from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – THE diplomatic tiff between Zambia and the United States of America (USA) over the sentencing of two men for homosexuality highlights the tendency by US envoys to interfere in host countries’ domestic affairs, undermining their independence as well as bullying them into submission with the threat of cutting aid.
At the centre of the storm is the emotive issue of same sex liaisons, which are outlawed in the Southern African country but permitted in the US, a country which claims to have the most progressive Constitution and the upholding of human rights.
In accordance with domestic laws, a court in Zambia has jailed for 15 years two men convicted of having a same-sex relationship.
The pair aged 30 and 38 were charged with the crime of “having sex against the order of nature” following an incident at a hotel last year.
No sooner had the court passed sentence than US Ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Lewis Foote, reacted with “horror.”
The envoy described the sentence as “harsh” in a reaction that was seen as having overstepped his mandate.
There was outcry in Zambia following Foote’s stance.
He added to the controversy by claiming, “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.”
“Targeting and marginalising minorities, especially homosexuals, has been a warning signal of future atrocities by governments in many countries,” he further stated to the disquiet of Zambian political leaders and citizens.
Foote further claimed he was unable to attend the recent World AIDS Day events “because of threats made against me, via various media, over my comments on the harsh sentencing of homosexuals.”
Dora Siliya, the Zambian Minister of Information and Broadcasting, reminded the Zambians had rejected homosexuality.
“The government stands with the People of Zambia who even through this latest Constitution review process say ‘No’ to homosexuality,” she said.
Siliya referred an interview President Edgar Lungu with international media where the latter stood firm that Zambians’ rejection of same-sex relations did not make them uncivilised.
“They (Zambians) just love their God. Until Zambians change, gayism is illegal,” the president is quoted as saying.
There was also displeasure at the hint by Foote that the US would withhold aid to Zambia if the bilateral relationship does not improve.
Zambia is one of the largest per-capita recipients of US assistance in the world, at $500 million each year.
Foote, who has been in the post for two years, also alleged corruption at government level as the basis why bilateral ties should be reconsidered.
A concerned citizen, Mumu Mpinda, said, “So tired of countries like the US threatening to pull financial support if we don’t’ follow their rules. Zambia needs economic independence please. We are barely sovereign if such threats can still be said.
Siliya criticized the stunt by Foote to discuss bilateral issues through the media.
“Our Ambassador, no matter the difference of opinion, will not address media in US,” the minister said.
Foote is the second US envoy to cause a diplomatic storm between the US and a Southern African nation.
US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols, recently triggered outrage when he accused the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa of using sanctions imposed by the US at the turn of the millennium as a scapegoat for failing to revive the economy.
The continent has pledged solidarity with Zimbabwe against the restrictive measures effected by the US after Zimbabwe repossessed land from mainly 4000 white commercial farmers in order to correct past colonial land dispossession injustices.
– CAJ News