United States Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote has maintained that rights of gay people must be respected and enshrined in the country’s constitution.
Addressing a media briefing at the Embassy in Lusaka today, Mr. Foote claimed that 10 percent of Zambians practice homosexuality.
Mr. Foote also said would not attend World Aids Day celebrations in Lusaka tomorrow (Tuesday) due to threats targeted at him following his stance on rights of gay people.
“Lamentably, I will be unable to attend tomorrow’s AIDS Day events because of threats made against me, via various media, over my comments on the harsh sentencing of homosexuals,” he said.
“My job as U.S. Ambassador is to promote the interests, values, and ideals of the United States.”
“Zambia is one of the largest per-capita recipients of U.S. assistance in the world, at $500 million each year. In these countries where we contribute resources, this includes partnering in areas of mutual interest, and holding the recipient government accountable for its responsibilities under this partnership.”
Mr. Foote admitted that the United States government was far from perfect and always welcomed feedback.
“If we didn’t, we might not have changed our repugnant laws allowing slavery and other human rights contraventions, historical misdeeds for which I passionately apologize,” he said.
“I read with interest Honourable Minister Malanji’s reaction to my opinion regarding the harsh sentencing of a homosexual couple, and the hundreds of other comments made by Zambian citizens on social media. 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. I thought, perhaps incorrectly, that Christianity meant trying to live like our Lord, Jesus Christ,” he said.
“I am not qualified to sermonize, but I cannot imagine Jesus would have used bestiality comparisons or referred to his fellow human beings as “dogs,” or “worse than animals;” allusions made repeatedly by your countrymen and women about homosexuals. Targeting and marginalizing minorities, especially homosexuals, has been a warning signal of future atrocities by governments in many countries. In my heart, I know that real Zambian values don’t merit your country’s inclusion on that list, ever.”
He added: “I agree that this this issue is completely up to Zambians to decide. You are blessed with a diversity of Christian denominations, and while I understand that many are not Catholic, let me cite Pope Francis. He has repeatedly spoken about the need for his Church to welcome and love all people, regardless of sexual orientation. In 2016, the Pope said, “When a person arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say, ‘Go away because you are homosexual.”
Foote directed his arsenals at the Zambian government that he accused of failing to respond to the crises in the country forcefully.
“I agree that we should be working to improve critical issues like food insecurity and the electricity shortage, but Americans can’t do it alone, without cooperation from your government. The U.S. brought energy experts to work with Zambian ministries for over two years, and we jointly developed a plan to reform the sector and ensure better electricity delivery to the people. This plan has been dormant for over a year, because of domestic politics. We’ve seen the awful impact of the drought, and I expect to imminently announce additional American help for those most affected by hunger” said Mr. Foote.
“Let us stop the façade that our governments enjoy “warm and cordial” relations. The current government of Zambia wants foreign diplomats to be compliant, with open pocketbooks and closed mouths. Minister Malanji reminded me that I have “always been granted audience to the Ministry and the Government of Zambia.” That is not the case. With few exceptions, the U.S. President’s personal representative to Zambia—me—has been relegated to meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Permanent Secretary level.” “Both the American taxpayers, and Zambian citizens, deserve a privileged, two-way partnership, not a one-way donation that works out to $200 million per meeting with the Head of State,” he said.
He said that the Zambian constitution had no reference to sex against the order of nature.
“The Foreign Minister accused me of interfering with Zambia’s internal affairs, as he has done each time any foreign diplomat accredited to Zambia offers an opinion different to that of the current Zambian government, and of “questioning the Zambian constitution.” I just re-read Zambia’s entire constitution, which I believe is an admirable document, and there is no reference to “having sex against the order of nature,” or of homosexuality for that matter,” he said.
“Your constitution does declare, however, to uphold “a person’s right to freedom of conscience, belief or religion; the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person;” to “respect the diversity of the different communities of Zambia;” and to “promote and protect the rights and freedoms of a person.” 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.”
Foote said the Head of State’s strong comments against gayism may influence the outcome of court matters.
“When considering the status of Zambia’s “very independent” judiciary, I note the President’s strong, recurring statements in July through yesterday rejecting homosexual rights and “gayism.” I wonder if that could have any impact on the courts. Again, this is a matter for the Zambian people to decide, but the Zambian people deserve transparency and truth,” he said.
“Regarding the Minister’s denials over my comments about government officials stealing millions of dollars in public funds, the government always requests “evidence” of such misdeeds. Is that really the role of the international community? In recent history, numerous donor partners have carried out investigations, with the cooperation of the Zambian government, concluding that many millions of dollars have been misappropriated in the Ministries of Community Development and Social Welfare, Education, and Health. In most cases, the Zambian government assumed responsibility and quietly made restitution to the donating organizations from public funds.”
He added: “However, like the lack of public information made available on Zambia’s debt acquired over the past few years, the government has chosen not to share this vital data with its citizens, nor have we seen assertive corruption prosecutions. If this happened with funds from a handful of donors in a few ministries, what could be happening on a broader basis?”