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US recalls ambassador to Zambia amid diplomatic standoff

Africa
By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

Zambia's economy could be significantly affected following a diplomatic row with the US, which is the key financier of the South African nation.

Daniel Foote, who is serving as the US envoy to Lusaka since 2017, has been in leading champion for gay rights advocacy in Zambia.

Last month, Foote said he was "horrified" that a judge had sentenced the men to 15 years in prison after they were caught having sex in 2017.

Despite pressure from Washington DC over violation of gay rights, Zambia' has failed to toe to the line, restricting homosexuals in the country.

"You cannot ask a government to make a decision at gunpoint - 'because we are giving you aid, we want you to do this' - you can't," Zambia's Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji told the BBC last week.

In a statement earlier this month, Foote said he was merely expressing "my belief about law and harsh sentencing I don't agree with".

He warned of a "decaying relationship" between the two nations, and said the Zambian government wanted diplomats "with open pocketbooks and closed mouths".

Mr Foote said millions of dollars of donor aid had been misappropriated, but there had been no "assertive corruption prosecutions".

Zambia is one of the largest per-capita recipients of US aid, getting about $500m (£390m) annually.

It is rare to hear of an African state forcing a superpower to recall its ambassador but Zambia has managed to do it.

"We don't want such people in our midst. We want him gone," President Edgar Lungu said.

Zambia's constitution identifies the country as Christian. Many citizens believe homosexuality is a sin, but they also believe theft is a sin.

Homosexuality is largely forbidden in African countries, with nations like Uganda banning the act. President Yoweri Museveni has been in frontline calling for punishment against homosexuals.

The US has traditionally backed same-sex marriage, which is common in Western countries.

The withdrawal of US ambassador from Zambia could now turn the pressure on countries that have outlawed homosexuality.

GAROWE ONLINE

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