The American government says it is dismayed by President Edgar Lungu’s statement that Zambia no longer wants the presence of its Envoy Daniel Foote, saying such a remark is equivalent to declaring the diplomat a persona non grata.

While on a working tour of Southern Province last week, President Lungu said government had written to the American government, demanding that Ambassador Foote is recalled because he was no longer wanted in the country.

This was after the American Envoy condemned the sentencing of a Kapiri Mposhi based gay couple to 15 years imprisonment, as he said corrupt government officials were not getting such harsh sentences.

“Thank you to the church, thank you to UCZ especially for voicing out against unchristian values such as homosexuality. I will leave it at that because I don’t want to get you involved in politics of diplomacy and other things because it is matters which came from our friends the Americans. But you need to know that we have complained officially to the American government because we don’t want such people in our midst, we want him gone,” said President Lungu in apparent reference to Ambassador Foote.

State House Special Assistant for Press and Public Relations Isaac Chipampe then told the press that the Head of State was referring to an official démarche against Ambassador Foote which was earlier sent to Washington DC by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But responding to a press query from News Diggers, the U.S Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs said the Zambian President’s remarks were dismaying, as the American government expected a diplomatic relationship that portrayed mutual respect, commensurate with the help that is rendered.

“We are dismayed by the Zambian government’s statement that Ambassador Foote’s position “is no longer tenable,” which we consider to be the equivalent of a declaration that the Ambassador is Persona Non Grata. Despite this action, the United States remains committed to our partnership with the Zambian people. We seek an open and frank relationship of mutual respect, commensurate with the generous aid provided to the Zambian people by the United States,” read the response issued by the U.S Department of State.

“The Department of State works tirelessly to protect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings around the world, regardless of gender, religious belief, national origin, sexual orientation, or economic circumstance. The United States firmly opposes abuses against LGBTI persons. Governments have an obligation to ensure that all people can freely enjoy the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to which they are entitled. As Secretary Pompeo said in September 2019, “Unalienable rights are at the core of who we are as Americans. We abhor violations of these rights, whenever and wherever they are encountered.”