What Does Oil Have To Do With Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

Jim Burroway

November 26th, 2012

Well, for one thing, it might mean that Uganda’s Parliament may decide to take up the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Tuesday.

Ugandan MPs 2 demonstrate tuesday seeking 2 trim oil minister's powers(oil bills),such protests may trigger anti gay bill 2 divert attention.Oil was discovered in Uganda in 2006, and the country’s political class have engaged in a mad rush for the spoils since then. One byproduct of the country’s fledgling oil industry is that Uganda has now been named the most corrupt country in eastern Africa, which is no small feat considering the competition. That fight over oil riches has paralyzed the oil sector, and so far not a single drop of crude has made it onto the world markets. Right now, Parliament is in a fierce argument over two bills, one to regulate the exploration, development and production, and a second to regulate its refining, storage and transportation. Those two bills appear in Parliament’s Orders Papers ahead of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is currently listed under “Notice of Business to Follow.”

Several members of Parliament are trying to block the oil bills over what they decry as its lack of transparency and the overly-broad powers granted to the Energy Minister, who is a Presidential appointee, to negotiate, grant, and revoke oil contracts with virtually no oversight. This only guarantees that the floodgates of corruption will open even wider. Some M.P.s threaten a public demonstration on Tuesday, with police promising to break up any “unauthorized” demonstrations. Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, warned via Twitter that the ruling party in Parliament may decide to take up the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in order to divert attention from the demonstration. Mugisha isn’t the only one to see a connection between the anti-gay legislation and oil. Last February, journalist Dayo Olopade noticed that three days before the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced into Parliament, President Yoweri Museveni had signed a controversial new contract:

“You’d think that the government, given pressure regarding the oil sector, would begin the legislative session with the oil reforms,” says Angelo Izama, an experienced Ugandan journalist on the oil beat. “But they began with the gay bill. It’s not accidental.” The semi-successful diversion, coupled with disregard for parliamentary procedures, illustrates the lack of checks on the behavior of the Museveni government.

Update: This report from Uganda’s NTV suggests that tomorrow’s demonstration might grow:

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