More On Ugandan First Lady’s Support For Anti-Homosexuality Bill
September 11th, 2011
Following our initial report yesterday on the leaked U.S. State Department cables fingering Uganda First Lady Janet Museveni as being “ultimately behind” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a reader left a comment giving a link to the Wikileaks cable in question, and Paul Canning has more about the cable here. The relevant section begins with a brief description of Paul Nagenda, whose December 12, 2009 column in the pro-government New Vision was seen as an encouraging sign that there were powerful vioces in the government against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The cable describes Neganda as “one adviser against many“:
The New Vision published a column by senior presidential advisor John Nagenda against the draft anti-homosexuality legislation on December 12. Nagenda is known for challenging prevailing political winds, and has previously advised President Museveni against running for re-election in 2011. His column compared the bill to McCarthyism and the Inquisition, and urged Parliament to vote against it. In a separate discussion with PolOff (political officer), Nagenda said the New Vision – which is edited by a Dutch national – initially refused to run his column, and agreed only after Nagenda threatened to never again write for the newspaper. Nagenda said he felt morally obligated to speak out against the legislation, and accused those behind it of obfuscating differences between homosexuality, rape, incest, and pedophilia.
Nagenda said President Museveni is “quite intemperate” when it comes to homosexuality, but that the President will likely recognize the dangers of passing the anti-homosexuality legislation. He said First Lady Janet Museveni, who he described as a “very extreme woman”, is ultimately behind the bill. He added that the bill’s most vociferous public supporter, Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo, is a “very bad guy” responsible for a campaign of mass arrests – known by the Swahili term ‘panda gari’ – during the early 1980s under the Obote II regime while serving as Kampala’s District Commissioner. Nagenda said Buturo is using the anti-homosexuality legislation to redefine himself and “will do anything in his power to be a populist.” He advised the U.S. and other donors to refrain from publicly condemning the bill as this fuels the anti-homosexual and anti-western rhetoric of the bill’s proponents.
The fear about outside pressure having a negative effect on efforts to block the bill were echoed by a human rights lawyer, described as the “only human rights lawyer working to defend Ugandan homosexuals against charges under pre-existing anti-homosexuality laws.” The lawyer urged the international community to publicly oppose the bill, but said that threats to cut assistance as Sweden had already done “is counter productive and emboldens those pushing the legislation.”
The cable also reveals that members of the local gay community expressed fears over their security in the hostile environment stoked by the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Members of the community were also very nervous over a very high-profile interview of LGBT advocate Valery Kalende that appeared on the front page of the main opposition newspaper, Daily Monitor. According to the cable:
Local gay and lesbian activists pleaded with one member, Val Kalende, to reconsider a feature interview with the opposition newspaper the Daily Monitor. The Monitor ran the interview as the front page story, along with several photographs of Kalende, on December 12. Published under an anonymous byline, the article provides a striking and remarkably well-written portrait of Kalende’s struggle against rising discrimination and hatred. After describing her initial reaction to (M.P. David) Bahati’s anti-homosexuality bill, Kalende said: “for the first time, I am very scared.” Bahati’s bill, said Kalende, “is not about homosexuality. It effects everyone; my pastor, my friends. It is not about us gays. Homosexuality is not about sodomizing young boys. What about relationships among people who are not hurting anyone?” The Monitor interview included a sidebar that dispassionately provided the facts about human homosexuality – its history and universality – and thus implicitly debunked many of the most absurd claims made by the bill’s proponents.
The first lady’s strident support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill goes directly against President Yoweri Museveni’s attempts to sideline the bill, pointing to a political division within the Museveni family. Another cable dated September 23, 2009, reveals, amid corruption allegations against the First Lady, that Janet Museveni has no ambitions to be President, preferring to remain “the power behind the throne,” and that the president is grooming his son to eventually take power:
(Ruling party insider Mike) Mukula said Museveni was increasingly patterning himself after Robert Mugabe and wants to position his son, Lieutenant Colonel Muhoozi Kainerugaba Museveni, as his eventual successor. Muhoozi returned from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in mid-2008 to assume command of the new Special Forces, a still-murky component – or potentially entirely separate unit – of the praetorian Presidential Guard Brigade comprised of all the PGB’s elite, technical, and specialized non-infantry capabilities.
Feb 17, 2011: Wikileaks Posts Cables from US Embassy in Uganda Concerning Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Feb 17, 2011: More Wikileaks Cables on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Sep 10, 2011: Wikileaks: Ugandan First Lady “Ultimately Behind” Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Sep 11: 2011: More On Ugandan First Lady’s Support For Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Sep 11, 2011: Wikileaks: Vatican Lobbied Against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Sep 12, 2011: Wikileaks on Uganda’s Homosexuality Bill: Museveni “Surprised” and Buturo “Obsessed”
Sep 12, 2011: Ugandan Presidential Aide Confirms Wikileaks Conversation
Sep 23, 2011: Ugandan First Lady Affirms Support For “Kill The Gays” Bill