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Nigerian Television on the Senate’s Passage of the Bill Criminalizing LGBT Relationships and Advocacy

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2011

Watch it now while you can. I don’t know how long Channels Television keeps their videos online.

Nigeria’s The Guardian newspaper has been carrying numerous stories over the past two months, in a possible indication of increased attention the subject has gained in the country. Here is a roundup of reactions from religious leaders, including the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. The Jigawa State Agency for the Control of AIDS also backs the bill. Two weeks before the Nigerian Senate passed the bill, Nigeria’s Anglican Primate, Nicholas Okoh, condemned violence, bloodshed, terrorism and LGBT people, virtually in the same breath, and denounced the threat by British Prime Minister David Cameron to reduce aid to nations which persecute homosexuality.

In fact, it would appear that Cameron’s threat may well have provoked a backlash in Nigeria leading to the more severe measures being added to the bill. Following the bill’s passage in the Senate, the chamber’s president, David Mark, declared, “It is unfair to tie whatever assistance or aide to Nigeria to the laws we make in the over interest of our citizens otherwise we are tempted to believe that such assistance comes with ulterior motives. If the assistance is aimed at mortgaging our future, values, custom and ways of life, then they should as well keep their assistance.’’

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JCF
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

In fact, it would appear that Cameron’s threat may well have provoked a backlash

I am very reticent to even use the *word* “backlash”. It has the effect of letting oppressors off the hook (“They didn’t start it—they were provoked to a backlash!”)

Whether or not Cameron’s words were wise or foolish (short or longterm), the *Nigerian politicians are responsible* for this evil legislation. They and they alone!

grantdale
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

It’s not a backlash, it’s an excuse.

What’s the next step?

Jay Jonson
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

I agree with Grant Dale, “It’s not a backlash, it’s an excuse.” We need to support Cameron and other European (hopefully American too) who condition aid on ending human rights abuses against gay people.

paul canning
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

There is no ‘threat by David Cameron to reduce aid to nations which persecute homosexuality’.

The UK’s aid principals include four ‘pillars’, one of which is human rights and part of that is LGBT human rights. The British government has made it clear aid will be *redirected* from government support to other routes should human rights be attacked. This is what happened in Malawi. LGBT issues were a minor point, however they were there. Another country which has been told that aid may be *redirected* is Uganda.

It is mischievous opponents of foreign aid in the UK and anti-gay actors in Africa who have created this meme, although it is not helped by the BBC actually misquoting Cameron with the exact line you’re reporting.

It should also be pointed out that the European Union for at least two years has been discussing similar ‘aid conditionality’ – yet it is not subject to similar attacks as Cameron and the UK are.

Jim Burroway
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

Actually Paul — and I know you know this — LGBT advocates on the ground throughout Africa have warned against making public threats. Other countries (with the notable exception of Sweden) kept their discussions about possible aid reductions private in diplomatic channels, and this appears to have been helpful. But LGBT advocates warn, rightly, that such public statements works against their attempts to engage the public in their own countries, and reinforces the belief that homosexuality is a foreign imposition. LGBT advocates themselves on the ground say they want nothing to do with making these discussions part of a public campaign. It’s not a concern stirred up by “anti-gay actors in Africa.”

As for redirection, you are correct. But from the standpoint of governments who build budgets (and yes, graft) from aid, it is a cut, since the net effect to then is a reduction in funds meant for such items as health services, etc.

I’m glad the funds will go to NGOs instead, and I’m not criticizing the policy per se. But the way the policies are being made part of a very public relations campaign has a very predictable result. Africans — as we all do, when we think about it — resent foreign powers telling them what to do. Add to that the history of colonialism, and no African leader looses by rushing to “stand up” to former colonial powers. Only a complete fool would have failed to see the results ahead of time.

Many countries have made similar threats privately to African leaders. Those private threats, I believe, have been persuasive among key leaders. I think this was borne out in the wikileaks cables. But when the same threats are made public, that leader has virtually no choice but to refuse to stand down if that leader wants to remain in power. That’s just the way the real world works. Public statements breed defiance, back channel threats and coercion stands a much better chance of getting results. Every diplomat knows this; many pandering politicians don’t.

Priya Lynn
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

Nicely explained, Jim.

Steve
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

Nigeria doesn’t need ANY aid. It’s a very rich country by African standards. Nigeria has lots of oil and relatively well developed industrial and financial sectors. They export goods to other African countries.

The problem is that it’s a kleptocracy that siphons off most of the wealth into the pockets of the ruling class. For that reason alone they don’t deserve any foreign assistance

cowboy
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

The Obama Administration just released a memorandum: to promote and protect the rights of LGBT and its relationship to foreign aid.

Jim Burroway
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

Steve,

In fact, that is one of the weaknesses of the approach to tying aid to LGBT abuses in Nigeria’s case. Because of oil, they are much less dependent on foreigh aid and can easily walk away from whatever aid they get. As you say, they not only export goods to other African countries, but they also supply peacekeeping troops to several hot spots on the continent.

Timothy Kincaid
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

I appreciate that the organizations in Nigeria, Uganda, etc. request that there be no public connection between aid given by the West and the abatement of violent institutionalized homophobia. They are, after all, living in the country.

