State Department Investigating LGBT Treatment In Uganda and Throughout Africa

Jim Burroway

March 4th, 2010

Last January, we reported that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, asking them to “communicate immediately to the Ugandan government, and President Yoweri Museveni directly, that Uganda’s beneficiary status under AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) will be revoked should the proposed legislation be enacted.” The legislation he’s referring to, of course, is the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is, as far as we are able to determine, awaiting its second reading before Parliament.

The State Department has now responded to Sen. Wyden’s request. In a letter dated Feb 22, 2010 and released by Sen. Wyden’s office, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Richard Verma responded that the department has “identified this issue as a priority in our bilateral relationship” with Uganda (PDF: 112KB/2 pages):

We have reached out at the highest levels; Secretary Clinton and Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson have discussed our concerns directly with President Museveni. In addition, our embassy in Kampala has been in close and regular contact with key political, media and civil society actors on the ground in Uganda, registering strong opposition to the bill and warning the Ugandans of potential consequences if it passes. The ambassador reiterated our concerns with President Museveni as recently as January 25, and Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero just visited Uganda on January 29. She met and offered support and encouragement to civil society groups opposed to the legislation and underscored our views to senior Ugandan officials. We are following this bill very closely.

In Museveni’s remarks urging Parliament to “go slow” on considering the draconian legislation, he cited a long conversation with Secretary Clinton in declaring that the bill was not just a domestic issue but also had foreign policy considerations.

Assistant Secretary Verma characterized Uganda’s proposed bill “a serious affront to internationally accepted human rights standards.” And interestingly, the State Department’s concerns aren’t limited to Uganda:

The State Department is also evaluating attitudes and laws that marginalize and criminalize and penalize the LGBT community in Africa more broadly.  We have asked all of our embassies in Africa to report on host country laws and pending legislation that criminalizes homosexuality.  In addition, our Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has established a task force on LGBT issues to strategize a United States Government response to LBGT issues worldwide.


March 4th, 2010

Of course only time will tell how serious and committed the State Dept. will be on pursuing these issues, but, dang, I’m pleased to read this.

Priya Lynn

March 4th, 2010

Gay Republicans like to claim a Republican governement would have been just as good on LGBT issues as a Democrat one but there’s no way a Republican governement would have taken a stand against the abuse of LGBTs in Uganda and Africa. Bush refused to sign the U.N. resolution calling for the decriminalization of gayness claiming it would have limit U.S. freedom to pass laws. If a Republican was in power now they’d be looking the other way at the Uganda/Afric situation and claiming its “none of our business”.

Paul in Canada

March 4th, 2010

How true Priya. Here in Canada our ‘right-wing’ government is in the midst of denying they struck out a section on gay rights to our newly revised immigrant guide despite evidence through an access to information request that clearly demonstrates the Minister in charge directed the change.

Deny, lie, deny you lied, deny, lie…

Priya Lynn

March 4th, 2010

I hadn’t heard about that Paul. This evil conservative government greatly distresses me. Unlike in the States they weren’t elected to pursue a social conservative agenda and they have no right to push that crap on our country.

Fred in the UK

March 4th, 2010

Just playing Devil’s Advocate in reply to Priya Lynn…

I have yet to see any real response to the stand taken by the US Government regarding event’s in Uganda other than conciliatory noises from President Museveni. The U.S. has many times called for changes in other countries laws, so I agree that President Bush’s defence, of his refusal to sign the UN declaration (it wasn’t even a resolution), rings hollow. However all UN declarations are by definition no more than purely symbolic.

I fear that a Republican Government would be worse in terms of rhetoric on international gay rights but not in terms of actual achievement of change.

I hope events to come in Uganda prove me wrong.

Priya Lynn

March 4th, 2010

Time will tell Fred. I’d still much rather have a government that takes a stand for human rights than one that doesn’t even if the outcome is no different. One things for sure, if you you don’t oppose these outrages you most certainly will have no effect on them – that’s what the Republicans would have given to LGBTs.

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