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U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Relieved of Duty After Denouncing Homophobia

Ambassador Daniel Foote
Ambassador Daniel Foote

Zambian officials said they will no longer work with Daniel Foote after he condemned the jailing of a gay couple, so the U.S. has withdrawn him from the country.

The U.S. has withdrawn its ambassador to Zambia because of backlash he received for denouncing the jailing of a gay couple.

Ambassador Daniel Foote had said he was "horrified" that Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba were sentenced last month to 15 years in prison for what Zambian law calls "crimes against the order of nature" -- that is, gay sex. He received threats on social media, leading him to cancel appearances at World AIDS Day events in early December.

Now the U.S. has recalled Foote from Zambia, sources at the embassy there told Reuters Monday. Zambian government officials, including President Edgar Lungu, had said they would no longer work with Foote.

"Since Lungu says he does not want to work with Foote, there was no point of him remaining," a source told the news service. "Also, don't forget that there are security issues."

Another source added, "The U.S. cannot be paying a salary to someone who cannot work because the hosts don't want him."

Lungu has formally protested Foote's comments by sending a letter to the U.S. government, the president announced December 15. A response has yet to come.

Foote had issued a statement December 2 condemning the rampant homophobia in Zambia, a predominantly Christian nation. "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," he said. "I thought, perhaps incorrectly, that Christianity meant trying to live like our Lord, Jesus Christ. I am not qualified to sermonize, but I cannot imagine Jesus would have used bestiality comparisons or referred to his fellow human beings as 'dogs,' or 'worse than animals;' allusions made repeatedly by your countrymen and women about homosexuals. Targeting and marginalizing minorities, especially homosexuals, has been a warning signal of future atrocities by governments in many countries. In my heart, I know that real Zambian values don't merit your country's inclusion on that list, ever."

The U.S. government isn't planning to replace Foote in the near future, a source told the Bloomberg news service. The State Department would not confirm that he was withdrawn, but did say department officials were "dismayed" by the Zambian government's attitude and that the U.S. denounces the oppression of sexual minorities, Bloomberg reports.

Zambia receives about $500 million a year in U.S. aid, according to Bloomberg.

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