However, I’m not convinced that this makes them the best situated for making that determination. They are, after all, living in the country’s culture. And sometimes proximity lends itself to its own blindness.

And when it comes to the allocation of the money which I have earned, “what the Nigerian government/people/NPOs/etc. think” is not necessarily my highest priority.

We are fortunate in that we currently have a State Department which is both committed to bettering the global LGBT plight and also knowledgeable and skillful in leveraging our nation’s considerable economic, military, and cultural pressure. Whatever your politics, surely we can all agree that Mrs. Clinton is an immensely skilled diplomat.

But as to Cameron and his criticism. I think it would be troubling if no nations took this issue on publicly. If this were all behind-scenes and handled by assistant secretaries slipping each other dossiers, this too would have an effect on NPOs in Nigeria. If the universal message from the world’s leaders appears to be tolerance of homophobia, then there is no pressure to reconsider this position.

Is UK the right nation to threaten sanctions? I’m not qualified to say.

However, I can’t help but notice something peculiar. I think it fair to say that the UK and the US are presently the most influential nations in Africa – or at least in Nigeria and Uganda. Both are Commonwealth Nations with English as national language and the Anglican Church holds great influence in each. The United States also unquestionably carries tremendous clout as an economic and military superpower, but also because of religious and industrial connections.

And I also find it interesting that while the US and the UK have a shared response, they’ve taken a distinctly different approach. Of course I can’t say it’s a coordinated good-cop, bad-cop scenario; but I would not be surprised to find it to be true.

Yes it’s true that former colonies bristle at perceived heavy handedness by those who once controlled them. But in Uganda and Nigeria it appears to me to be family squabbling rather than hatred towards a foreign oppressor. For as fond as African nations are at declaring what is inherently un-African and decadently Western, I suspect that they are cognizant that a good deal of that hated Westernness has or is going to be theirs. (I was amused to see a picture of the first Nigerian Speaker of the House wearing the ancient and traditionally Nigerian white powdered wig).

Or, as Muhammad Al-Ghazali put it in a satirical opinion at AllAfrica.com today:

As for me, if refusal to accept same-sex marriages smarts of lack civilization or sophistication, please show me the way to the nearest cave. I would rather belong in the Stone Age.

Central to the arrogant disposition of the West on the subject matter is the warped interpretation of what constitutes freedom and individual liberation from all shackles of social oppression. And because rapid advances in science and technology enable them to keep pushing at the frontiers of freedom they live under the illusion that they are more ‘civilized’ than the rest of us. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The West keeps pushing at the frontiers of freedom. So far it has given us the rights to vote and gender equality among others etc.

Tom in Lazybrook
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

I think that a better way to effect change in these nations is to target the elites. If Senator Mark and his family can’t get visas to travel, study, or move to the UK, the EU, or the USA, I suspect that he will be more amenable to protecting human rights. This can be done on the down low. Obama is widely believed to have engaged in this tactic with Jamaican officals that protected drug dealer and fugitive from the DEA Dudus Coke.

If the UK (which would have to be done publically) cancels import preferences of Nigerian goods, it would cause some distress in Nigeria. It doesn’t have to be a highly public event. Simply drop the language authorizing the continued import preferences.

A tax on direct remittances between the US/UK/Canada/EU and Nigeria would have an immediate impact as well. Again, it would be public but could be done without much comment. People would find ways around it, but it would be costly to the diaspora and those receiving funds in Nigeria.

Where publicity should be driven, IMHO, is towards entities in the US, the UK, the EU, and Canada that provide financial assistance to those advocating for the denial of human rights. Many of these organizations enjoy taxpayer subsidies (in the form of tax deductability). Saddle up these organizations with tons of paperwork in order to prove that their donations aren’t assisting organizations or individuals engaged in human right violation advocacy.

Nigeria’s elites are the only ones that matter. Take away their European/American vacations and hurt their control over the Nigerian diaspora and you might apply the only kind of pressure that really matters to them…that which impacts them personally.

Tom in Lazybrook
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

Quite frankly, I’d like foreign aid to be conditioned on an annual application by the recipient FORMALLY ASKING for the aid. That application (which should require the nation to discuss its’ commitment to human rights) should be signed by the head of state, and the head of the legislative branch. In that way, it reinforces that foreign aid is not a permanent entitlement of the recipient and something that must be earned by the recipient (through need and behavior) each fiscal year.

paul canning
December 6th, 2011 | LINK

Jim

The UK never made public threats. There has been no PR campaign. It was only when a right-wing, anti-foreign aid Uk newspaper decided to use the policy – shared by other countries and now by the US – for their own agenda that it ever became something for those activists to react against.

The UK’s handling of this has been piss-poor but the statement by African activists relied entirely on the right-wing media report – hence the ‘aid cut’, not ‘aid redirection’ reference. So they don’t come out of it particularly well either. Also, not everyone signed that statement.

It is also not true that African activists never want their governments publicly threatened. It depends on the country and the situation. This is what some, who do not have ‘bash the British’ at every turn attitude, have been arguing, like David Kuria in Kenya and also see the nuanced Global Equality Council statement.

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