Archive for January, 2020

CGE Newsletter – Global LGBTI Updates from Washington

Don’t miss our January 2020 Newsletter here.


In holiday news you may have missed, the State Department quietly withdrew Daniel Foote, President Trump’s ambassador to Zambia, for angering Zambia’s president and cabinet.  His misdeed?  Trenchant public acknowledgement of the Zambian government’s endemic corruption, along with concern expressed regarding an unusually harsh prison sentence given to two Zambian men for their consensual same-sex relationship.

Ah, yes.  So much for Secretary Pompeo’s swagger.

We believe ambassadors serve our country best when they honestly represent U.S. values and ideals and speak clearly to factors impeding a healthy and progressive bilateral relationship.  Foote set that example by expressing his horror at a 15-year prison sentence meted out to two Zambian men for their consensual sexual relationship.  We share his horror, of course.  And as taxpayers we find it hard to fault his parallel observations regarding the misappropriation of millions of dollars of public funds, raising questions about the efficacy of USG assistance provided to Zambia — reportedly to the tune of some $500 million per year.

The wisdom of Foote making such blunt public remarks can of course be debated. But Americans deserve to know whether Secretary Pompeo, let alone anyone at the White House, sought to intervene with Zambian President Lungu before deciding to remove our ambassador.  Pulling a Senate-confirmed ambassador from duty is a major and disruptive step, after all — one that never should be taken without going through a multi-tiered effort to calm the situation.  And Foote’s remarks clearly were in keeping with the public values of our country, as well as the mission he was charged to lead.

We fully accept the judgment of those observers who believe Foote’s remarks on corruption, not on LGBT rights, may have been the underlying cause of Lungu’s displeasure. From that perspective, the State Department would be wise to conduct a careful review of the volume, use and impact of U.S. bilateral aid before nominating an ambassador to take Foote’s place.  That review should include the question of whether Zambia’s practice of ostracizing its LGBT community, and of criminalizing consensual same-sex relations, has impeded the effectiveness of HIV prevention and AIDS treatment efforts.  But it also should include the full range of U.S. economic and social assistance — not with a view to punishing Lungu, but to ensuring that Zambia’s government is accountable for how U.S. taxpayer funding is put to use.

But given that this bilateral crisis was precipitated by an over-the-top prison sentence for a consensual same-sex relationship, we’d also like to understand how Pompeo’s quick withdrawal of the ambassador comports with the Administration’s declared support for the global decriminalization of homosexuality — a policy Trump declared in his UN General Assembly speech last fall, but which the White House so far has declined to detail.  At minimum, Secretary Pompeo should make publicly clear that our ambassadors and embassies should not shrink from enunciating support for LGBT fairness and equality, in the same terms that Ambassador Foote did.  Without such a statement, we’re inclined to believe that the Trump Administration’s support for LGBTI fairness is paper-thin at best.


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