Director General of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) Jon Lomøy says he finds the recalling of US Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote as strange.
Ambassador Foote left Zambia on Thursday after he was declared Persona Non Grata by the Zambian government.
In a tweet, Mr Lomøy who also served as Norway’s Ambassador to Zambia around the 90s said it is strange that Ambassador Foote could be recalled over his comments on same sex relationships in Zambia.
Mr. Lomøy served as Ambassador of Norway to Zambia from 1996 to 2000 and returned to Norad from 2001 to 2004 as Director of the Southern Africa Department.
Mr Lomøy himself faced expulsion from Zambia when then-President Frederick Chiluba declared that the envoy’s support for gay rights was against Zambia’s Christian values.
It was at a time when some local civil society groupings attempted to register an organization called Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender Persons Association (LEGATRA) which was to advocate for gay rights in Zambia.
“Strange to read about the American Ambassador to Zambia – 22 years after I was almost expelled from the same country because Norway supported the human rights of gay people,” Mr Lomøy wrote.
“Thanks to good Zambian friends who convinced Chiluba to not send me home,” he recounted.
In the same Tweet, Mr Lomøy denied advocating for gay fights in Zambia.
“We actually did not advocate anything, just supported a Zambian NGO that wanted to advocate. I still remember how president Kaunda was one of the few nuanced voices,” he said.
“The Zambian gay community has suffered silently, living as virtual outcasts in their own country. This cannot go on forever,” LEGATRA Programmes Manager Gershom Musonda said at the time.
Alfred Zulu, the then President of the human rights group Zambia Independent Monitoring Team, estimates there were more than 500 000 homosexuals in the country at the time.
President Chiluba repeatedly lashed out at the group, describing homosexuality as immoral and ungodly.”
Church leaders in Zambia condemned the Norwegian Embassy in Lusaka in late 1998 when it was revealed that the ambassador to Zambia had made a donation of $1,000 to fund a campaign enabling homomosexuals to fight for their rights.
Then Minister of Home Affairs Peter Machungwa instructed police to arrest anyone who attempts to register an association for homosexuals.
Then Registrar of Societies Herbert Nyendwa refused to register LEGATRA under any circumstances.
According to Zambian law, homosexuality is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.