U.S. Ambassador Daniel Foote has been withdrawn from his post in Zambia, as Reuters reports. The decision was made on Monday.
In a statement, the U.S. government claims it "remains committed to [its] partnership with the Zambian people." A spokeperson added, "We seek an open and frank relationship of mutual respect, commensurate with the generous aid provided to the Zambian people by the United States."
The president of Zambia is urging U.S. ambassador Daniel Foote to leave the African nation after protesting a 15-year prison sentence handed to a gay couple.
In a Sunday interview with the government-owned broadcaster ZNBC-TV, Edgar Lungu said his administration has "complained officially to the American government" over Foote's comments. Earlier this month, the ambassador claimed he is "horrified" that Zambia would jail two men for having consensual same-sex relations, which carry a felony charge under its colonial-era laws banning sodomy.
"[W]e are waiting for their response because we don’t want such people in our midst," Lungu said of Foote. "We want him gone."
Foote has yet to respond publicly to the interview.
U.S. ambassador Daniel Foote has criticized the jailing of a gay couple in Zambia who were sentenced to 15 years in prison for "having sex against the order of nature." In response, Zambian President Edgar Lungu is demanding President Donald Trump denounce the ambassador’s words, or he will break U.S.-Zambia relations.
To prove their case against Stephen Sambo and Japhet Chataba, prosecutors reportedly played videos and showed photos of the pair engaging in sexual activity. In addition, attorneys had a witness who told the court she "saw the couple having sex through a window."
The couple were found guilty and sentenced in the capital of Lusaka by a high court judge on Wednesday.
Foote said he was "horrified" by the ruling and that the men’s consensual relationship hurt no one. "Meanwhile, government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution," Foote said, according to the Washington Post.
In response, Lungu said that nothing would change his mind on homosexuality.
"Why should we say we are going to be civilized if we allow it… are you saying that we’re very primitive now because we’re frowning on homosexuality?" Lungu told SkyNews. "Even animals don’t do it, so why should we be forced to do it because we want to be seen to be smart, civilized and advanced and so on?" (It should be noted that numerous animals have been documented having same-sex sexual activity for decades.)
Lungu has previously said those who advocate for LGBTQ+ rights should “go to hell” and that the issue was “foreign to this country.”
Zambia’s foreign affairs minister, Joseph Malanji, echoed the president’s outrage, saying Foote's remarks were "tantamount to questioning the Zambian constitution" and "meddling in Zambia’s internal affairs." He added that the government is sending a protest letter to Washington over the comments.
Following the backlash, Foote said that he cancelled scheduled appearances at World Aids Day events due to threats being made against him.