Uproar after embassies fly gay pride flags in Zambia

Swedish and Finnish embassies in Zambia are facing a backlash in the country after raising the rainbow flag along with their own national flags on their premises on Tuesday.

Same-sex relationships are outlawed in Zambia, where British colonial-era laws on homosexuality still apply.

The Swedish embassy in Zambia tweeted the rainbow flag using the hashtag #Idahot2022, which stands for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia.

"LGBTIQ rights are human rights - always and everywhere," the tweet said.

The Finnish ambassador also tweeted "standing together for human rights".

But former Zambia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union Emmanuel Mwamba has demanded answers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation over the matter.

Mr Mwamba charged that Zambia has not recognised LGBTQI rights and the practice of homosexuality remains a criminal offence in Zambia.

“This issue raises serious traditional, cultural and religious concerns and the Zambian people have constantly rejected this matter every time it has come up for both debate or policy consideration. It is therefore surprising that these embassies chose to fly these flags at their premises without due regard to the law and cultural sensitivity of Zambians and Zambia on the matter,” he stated.

He said Under Article 20 of the Vienna Convention, the Mission is only allowed to fly the flag and emblem of their country on their premises and on the vehicle.

Mr Mwamba said the Article is very clear when it states that, “the mission and its head shall have the right to use the flag and emblem of the sending State onthe premises of the mission, including the residence of the Head of the Mission, and on his means of transport”.

He added, “It is not provided for that they should fly emblems or flags for their chosen causes or campaigns. Under the 1961 Vienna Convention guiding Diplomatic Relations, Diplomats are mandated to respect the law of the receiving State and it is a serious breach of the Convention to break the law of the host country.”

“Similarly their premises, although enjoying immunities and privileges, must not be used for other purposes other than the approved and agreed purposes as guided by the Convention and host country.”

Article 41 of the Vienna Convention provides that;

(1.) “Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a
duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.”
(3) “The premises of the mission must not be used in any manner incompatible with the functions of the mission as laid down in the present Convention or by other rules of general international law or by any special agreements in force between the sending and the receiving State.”

He said it is imperative that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation resolves this blatant disrespect of Zambian laws and the culture of its people and the utter disregard by these Embassies for the Convention regulating Diplomatic Relations between Zambia and their States.

In December 2019, the US recalled its ambassador to Zambia over a diplomatic row after he had criticised the imprisonment of a gay couple.

The Zambian government had accused the ambassador of trying to dictate policy.

Source: BBC/Lusaka Times

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