Joe Biden cancels meeting with new Zambian President after gay rights snub

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LUSAKA – The highly publicized meeting between US President Joe Biden and President Hakainde Hichilema has been cancelled after Vice President Mutale Nalumango told Parliament that Zambia will not entertain gay rights.

According to an earlier programme released by the Zambian Mission in Washington, President Hichilema was due to meet President Biden at the White House on Thursday but that meeting has now been called off.

On Saturday, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Stanley Kakubo confirmed that President Hichilema will not meet President Biden but that he will only meet Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday in Washington.

But senior Diplomats at the Zambian Mission in Washington have revealed that the decision to call off the meeting between President Hichilema and President Biden came after Vice President Nalumango’s statement in Parliament on Friday.

The Diplomats added that by snubbing a highly publicized meeting with the Zambian Head of State, the White House wanted to send a clear message that it will take a strong stance against nations opposing gay rights.

“We understand that our colleagues are very upset with Vice President Nalumango’s answer in Parliament largely because since President Hichilema came in, indications from the Chargé d’Affaires David Young have been that Zambia is now ready to embrace gay rights with the coming in of the New Dawn but with that statement in Parliament, our colleagues here are very upset hence cancelling the meeting to send a signal to Lusaka,” the diplomat source revealed.

“Nigeria was recently threatened with financial and travel sanctions over the same issue of gay rights and we will not be too surprised if Zambia gets the same bashing from the US over Vice President Nalumango’s statement,” they said.

When answering a question from Kabushi Member of Parliament Bowman Lusambo on government position on gay rights, Mrs Nalumango categorically stated that the Hichilema administration will not accept gay rights.

Mr Lusambo wanted to know if there was a change in Zambia’s stance on gay rights following the election of President Hichilema.

“When it comes to government position, we respond to official statements that we have made. Social media can say what they want, that is not our position. We have to find it as a fact for us to start finding time on that. I will not come here and start discussing the American President’s statement. The issue of how other nations handle the issues of rights is not exactly how we do it,” Mrs Nalumango said.

She added, “It is very sad that members of this August House know we are members of the international community and within the international community, there is sovereignty of each country and each country has its own laws, rules, regulation, traditions and culture.”

“For these Honourable Members to start thinking because we are friends with one particular nation or we are members of one organization then we pick everything, aint we members of SADC, I will not complete because the Honourable Member who is asking understands exactly what I mean. Nations within the SADC have different positions on gay rights, different members of UN have different positions on gay rights, so is the AU.”

Mrs Nalumango reiterated that Zambia is a Christian Nation and that the declaration will remain on the country’s statutes.

“We are a Christian Nation and that remains on the books. If this government at any one time wants gay rights, you will be the first to know but we are a Christian Nation, we continue to be who we are,” Mrs Nalumango said. – Lusaka Times

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