American Chargé d’Affaires to Zambia David Young says he will be here indefinitely, and has been sent by the US government to come and reinforce ties, promote human freedoms, democracy and economic growth.

Speaking when he addressed Embassy staff, Thursday, Young, who takes over from Daniel Foote as interim Head of Mission said the Embassy’s engagement and outreach will continue robustly and with full force.

In December last year, the Zambian government petitioned the White House to recall Ambassador Foote after the diplomat expressed outrage over the sentencing of a gay couple to 15 years, saying officials who steal from government and donor aid go unpunished.

President Edgar Lungu then made a declaration on December 15 that he did not want Ambassador Foote in the country.

But Foote stood his ground and challenged government leaders in the PF administration to make personal financial disclosures so that the Anti-Corruption Commission could carry out “real investigations and prosecute corrupt officials at all levels”.

He said it was unnecessary to pretend that Zambia and America enjoyed cordial relations.

“In my two years, I have strived to improve the US -Zambia partnership, with minimal success. Let us stop the facade that our governments enjoy ‘warm and cordial’ relations. The current government of Zambia wants foreign diplomats to be compliant, with open pocketbooks and closed mouths. Minister Malanji reminded me that I have always been granted audience to the Ministry and the government of Zambia. That is not the case. With few exceptions, the US President’s personal representative to Zambia—me—has been relegated to meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Permanent Secretary level. Despite $500 million in annual American, debt-free support to the Zambian people, I have been granted exclusive bilateral audience with the President only five times in two years, usually with delays of months upon my request, and little action of mutual interest has been taken by State House. Last week, we rearranged my schedule—and I’m somewhat busy administering a half-a-billion dollars in annual programs here—to meet with the President on Friday. On Friday, State House told me to come Saturday, a day already filled with rescheduled meetings. That’s not mutual respect,” charged Foote.

But Young said although it would take some time before a substantive Ambassador was identified and processed for Zambia, he was on a “homecoming” mission to engage actively with the government at all levels and with the broadest cross-section of the Zambian society.

“I was sent back to Zambia by the U.S. Government to reinforce the deep ties of friendship and partnership that the United States and Zambia share together. As fellow democracies committed to internationally recognised human freedoms, we have enduring ties, and they extend from many years ago through our service together today and into a deep partnership that will endure into the future,” Young said.

“I will be here as Chargé for the indefinite future. During my tenure, the U.S. Embassy’s engagement and outreach will continue robustly and with full force. The United States remain fully committed to its partnership with Zambia and will continue to engage actively with the government at all levels and with the broadest cross-section of Zambian society. We will talk with everyone, as diplomats are supposed to do, and promote the best of American values; a commitment to democracy and human dignity for all people, inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity, peace and security, and investment in improving the lives of Zambians through our health and education partnerships. The U.S. Mission here in Zambia is dedicated at a fundamental level to two things: Working with our Zambian partners, we save lives, and we change lives for the better.”

He said the process of identifying another Ambassador was expected to take long.

“We look forward to the eventual arrival of a new U.S. ambassador, who will be identified and moved through the nomination and confirmation process. This extensive process can takes months, and so in the interim I will be here and fully engaged as your Chargé to lead our wonderful 500 American and Zambian colleagues in our work here in partnership with Zambia,” said Young.

“It is a great pleasure for me to return to Zambia as your Chargé d’Affaires. My three years here from 2013-2016 – with half of that time as the U.S. Mission’s Chargé – formed one of the most enjoyable and rewarding stretches of my 30-year diplomatic career. As I have mentioned in initial meetings with senior Zambian government officials, this truly feels like a homecoming. It’s great to be back working with you!”