Zambia has criticised the United States after a senior U.S. diplomat condemned the southern African country for sentencing two men to 15 years in prison for gay sex in an escalating row over LGBT+ rights.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu said in an interview with Sky News on Monday, local laws and culture prohibited homosexuality and that he would not repeal the law.
“If you want to be tying your aid to homosexuality… If that is how you will bring your aid then I am afraid the West can leave us alone in our poverty,” Lungu said.
Zambia’s high court last week jailed the men for engaging in sexual relations “against the order of nature”, a move the U.S. ambassador said was horrifying.
A major beneficiary of U.S. aid, Zambia now plans to send a protest letter to Washington over the remarks by Ambassador Daniel Foote, according to local media.
Zambia receives hundreds of millions of dollars every year in financial support from the United States, some of which goes towards fighting HIV/AIDS.
When asked at a press briefing on Monday whether the U.S. government would cut aid to Zambia, Foote said: “I want to give the government of Zambia the opportunity to renew and rejuvenate its partnership with the U.S.”
Foote said he had cancelled an appearance at a World AIDS Day event on Tuesday after receiving threats.
African countries have some of the world’s most prohibitive laws governing homosexuality. Same-sex relationships are considered taboo and gay sex is a crime across most of the continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.
The U.S. State Department did not respond to questions about whether it had received an official letter from Zambia. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)