US pulls ambassador to Zambia who criticized prison sentence of gay couple

US pulls ambassador to Zambia who criticized prison sentence of gay couple
© Global Harvest Initiative (GHI)

The Trump administration has withdrawn the U.S. ambassador to Zambia after the country's government became incensed over the diplomat's criticism of the country's highest court for jailing a gay couple.

Reuters and Bloomberg reported Monday that Daniel Foote had been recalled after being summarily rejected by Zambian President Edgar Lungu in a Dec. 15 letter to the White House expressing anger over the ambassador's remarks.

Foote, a career diplomat according to The New York Times, said in a statement earlier this month that Zambia had accused him of interfering in the country's affairs with his criticism of what he said was a harsh sentencing of the couple.



He also criticized Zambian officials for not giving him a meeting with the country's president given the amount of aid the United States gives Zambia.

“Both the American taxpayers, and Zambian citizens, deserve a privileged, two-way partnership, not a one-way donation that works out to $200 million per meeting with the head of state,” Mr. Foote wrote in the early December statement.

Foote has also spoken out about corruption in Zambia, where Lungo won an election in 2015. Lungo's administration has been heavily criticized for corruption.

In a statement to Bloomberg, the State Department confirmed the withdrawal of Foote and said the U.S. government was "dismayed" by Zambia's position.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment by The Hill.

“Since Lungu says he does not want to work with Foote, there was no point of him remaining,” an unnamed official at the U.S. embassy in Zambia told Reuters. “The U.S. cannot be paying a salary to someone who cannot work because the hosts don’t want him."

Gay rights are heavily restricted in many African countries, a source of tension for many of the Western-based rights groups and relief organizations working on the continent.