U.S. recalls its ambassador to Zambia after gay rights row: sources


LUSAKA (Reuters) – The United States has withdrawn its ambassador to Zambia following a row with authorities in the southern African nation after he criticized the jailing of a gay couple, embassy sources said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Zambia’s President Edgar Chagwa Lungu addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Zambia’s high court last month jailed the men for engaging in sexual relations “against the order of nature”, a move the U.S. ambassador said was horrifying.

In an escalating row over LGBT+ rights, Zambia last month criticized U.S. ambassador Daniel Foote after he condemned the southern African country for jailing the two men for 15 years.

President Edgar Lungu said on Dec. 15 that Zambia, a major beneficiary of U.S. aid, had sent a protest letter to Washington over the remarks by Foote and was awaiting a response.

A U.S. embassy source who is not allowed to issue statements told Reuters Washington had decided to recall its ambassador because it was difficult for him to work in Zambia.

“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 want their man back,” the source said.

“The U.S. cannot be paying a salary to someone who cannot work because the hosts don’t want him,” a second U.S. embassy source said.

Zambia’s foreign affairs ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Zambia receives hundreds of millions of dollars every year in financial support from the United States, some of which goes towards fighting HIV/AIDS.

African countries have some of the world’s most prohibitive laws governing homosexuality. Same-sex relationships are considered taboo and gay sex is a crime across most of the continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.

Uganda announced plans for a bill that would impose the death penalty for gay sex in October but later backtracked after major aid donors said they were monitoring the situation.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Ed Osmond

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