year Americans sent a half billion dollars to Lusaka, including $400,000 in HIV program assistance.
Funding from the Bush-era U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief pays for more than 1 million Zambians to receive antiretroviral drugs that keep the AIDS virus in check. That program has poured $4.25 billion into Zambia overall.
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Source: Daily Mail