The United States government does not plan on sending an immediate replacement to replace US Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote after it decided to withdraw him from the country, Bloomberg reports, citing a source familiar with the situation.

According to Bloomberg, the State Department had decided to withdraw its Ambassador to Zambia following President Edgar Lungu’s declaration, December 15, that he did not want the US Envoy in the country after the latter criticized the jailing of two Kapiri Mposhi men to 15 years for having a consensual relationship, while public officials who were embezzling public funds were left scot-free.

“The U.S. has no immediate plans to replace Ambassador Daniel Foote, one person said, asking not to be identified as the information isn’t public,” Bloomberg reported, Monday.

“The State Department is ‘dismayed’ with Zambia for having effectively declared Foote a persona non grata, it said in an emailed statement. The U.S. government strongly opposes abuses against sexual minorities, it said, without confirming Foote’s withdrawal.”

The diplomatic row between Washington, D.C. and Lusaka threatens to jeopardize over US $500 million in bilateral annual aid assistance to Zambia ahead of the 2021 general election.

Several stakeholders have advised against the removal of the US Envoy on account of Zambia being heavily dependent on that country’s donor assistance programmes in the health sector.

Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji told News Diggers! That the Zambian government had followed diplomatic procedure to register displeasure against Ambassador Foote by sending a démarche to their US counterparts in Washington.

Malanji further disputed widespread media reports of Ambassador Foote being declared a persona non grata.