Zambia In A Gay Rights Row With The US Government | 47 Plead Not Guilty To Homosexuality Charge In Nigeria

Zambia In A Gay Rights Row With The US Government | 47 Plead Not Guilty To Homosexuality Charge In Nigeria

In an escalating row over LGBT+ rights, the US ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, has said he’s been threatened over his comments on the sentencing of a gay couple in Zambia. This comes on the heels of the Zambian president criticizing the United States after the senior US diplomat condemned the southern African country for sentencing two men to 15 years in prison for gay sex.

Zambia’s high court last week quashed an appeal against the conviction of the men, Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba, sentencing them to 15 years in prison for engaging in sexual relations “against the order of nature”, a move the US ambassador said was horrifying.

Same-sex relationships are outlawed in Zambia, where British colonial-era laws on homosexuality still apply. Stephen Sambo, 30, and Japhet Chataba, 38, were charged last year. During the prosecution, the prosecutors presented “videos and photographs” of the two men, while a hotel employee told the court she saw them having sex through a window.

Foote implored the Zambian government to review the case and its homosexuality laws, but has since faced a backlash for doing so. On Monday, Zambian president, Edgar Lungu rebuked the ambassador, saying his government will complain to the Trump administration. The president’s outrage was echoed by Zambian Foreign Minister, Joseph Malanji, who said Foote’s remarks were “tantamount to questioning the Zambian constitution”.

Daniel Foote, US ambassador to Zambia since December 2017, responded to the furore in a press statement on Monday.

Daniel Foote, US Ambassador to Zambia

The career diplomat said he had cancelled scheduled appearances at World Aids Day events on Tuesday “because of threats made against me” on social media. He said, “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 denied accusations that his comments amounted to interference in Zambia’s judiciary and constitutional affairs. “It is up to Zambian citizens and the courts to decide if your laws correspond to your constitution, but your constitution itself provides every person the right to freedom and expression of conscience and belief,” he said. “I expressed my belief about a law and a harsh sentencing I don’t agree with. I didn’t interfere in internal affairs.”

In turn, Foote accused President Lungu of interfering in judicial affairs through statements “rejecting homosexual rights”. He said that he would not be intimidated by Zambian officials, and added that the relationship between the two men hurt no one while “meanwhile, government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution”.

Zambia receives hundreds of millions of dollars every year in financial support from the United States, some of which goes toward fighting HIV/AIDS.

When asked at a press briefing on Monday whether the U.S. government would cut aid to Zambia, Foote said: “I want to give the government of Zambia the opportunity to renew and rejuvenate its partnership with the U.S.”

In an interview with Sky News, President Lungu mounted a combative defence of Zambia’s homosexuality laws. “We are saying no to homosexuality. Why should we say we are going to be civilized if we allow it… are you saying that we’re very primitive now because we’re frowning on homosexuality? Even animals don’t do it, so why should we be forced to do it because we want to be seen to be smart, civilized and advanced and so on?”

Edward Lungu, Zambian president

He said that local laws and culture prohibited homosexuality and that he would not repeal the law.

“If you want to be tying your aid to homosexuality… If that is how you will bring your aid, then I am afraid the West can leave us alone in our poverty,” Lungu said.

African countries have some of the world’s most prohibitive laws governing homosexuality. Same-sex relationships are considered taboo and gay sex is a crime across most of the continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.

Uganda announced plans for a bill that would impose the death penalty for gay sex in October but later backtracked after major aid donors said they were monitoring the situation.

A few weeks ago in Nigeria, the forty-seven men arrested last year during a party in Egbeda pleaded not guilty to a charge of public displays of affection with the members of the same sex. The men who appeared at a court in Lagos were arrested based on the charge by the police that they were being “initiated” into a gay club, but the accused maintained that they were attending a birthday party. A fact that was corroborated by the investigative report of YNaija reporter, Bernard Dayo.

The trial is a test case for the 2014 law banning gay marriage, which penalizes those found guilty with a 14-year jail term. Nobody has yet been convicted under the law. Instead the law has provided a justification for the extortion of bribes from suspects in exchange for not pursuing charges.

“Police officers will stop you and then get you arrested, extort money from you and begin to call you names,” Smart Joel, one of the defendants, reportedly said before the hearing. “I just wish the case will be quickly dismissed as soon as possible.”

The case was adjourned until December 11. And the judge granted each of the men bail, provided they can post 500, 000 naira and provide a surety who is either a civil servant or resides in Lagos State and has a “reasonable” income.

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1 Comment

  1. Mandy
    December 05, 07:26 Reply

    I still struggle to understand the ignorance that Africans persist with when they say “Even animals don’t do it, then why should we?”
    How are you not ashamed by your stupidity? How are you so bold with your iberiberism? Google is RIGHT THERE!!!

    As for the 47, may God deliver them from this falsehood that the police has forced on them to alter their destinies. May God really help us all Africans currently living in a world where who we love is the reason we are sent to prison. 🙏

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