THE ambassador, Dan Foote, above, had the gall to criticise a 15-year jail sentence imposed on a gay couple in Zambia, and immediately ignited a diplomatic row.
More than that, Foote claims to have been subjected to a hate campaign on social media after he called the sentence, imposed on Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba, horrifying.
Foote said yesterday (Monday):
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.
On learning of the jailing of Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba, Foote said he was “horrified” by the draconian sentence.
A diplomatic row followed after a judge quashed the couple’s an appeal against their conviction last week.
Same-sex relationships are outlawed in Zambia, where British colonial-era laws on homosexuality still apply.
Foote implored the Zambian government to review the case and its homosexuality laws, but has since faced a backlash for doing so.
On Monday Zambian President Edgar Lungu, above, slammed the ambassador, saying his government will complain to the Trump administration.
The President’s outrage was echoed by Zambian Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji, who said Foote’s remarks were:
Tantamount to questioning the Zambian constitution.
Foote, US ambassador to the southern African country since December 2017, responded to the furore in a press statement on Monday.
The career diplomat said he had cancelled scheduled appearances at World Aids Day events on Tuesday “because of threats made against me” on social media.
He denied accusations that his comments amounted to interference in Zambia’s judiciary and constitutional affairs.
It is up to Zambian citizens and the courts to decide if your laws correspond to your constitution, but your constitution itself provides every person the right to freedom and expression of conscience and belief.
I expressed my belief about a law and a harsh sentencing I don’t agree with. I didn’t interfere in internal affairs.
In turn, Mr Foote accused President Lungu of interfering in judicial affairs through statements:
Rejecting homosexual rights.
In an interview with Sky News, Lungu mounted a combative defence of Zambia’s homosexuality laws and warned of a breakdown in relations between Zambia and the US unless President Donald Trump took action.
He also insisted that nothing would change his mind on homosexuality.
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? …
Hat tip: George Broadhead