Zambian president told ‘no option’ but to apologise to ‘humiliated’ US ambassador kicked out for defending gay rights
President of Zambia Edgar Lungu is facing calls to apologise to the US ambassador who was expelled from the country for defending an imprisoned gay couple.
Ambassador Daniel Foote was recalled in December last year for saying he was “personally horrified” by the 15-year prison sentence handed to two gay men, Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba, for a consensual relationship “which hurt absolutely no one”.
He also accused authorities of having double standards when it came to pursuing other crimes, noting: “Government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution.”
This enraged the Zambian government, which accused the ambassador of trying to dictate policy and announced his position was “no longer tenable”.
Lungu later told state-owned television channel ZNBC that he “wants him gone”, effectively declaring Foote to be a persona non grata in the country and forcing him to leave.
However, the Zambian government now appears to have changed its position as it pardoned Chataba and Samba for “crimes against nature”.
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In light of this, Sean Tembo, leader of the opposition party Patriots for Economic Progress, has challenged president Lungu to apologise to Foote.
Speaking on the Zambian radio station Hot FM, Tembo said that Lungu has “no option” but to apologise for the “victimisation and humiliation” Foote suffered for condemning the crime Lungu has now pardoned.
He also said the pardoning of the gay couple has also vindicated various stakeholders in Zambia who condemned the imprisonment as severe.
Unfortunately, the release of Chataba and Samba is probably an isolated incident and unlikely to signal a change in attitudes towards LGBT+ people in Zambia.
Evangelical Christianity is imbued into almost all aspects of day-to-day life in Zambia, from the social to the political arenas, and much of society remains strongly opposed to LGBT+ rights.
In 2018 the Zambian government noted recommendations to decriminalise same-sex relations, but no further actions were taken.