By Bruce Tembo

President Edgar Lungu who last year vehemently affirmed that he preferred that poor Zambians go hungry and the country remains poor for lack of donor aid than entertain pardoning a homosexual couple, has made an embarrassing U turn by releasing two men that were handed down long jail terms for sodomy.

Stephen Sambo and Japhet Chataba were last year sentenced by Zambian courts to a custodial jail term of 15 years without parole, an action that caused a diplomatic fallout between former United States Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote and President Edgar Lungu.

At that time Foote accused Lungu of being lenient on perpetrators of corruption and tribalism in his government, crimes that the American senior diplomat said were more serious than a consensual gay relationship between two adults in the privacy of their home.

President Edgar Lungu however appealed to the emotions of Zambian Christian political coalition groups and party surrogates who demanded for the immediate deportation of Ambassador Foote. Washington however withdrew the Ambassador from Zambia after Lusaka presented a diplomatic demarche to the United States.

The American government subsequently took reciprocal action by denying a diplomatic visa to the New Zambian Ambassador to the United States and scaled down their Zambian presence to consular level, leaving the embassy practically without an Ambassador.

President Lungu’s change of heart will be studied on two fronts; aid related and restoring full level diplomatic representation for the US and Zambia which has disadvantaged the latter to extents yet to be known.The two matters are are interlinked. The most likely behind the scenes agreement may have been for the gay couple to leave Zambia for a country that has legalized same sex relationships. The painful lesson for Lungu is not having your cake and eating it especially if you’re a President of a nation that perpetually depends on pan handling for international aid support.


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