The Slatest

U.S. Recalls Zambia Ambassador After Extraordinary Criticism of Country’s Corruption and Anti-Gay Policies

Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu waits to speak at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018 in New York.
Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu waits to speak at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018 in New York. BRYAN R. SMITH/Getty Images

The United States recalled its ambassador to Zambia this week after the American diplomat’s extraordinary criticism of the southern African country’s record on corruption and gay rights rankled the Zambian leadership. Ambassador Daniel Foote, a career foreign service officer rather than a political appointee, was appointed to the ambassadorship in 2017 by President Trump and has been outspoken in his criticism of the conservative Christian country’s government. “Let us stop the façade that our governments enjoy ‘warm and cordial’ relations,” Foote said in a scathing statement earlier this month. “The current government of Zambia wants foreign diplomats to be compliant, with open pocketbooks and closed mouths.”

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The blunt assessment issued on the eve of World AIDS Day touched on a range of topics from corruption—accusing “government officials [of] stealing millions of dollars in public funds”—to the Zambian government’s treatment of homosexuality. “Discriminatory and homophobic laws, under the false flags of Christianity and culture, continue to kill innocent Zambians, many of whom were born with the virus,” Foote’s statement read. “Lamentably, I will be unable to attend tomorrow’s AIDS Day events because of threats made against me, via various media, over my comments on the harsh sentencing of homosexuals.”

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In response, local media reported Zambia’s president wrote the U.S. asking for Foote’s removal. “We have complained officially to the American government, and we are waiting for their response,” President Edgar Lungu said on Dec. 15. Lungu also hit back against the American diplomat’s comments on a state-owned television channel Sunday. “We don’t want such people in our midst. We want him gone,” he said. The Trump administration decided to recall Foote. “The State Department said in a statement that it was dismayed the Zambian government had declared that Mr. Foote’s position as ambassador was ‘no longer tenable,’” according to the New York Times. “The department said that his remarks were ‘the equivalent of a declaration that the ambassador is persona non grata.’”

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