Ugandan Official Says Anti-Homosexuality Bill Already Hurting Economy
January 10th, 2013
I should note first that The Observer is an opposition publication in Uganda, so it’s hard to know how influential this debate might be, which David Tash Lumu describes as taking place “on the steps of Parliament” between several members of Parliament and a Deputy Secretary to the Treasury:
So at a time when the University of Buckingham in the UK has reportedly severed ties with Victoria University over the bill, which the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, promised to pass last year as a “Christmas gift”, a rare debate happened at the steps of the august House. The MPs who were part of this debate included James Kakooza (Kabula), Fox Odoi (West Budama North) and Geoffrey Ekanya (Tororo).
This reporter was also part of the debate that sucked in (Deputy Secretary to the Treasury) Keith Muhakanizi. While Kakooza suggested the bill would protect the morals of the country, Fox Odoi, a member of Parliament’s committee on Legal Affairs that scrutinised it, argued that it is illogical to legislate on morality. Odoi, who has written a minority report bashing the bill, added that if lawmakers ignore his report and pass the bill, they will have set a wrong precedent—that government can enter or legislate what happens in your bedroom.
Ekanya, the shadow Finance minister, however expressed worry about the economy, arguing that the aid cuts have happened not because of corruption but largely because of this bill. Ekanya added that the bill is the best ammunition President Museveni has right now—because he uses it to scare donors.
“He must be saying that if you don’t give us the money, I am going to tell MPs to pass this bill,” Ekanya said.
But Muhakanizi dismissed this and accused MPs of not being sensitive about the economy. He said by bringing up such a bill, the MPs are hurting the economy because they have failed to look at the far-reaching financial consequences of passing it.
“I have never seen a country like this where politicians hurt the economy instead of building it,” he said.
Again, it’s hard to understand what level of importance to place in this. Kakooza is a member of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), which holds a dominating super-majority of seats in Parliament. Odio is Independent member, and Ekanya is a member of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), the main opposition party in Uganda.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced into Parliament in February, 2012, and spent the next several months languishing quietly in the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Later last summer, Parliament leaders began hinting that the bill would be voted on by the end of the year. In November, Speaker Kadaga promised to pass the Anti-Homosexuality bill as a “Christmas gift to Ugandans.” The bill looked as though it would re-emerge on the House floor as Parlaiment began debating a highly controversial Petrolium Bill, which granted the presidentially-appointed Energy Minister with sweeping power to sign and cancel lucrative oil contracts with no oversight from Parliament.
As tensions mounted over the Petroleum Bill, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill rose to the top of Parliament’s list of “Business to follow,” potentially as a unifying incentive to ease the passage of the Petroleum Bill. Parliament nevertheless broke down in chaos over the Petroleum bill, only to regroup and pass it. It was thought that by getting the Petroleum Bill out of the way, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be the next item for discussion, but instead it was immediately lowered in priority on the Parliament’s list of business to follow. Parliament went on Christmas break on December 14, and will resume on February 4.
Meanwhile, a massive corruption scandal exploded in the Prime Minister’s office when it was discovered that foreign aid funds from several European countries were diverted to private bank accounts of more than a dozen Ugandan officials. Britain, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden announced aid cuts due to the scandal. Germany’s announcement also cited the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a reason. Earlier this week, Britain’s University of Buckingham announced that it was ending its relationship with Victoria University in Kampala over the pending legislation.