It shall be written in the history books that once, there came an Ambassador from the United States of America who unsettled the authorities in Zambia by condemning the theft of public resources, misappropriation of donor aid and corruption among higher authorities in government. An ambassador who stood his grounds and refused to be cowed into silence for speaking on behalf of the people of Zambia and paid a price for questioning the hypocrisy in the country’s judicial system. His name is Daniel Foote.
Yes, Ambassador Foote has had to leave the country because his security in Zambia became compromised given the President’s declaration that he was a Persona Non Grata. Not because he supports gay rights, like all other American diplomats do, but because he called out the Patriotic Front for its casual approach towards the fight against corruption.
But Zambians must know that Ambassador Foote meant well for the citizens. In fact, this particular diplomat was one among many of his predecessors who truly cared for this country. When he arrived in Zambia, Ambassador Foote took a very low profile, traversing the country and meeting the ordinary citizens. He was hardly heard of, until he saw what was truly ailing Zambia and creating economic challenges for the country.
On October 10, 2018, we wrote an editorial opinion on the American Envoy under the headline “Listen to the bonehead from Upstate New York”, in which we encouraged government to take Ambassador Foote’s advice because he meant well for Zambia.
OCTOBER 23, 2018:
We would like to start by acknowledging the humility of the American Ambassador to Zambia, His Excellency Mr Daniel Foote. This is not a man who has been very well known to us because he has mostly been loudly silent since he took over office from Mr Eric Schultz. But we have just realised that his deliberate low-key presence in this country has been granting him abundant time to interact with low-key Zambians – the ordinary citizens who usually never have opportunities to meet with such distinguished foreign envoys.
While other diplomats accredited to Zambia have taken off the gloves to trade verbal punches with our government leaders in the fight against corruption and embezzlement of donor aid, Ambassador Foote has been extending his footprint across the breadth of this country, getting to understand the lifestyle and challenges of the local people. But his low profile approach is fast being challenged by the overbearing recklessness of our government. The American Envoy can’t shy away anymore from the elephant in the room because Zambia has now just pricked his heart.
“Despite my title, I don’t consider that, and I don’t feel like I am a big deal. I don’t like to be treated like I am such a big deal. I am just a regular bonehead from upstate New York who has been very lucky throughout his life,” Ambassador Foote described himself when he paid a courtesy call on Kabwe Catholic Diocese presiding Bishop Clement Mulenga.
But behind all this humility, we saw an exceptionally intelligent bonehead from New York who had a way of conveying a very firm message without intent to disrespect authorities.
When Cabinet approved a concession for culling of about 2,000 hippos in the Luangwa River on grounds that the animals were dying from anthrax due to overpopulation, Ambassador Foote asked one question: “Before you murder those animals under the guise of protecting their species, where is the scientific evidence to prove that indeed a study was done and culling was recommended?” He argued that there is a science that goes with game cropping and it must never be determined by the scarcity of relish in someone’s household.
We urged the government to listen to this bonehead from New York because he was not only a strategic envoy to this country, but also a passionate conservationist who had been silently mobilizing millions of dollars for Zambia’s wildlife sector. This is money our government could never access without his involvement.
On the occasion of his country’s 243rd Independence celebrations in Lusaka this year, Ambassador Foote noted that in Zambia, resources set aside in the national budget, along with donor aid, were being diverted into corrupt pockets, while some of it was lost through political activities.
JULY 4, 2019:
“Zambians tell me they are sick of the political party cadres, corruption, and the daily political attacks – from all sides. I would say this regardless of who is in power. Zambian people want politicians and leaders to be more responsive to the needs of all citizens, and to focus less on constant campaigning, and narrow political and economic interests of connected individuals. We all want our governments to be transparent and accountable. People can’t freely participate when governments are not open about their affairs. Non-transparent contracting and debt acquisition are imposing problematic debt, fuelling corruption, and limiting the options for citizens to determine their futures. We are all aware of instances of budgeted funds, not to mention donor assistance diverted for corrupt, personal or political use,” said Ambassador Foote.
Sadly, our government leaders don’t take kindly to candid advice. Whoever tells our politicians the truth declares himself or herself an enemy of the regime. The Patriotic Front hates the truth and the truth hurts them so much that in the past, we have seen similar altercations with foreign diplomats who have dared to condemn bad governance practices.
Today, Ambassador Foote is heading back to his country. Someone in State House is happy and considers this a victory, but we can guarantee everybody who is following this story that it is the American Envoy who shall have the last laugh.
Farewell Ambassador Foote! You ran your race. Let’s see how those who have chased you will fix the economy by giving long prison sentences to gay people while endorsing corruption.