Not Yet Uhuru
May 13th, 2011
This South African hit by Letta Mbulu was released in 1991 during the euphoric days after apartheid. While South Africans celebrated their newly-won freedoms, she sang, “There are some people who look at us as being free, but when you speak with regular folk they say it’s ‘not yet uhuru’.” The phrase “Not yet uhuru” is a mix of English and Swahili — not yet free. Similar to another phrase from Mozambique’s war for independence, “a luta continua” (the struggle continues), “not yet uhuru” reminds us that there is still much work to be done. As an email friend from Uganda reminded me a month ago, “Until equality is reality for every human being… it’s not. It’s not yet uhuru.”
For more than two years now, we have been watching in horror as events spun out of control in Uganda, events that were dangerously inflamed by American Evangelicals seeking to deport their thinly-veiled disgust (if not outright hatred) for LGBT people. From the moment we first learned about the then-pending March 2009 conference put on by three American anti-gay activists — Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, still sitting Exodus International board member (and now treasurer!) Don Schmierer, and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Lee Brundidge; may their shameful roles never be forgotten — through the connections between the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s sponsor and the shadowy American evangelical group known as The Family, through other connections between the bill’s godfathers and the American-based College of Prayer, through a supporting Kampala rally featuring Lou Engle and open expressions of unreserved support from Andrew Wommack’s spokesman, WND’s Molotov Mitchell, and Peter Labarbera, it became clear that while homophobia runs rampant in Uganda, it is strongly supported through the active encouragement of American anti-gay extremists.
This looked like a saga without ending. I had begun compiling a list of all of the posts about Uganda and its slide into hatred, but by May of 2010 our blogging software stopped accepting updates to that page; it had gotten too big for it to handle. It was as if WordPress itself had thrown up its hands and shouted, “Enough!” But it wasn’t enough. Events continued to spin out and we kept watching and reporting. (You can follow our posts via this tag.)
And so finally we came to this moment. When I went to bed very late last night, it was already 9:00 a.m. this morning in Kampala. When I put the finishing touches on today’s Daily Agenda, I understood that the chances against the bill becoming law were somewhat in our favor, but the rapid pace with which the bill was suddenly put into play last Friday left me to wonder what forces were impelling its rapid progression in a country where nothing happens quickly. I was, frankly, despondent. Ask my partner. He’ll tell you.
This morning, the sun is very bright here in Tucson. The temperatures are going to be in the upper 90s, which is considered temperate here. The weekend looms, and the only hitch right now is that pollen is in the air and everyone’s sneezing. But that’s a minor hitch. On the other side of the world, nightfall has already descended upon a teeming city of more than two million people, and for many the work week has just ended. Restaurants and nightclubs will soon be hopping, the streets will be noisy, and Ugandans will be celebrating the weekend. Some folks will probably celebrate more than they should, but a few will celebrate with an extra dose of verve. And for some, their celebrations will be muted as they remember those who are no longer around to celebrate.
And tomorrow, a new day will begin, but it will not be much different from the day that just ended. We won’t know for certain whether this evil bill is well and truly dead until Parlaiment constitutionally expires on May 18. Even then we don’t know because there is speculation that there may be some unknown procedure allowing the 9th Parliament to take up the 8th Parliament’s unfinished business. And if it turns out it can’t, we still have the promises of one hate-filled politician who vows to introduce a new bill in the next Parliament.
But for the first time, I am just now beginning to allow myself to believe that this may be a turning point. It took me about three hours after I posted the news this morning before I could give myself permission to believe it. And even now I’ve discovered that giving myself permission and actually believing it are still two separate things. It’s not yet uhuru. A luta continua.