The relationship between the Zambian government and the American Embassy in Lusaka seems to have collapsed irretrievably at this stage. The recent statement from President Edgar Lungu while on a tour in Choma District of Southern Province goes to confirm that there is no more pretending. They want the US diplomat out by whatever means.
Indeed, we have picked very reliable information that since the so-called démache against Ambassador Foote sent to the White House by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is basically being ignored, State House is considering deporting the US Envoy. They expected that by now, Ambassador Foote would have been recalled, but according to CNN, the American President seems to have more important problems to attend to than massaging a Zambian President’s ego.
Clearly, by saying “we want Foote gone”, the President put himself in a very bad place because if nothing happens, he would look foolish. If Foote stays and instead of a recall he gets kudos from his government, the Zambian President would be embarrassed. So ego is now pushing State House to do the unthinkable. But Zambians must not lose sight of what is truly happening here. This anger with Ambassador Foote is no longer about gay rights.
What President Lungu is really working on here is not the US relationship with Zambia. We find this to be all part of the rigging preparation. The President knows that if he effects a deportation, there is no way that the United States government will send a new Ambassador immediately. This is what happened to an IMF country representative whom they chased and has never been replaced since. So with the uncertainties going on at the White House, PF knows that by the time a new American envoy will be sent over, the 2021 elections in Zambia would have been done and dusted. But in his deep voice, Foote is saying “mwaloba ilyauma”.
Now, the PF is not absolutely foolish, they do have some clever brains. They know that the unyielding stance that Ambassador Foote has taken means more corruption scandals are going to come out because he has shown them that he is not a “yes Bwana” type of diplomat and his office feeds on a lot of information. The PF is desperate and want to resort to deportation because it’s part of their election strategy.
This has got nothing to do with gay rights anymore. It’s not a question of saying “we don’t want Foote, give us another one”. PF knows very well that a US diplomat cannot denounce gay rights because all envoys are guided by their government’s official position on which human rights they recognise. So they want to buy time and threaten other foreign diplomats from voicing out on corruption and other electoral malpractices that they are keeping up their sleeves. It’s a political tactic on a diplomatic issue.
Now, there will be consequences to this should someone in State House make the mistake of thinking that they are invincible. The President and his ministers will suffer serious retribution as individuals because in doing so, they will be flirting with a travel ban to begin with. And government must remember that America is not a lone voice on this gay rights issue and corruption in the PF administration. The British government, Sweden, Norway and the whole European Union is expressing the same concern that Foote has delivered to the PF government.
Zambian coffers are already dry. There is no way you are going to attract investment from any country which deals with the US, including Israel which you have been using to syphon funds through aircraft procurements. The world will become too small for the PF government. The ramifications of forcing out a US diplomat are going to be very wide and far reaching. Is this the road they want to walk?
Here, we can see that the President and his ministers who are for the idea of deporting the US Envoy are being selfish. They are not thinking about other people who depend on donor aid.
The PF government must exercise caution. We know that the Mukula smuggling leaks have unsettled State House, and we also know they are convinced that it’s Foote’s doing because of the timing between the diplomatic brawl and the release of the dossier by the Environmental Investigation Agency. They now feel their secrets about what they go to do in Dubai and their association with suspected drug dealers are no longer safe. The PF officials are unsettled to see Ambassador Foote take off his gloves because they are used to bullying diplomats like they did to the deported poor Cuban Envoy.
This is not about homosexuality; it’s about elections and our leaders’ desperation to hold on to power. But they need to be told in no uncertain terms that doing this will have dire ramifications on the already impoverished country. America has nothing to lose. President Lungu must ask his ego: what is there for America even if they closed their Embassy in Lusaka? Unless he retires, Foote and his staff will be re-deployed and it is the hundreds of Zambians who work there who can lose employment.
So people in government need to think with their heads when picking fights. This tiff with Foote was a very manageable issue such that if the President so wished, he could have summoned the diplomat to State House and expressed his concerns under an environment that seeks to rebuild a breaking relationship.
We submit to President Lungu: Your Excellency Sir, sit down, drink some water (since you quit happy juice) and think very carefully about this fight you have chosen. We are not asking you to kneel before Ambassador Foote, we know you are the boss! But you are a boss with no basis for the action we hear you are about to take. A headline that you have deported an American Ambassador will triple the problems you are currently grappling with in the country.
If you have too much energy from the jogging, please join a boxing stable, don’t bring us further problems.