Uganda’s Slow U-Turn? Leading Minister Supported “Kill Gays” Bill; Now Vows Silence
December 16th, 2009
It’s very difficult to read the tea leaves from halfway around the world, but it seems that if one looks closely, one can detect signs that leading Ugandan officials are looking for a way out of the controversey surrounding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Parliament. Today’s Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, has an article that reviews worldwide condemnation of Uganda’s attempt to legislate LGBT people out of existence. Significantly, it leads off with these paragraphs:
International opposition against Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s proposed anti-gay law continued to grow steadily, drawing support from such unlikely quarters as the White House.
The growing list now includes US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Anglican leader Rowan Williams, some US senators, and several newspapers.
This marks the first time the White House’s condemnation of Uganda’s proposed legislation has been reported in Uganda’s major media. The Monitor is Uganda’s second largest newspaper, behid the government owned New Vision. This particlular article mentioning the White House statement is especially important because President Barack Obama is revered throughout East Africa, which is where his father is from.
The article also summarizes statements from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Senators Russ Feingold and John Kerry, and the prime ministers of Canada and Britain. Sweden has threatened to reduce its aid to Uganda, and the United Nations and World Health Organization announced that they would cancel plans to relocate a major HIV/AIDS research center to Entebbe. The Monitor now indicates that critical leaders in Uganda’s government are starting to get the message:
The pressure from these and other sources was being felt in Kampala, with Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo now saying he would remain silent about the proposed law until it has been passed or defeated.
The Monitor also reports, “By yesterday, however, the official stance was that the government had not yet reached a position on the proposed law.”
Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo has been an outspoken supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Last month, he held a press conference at the Uganda Media Centre castigating donor nations and others who have denounced the bill and pledged that the bill would go foward. A little more than a week later Buturo bragged, ”It is with joy we see that everyone is interested in what Uganda is doing, and it is an opportunity for Uganda to provide leadership where it matters most.” This is the latest evidence that the Ugandan government may be reconsidering its support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Last week, we noticed that the Uganda Media Centre, which acts as a “centralized location where all official government correspondence and information can be easily accessed, published a column questioning Parliament’s decision to take up the bill with so many other more important pressing matters. That was followed a few days later with an op-ed written by a senior advisor to President Museveni that appeared in the government-owned New Vision, which is Uganda’s largest paper. That op-ed said flatly, “Parliament should not pass this bill.”