State Dept: Ugandan President Promises To Block Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

December 19th, 2009

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni

DCAgenda, the Washington, D.C. LGBT newspaper that rose from the ashes of the venerable Washington Blade, reports that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has committed to preventing the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill from becoming law on at least two separate occasions. According to U.S. State Department spokesman Jon Tollefson:

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson received this assurance from Museveni on Oct. 24 during an in-person meeting with the president in Uganda and again during a phone conversation with Museveni on Dec. 4, Tollefson said.

…Asked whether it\’s the understanding of U.S. officials that Museveni would veto the legislation should it come to his desk, Tollefson replied, “Right, that\’s a commitment that he\’s made. He made that personally to the assistant secretary on that first meeting that he had on Oct. 24 and again on a call on Dec. 4, and so we\’re going to continue to expect that.”

Tollefson also said that the State Department wants Museveni to make a public statement against the legislation, but so far the Ugandan president has not done so. While Museveni has not made his position known publicly, he has allowed Ugandan government controlled or owned media to publish two op-eds calling on Parliament to drop the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in recent weeks. The second op-ed was written by John Nagenda, a senior advisor to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and appeared in the government-owned New Vision which is Uganda’s largest newspaper.

DCAgenda’s report greatly expands on the hint that was dropped in yesterday’s AFP article which I discussed earlier today. When I wrote that post, I settled on the headline “Will Musevini Sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill?” I vacillated between that headline and its alternate, “Will Museveni Veto the Anti-Homosexuality Bill?” It appears now that perhaps I should have gone with the more optimistic question. But until Museveni makes his views known publicly, it is still an open question.

Click here to see BTB\’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Burr

December 19th, 2009

I don’t know anything about the Ugandan political system. Can they override a veto?

Jim Burroway

December 19th, 2009

Great question. Uganda’s constitution (PDF 460KB/192 pages) allows Parliament to override a Presidential veto with a 2/3rd approval. The National Resistance Movement, which is the President’s ruling party, controls 205 of the Parliament’s 319 seats. The Ugandan army, which is under the president’s command and holds ten more seats, conceivably gives the president a veto-proof majority. I doubt that many, if any, NRM legislators would go against the president and risk losing their job in the 2011 elections.

grantdale

December 20th, 2009

Uganda’s Constitution… oh, puh-lease. Fantasyland.

If anyone was taking any notice of Uganda’s Constitution this situation wouldn’t exist in the first place.

A veto by Parliament on a matter like this would be rapidly followed by the sound of a Lear-Jet leaving Kampala for Geneva.

Him. Or them.

Museveni may veto them. But they may not embarrass him. That’s the deal. More likely, the Act would be sent off to quietly die in committee. If he so wishes.

Whatever the semblance to democracy, Museveni is riding a tiger. The dismount is always the tricky part.

Martin

December 20th, 2009

If Museveni was already promising to block this legislation back in October, and again earlier this month, why is this the first we’ve heard of it?

BobbiCW

December 20th, 2009

I don’t believe anything any politician promises in private until I hear or see it publicly. I can hope though…

Ray

December 20th, 2009

I’ll believe it when I see it on both the blocking part and the stopping of an override. Uganda comes across as fanatically anti-gay, as if 98% of the population would gladly execute a gay person. My heart trembles for those with no place to turn.

David C.

December 21st, 2009

Uganda comes across as fanatically anti-gay, as if 98% of the population would gladly execute a gay person. My heart trembles for those with no place to turn.—Ray

Ray, I’m not sure that’s really the case though I have no way of really knowing. I suspect it is much like it is here in the US: those that are rabidly anti-gay are in the minority but are nevertheless very loud and constantly in the face of society to manifest their hatred.

Hard to say what’s happening, but it is curious that the president would allow this legislation to get so far in a legislative body that he allegedly has so much control over while simultaneously taking the position he is advertising. I suspect there is far more going on below the surface than we and the rest of the world are privy to.

A blatant attack on human rights like this proposed legislation will have a profound economic impact on Uganda if it goes on to become law. The president would be very wise to kill this bill. His country is surrounded by some other politically unstable countries and it would be to his and his country’s advantage to moderate the more strident religo-political forces before they alienate Uganda’s economic and humanitarian partners.

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