NEW YORK, December 13, 2019 (C-Fam) — A war of words has broken out between the U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote and the government of Zambia over that conservative country's laws on homosexual behavior. The U.S. Ambassador has even threatened to withhold financial aid to this AIDS-ravaged African country.
“I saw this giant headline — gay sex for fifteen years — as the government pounding its chest saying 'we don't allow this' and intimidating the ten percent of your population that was born homosexual,” Foote said while grinning and motioning his arms like a gorilla beating his chest. He was commenting on the recent conviction of two men for engaging in homosexual acts and the media coverage in Zambia's official newspapers.
Foote called the conviction of the two men “horrifying” and “oppressive” in a press statement on November 29. Zambian President Edgar Lungu pushed back. “If there are such countries which will allow bestiality, let them do it but not here,” he said.
Zambia's foreign minister, Joseph Malanji, said he would file a formal complaint with the U.S. State Department. Malanji accused Foote of acting in his personal capacity, without direction from U.S. President Donald J. Trump. He described Trump's domestic and foreign policy as pro-family.
Foote's responded to the accusation that he was acting in his own capacity without authorization by asserting his own authority during the press conference. He included the topic of homosexuality in a broader set of U.S. involvements with Zambia.
His 15-minute-long prepared statement highlighted the U.S. government's generosity to Zambia. Zambia receives over $500 million in U.S. grants, which sustain, among other health measures, anti-retroviral treatment for over 1 million Zambians.
Foote claimed a link between Zambia's sodomy laws and the corruption of Zambia's government, implying this was a harbinger of worse things to come.
“Targeting and marginalizing minorities, especially homosexuals, has been a warning signal of future atrocities by governments in many countries,” he said, adding that he hoped “real Zambian values” would prevail. And he spoke at length about Christianity, which is the majority religion in Zambia. He cited both Jesus and Pope Francis in support of being accepting of homosexuality.
“I was shocked at the venom and hate directed at me and my country, largely in the name of 'Christian' values,” he said, claiming this only reflected the views of a “small minority” of Zambians.
Even so, the career diplomat did not seem eager to make threats about cutting U.S. aid over his spat with the President of Zambia on homosexuality.
“I don't want to make today about U.S. foreign assistance…” he said, as if he did not, in fact, have authority to threaten the withdrawal of aid over Zambia's sodomy laws. At the same time, with typical bureaucratic candor, he did not hesitate to make that very threat.
“Over time — and it's been two years for me — if you see that someone is not cooperating, I think the national inclination would be that assistance levels would change,” he conceded to questions.
Among nations ravaged by the HIV-AIDS epidemic, Zambia is one of the hardest hit. According to UN data, the HIV-prevalence has been among the highest in the world for over two decades and remains doggedly high at 11%. There are 250,000 AIDS orphans in the country.
Published with permission from C-Fam.