U.S. Rebukes Zambia for Jailing Two Men for Homosexuality

The U.S. ambassador to Zambia said a high court ruling sentencing two men to 15 years in prison for homosexuality was horrifying.

Ambassador Daniel Foote urged the government to reconsider laws that punish minority groups.

“I was personally horrified to read yesterday about the sentencing of two men, who had a consensual relationship, which hurt absolutely no one, to 15 years imprisonment,” he said in an emailed statement Friday.

“Decisions like this oppressive sentencing do untold damage to Zambia’s international reputation by demonstrating that human rights in Zambia” are “not a universal guarantee.”

The constitution stipulates that the southern African nation is Christian, and laws dating back to Britain’s colonial rule of the country that ended in 1964 forbid gay sex.

“This is the will of the Zambian people, we have to be with the people by abiding by the law,” Chanda Kasolo, permanent secretary in the ministry of information, said by phone.

“We respect the opinion of the American  ambassador. We have to do things the way the people want.”

The sentencing of the men was particularly disturbing given that “government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution,” Foote said. He didn’t give detail on which officials allegedly steal funds.

“Zambia takes great exception to the remarks,” both on the court ruling and about government officials, Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Malanji said in a video distributed on social-media websites.

The minister will present a formal démarche to Washington by Monday, he said.

Zambia is ranked 105 out of 180 countries tracked by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018.

Zambia Wants U.S. Ambassador Out for Defending Gay Couple

Zambian President Edgar Lungu wants the U.S. ambassador to leave the country after the diplomat criticized the African state for sentencing a gay couple to 15 years behind bars for having a consensual relationship.

“We have complained officially to the American government, and we are waiting for their response because we don’t want such people in our midst,” Lungu said Sunday in comments broadcast on state-owned ZNBC TV. “We want him gone.”

U.S. Ambassador Daniel Foote said last month that he was “personally horrified” after the high court sentenced the two men and called on the government to reconsider laws that punish minority groups.

The move was particularly disturbing as “government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution,” Foote said.

The U.S. provides $500 million in aid to Zambia yearly, according to Foote.

“We are saying no to homosexuality,” Lungu said in comments broadcast by Sky News earlier this month.

“When you are tying it to aid, if that is how you are going to bring your aid, then I’m afraid the west can leave us alone in our poverty. And we’ll continue scrounging and struggling.”

The State Department didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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