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 Donald Trump denounce the ambassador’s words or he will break down 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, they also 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, 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 that the government is sending a protest letter to Washington over the comments and is accusing the ambassador of “meddling in Zambia’s internal affairs.”
Following the backlash Foote said that he cancelled scheduled appearances at World Aids Day events due to threats being made against him.