Voice Of America on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
January 13th, 2010
The Voice of America’s hour-long Straight Talk Africa television program today was devoted to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Today’s program featured Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power; Ugandan MP David Bahati, sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill; Matt Kavanagh of the Health Gap Coalition; and Olara A. Otunnu, Former Ambassador of Uganda to the U.N. (1980-1985).
Some background on Otunno is warrented. He was ambassador for the government of Milton Obote, who was overthrown by Uganda’s current President Yoweri Museveni in a civil war. Otunnu is a member of the Obote’s Ugandan People’s Congress, and he is actively courting the divided party’s nomination for the 2011 presidential elections.
The program is available this week for download.
David Bahati continues to assert that “homosexuality is learned and can be unlearned” (wonder where he got that idea?), and characterized gays as being predators who “recruit” children in schools (wonder where he got that idea?), and that is why, he says, the bill is essential. Bahati insisted that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni “has common ground” with Bahati on the need for the bill.
Bahati was asked if he was a member of The Family. He acknowledged having “friends” in Washington and having attended the National Prayer Breakfast which is organized by the Family. However, he denied that the Family had any input to the bill.
Matt Kavanagh pointed out that the provisions in the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill would criminalize efforts to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS in the LGBT community, since providing such aide could be seen as “aiding and abetting” homosexuality with prison sentences of five to seven years. “Driving people underground is a horrible public health policy. It means only that you are going to increase the spread of HIV.”
Jeff Sharlet talked about the tremendous influence people like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who “adopted” Uganda and has a close personal relationship with President Museveni. He said that Museveni, and Bahati are members of the Family, but that the Family is now shedding its secretive image in order to “throw Mr. Bahati under the bus” in order to protect their relationship with Museveni, which the Family considers their more valuable asset.
Sharlet confirmed that Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo plans to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on February 4th. Buturo has been a heavy promoter of the draconian anti-gay bill throughout the year, having responded to the anti-gay conference put on in Kampala by three American anti-gay extremists with promises to “strengthen” Uganda’s law against homosexuality. Uganda’s laws against “crimes against nature” already provide for lifetime imprisonment. Buturo’s very office was created at the suggestion by the Family.
Ambassador Otunnu denounced the death penalty aspects of the bill and said that all Ugandans deserve equal human rights, but called for sensitivity to the “deeply held traditions and cultures of particular societies. …When a society sees suddenly a practice that was not (known to be) so widespread, it begins to ask questions, it goes into shock, it begins to panic, and you see reaction which can be irrational.” He went on:
I am very sad that it has taken the issue of homosexuals for key western leaders and key western governments to discover the human rights disaster in Uganda. We’ve had genocide in Northern Uganda for fifteen years, no comments from any high officials in the West. We had thirty people massacred in the streets of Kampala on the tenth of September the last. No high level comments. We have torture chambers in Kampala as we speak. WE have widespread corruption, fraud in elections. So I’m very disappointed that is has taken this issue to have any comment on human rights, and even then the comments are not about human rights in general in Uganda, but specific to the fate of homosexuals.
Much of the rest of the program was devoted preparations for the 2011 elections, which international observers fear will not be free and fair.