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Uganda MP’s Seek To Avoid Public Debate On Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

April 2nd, 2013

MP Moses Balyeku hears from his constituents about the Marriage and Divorce Bill (Daily Monitor/Denis Edema)

Uganda’s Parliament returns today following an extended Easter break, when MP’s heard several earfuls from their constituents over the controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill. I’m not up on the bill’s provisions, but Ugandan media reports seem to indicate that the bill, part of a four-year effort to modernize Uganda’s marriage and divorce laws, has run into a buzz saw of controversy from several quarters. Religious leaders have come out against it, as have traditional community leaders. In Karamoja, a subregion in northeast Uganda along the border with Kenya  and South Sudan, local elders have threatened to visit their traditional spiritual sites to place a curse on politicians supporting the bill. “We are going to slaughter several bulls and eat blood for seven days in the Atekerin Mountain to fail that Bill and curse those MPs pushing for it,” said one resident. President Yoweri Museveni is now backtracking from the bill, and Daily Monitor reports that other MP’ have “asked Parliament to abandon the Bill and address other issues crucial to the population.”

What does this have to do with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill? Well, according to the most recent Orders Paper (Word: 41KB/2 pages) posted by Parliament from last month, one of those “other issues crucial to the population” is the kill-the-gays bill, which was number 3 under “Notice of Business to Follow.” It has been hovering in the top half of that on-deck list since last November, waiting in the wings as Parliament tears itself apart over other divisive and contentious issues. The thing about the AHB to remember is that it is in no way contentious or controversial, at least not inside Uganda where it enjoys overwhelming support, death penalty and all. But controversy outside of Uganda has made the bill an enormous headache for the country’s political leaders. Already, several European countries made good on their threats to cut direct aid over rampant corruption. When Germany joined five other nations in cutting aid, it added the pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill to its list of concerns.

This places Ugandan politicians in a bind. On the one hand, the AHB is hugely popular with their constituents, and there is no political advantage whatsoever in opposing the bill. On the other hand, being linked to the bill threatens to make those same politicians pariahs outside of Uganda. As the opposition Observer reports, this has led many politicians to call for debating the bill in private:

However, The Observer understands that some lawmakers have toyed with the idea of lobbying Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for a closed-door session when debate on the bill starts. National Youth MP, Monica Amoding, told The Observer that some MPs on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee proposed the move because of the sensitive nature of the bill.

“This subject is very sensitive and some of us fear that if it is discussed in public view, we will be persecuted for holding particular views,” Amoding said. Not surprisingly, she refused to state whether she supports the bill.

Another MP, who requested anonymity, explained that supporting the bill publically could lead to being blacklisted. He cited David Bahati, the main promoter of the bill, saying the MP has been ostracised by some elements in the West because of his views.

“We have some projects that are funded by donors and at the same time we don’t want to be misunderstood by voters. So, it is better to remain silent to avoid being blacklisted,” he said.

The Observer goes on to list the names of 34 MP’s who publicly support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. It might be prudent to retain this list for future reference.

Yahaya Gudoi (Bungokho North,NRM)
Isabirye Idi (Bunya South,NRM)
Lyndah Timbigamba (Kyenjojo Woman, NRM)
Jovah Kamateka (Mitooma Woman,NRM)
Cyrus Amodoi (Toroma, Indep)
Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West, NRM)
Chris Baryomusi (Kinkizi East, NRM),
Arinaitwe Rwakajara (Workers, NRM)
Hellen Asamo (PWD Eastern, NRM)
Martin Drito (Madi Okollo, NRM)
Amos Mandera ( Kooki, NRM)
George Ekuma (Bukedea, NRM)
Rose Akol (Bukedea Woman, NRM),
Michael Ayepa (Labwor, NRM),
Remigio Achia (Pian, NRM)
Elizabeth Karungi (Kalungu, NRM),
Hatwib Katoto (Katerera, NRM)
Hanifah Kawooya (Sembabule Woman, NRM)
Twa Twa Mutwalante (Iki Iki,NRM)
Geofrey Ekanya (Tororo,FDC)
Olivia Kabala Kwagala (Iganga, NRM)
Benard Atiku (Ayivu,FDC)
Bakaluba Mukasa (Mukono North, NRM)
Stephen Birahwa (Buliisa, NRM)
James Kakooza (Kabula, NRM)
Kaps Fungaroo (Ubongi, FDC)
Tophace Kaahwa (Hoima Woman, NRM)
Mary Turyahikayo (Rubabo, NRM)
Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri, FDC)
Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality, Indep)
Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West, DP)
Vincent Ssempija (Kalungu East, Indep)
Mariam Nalubega (Butambala Woman, Indep)
Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala, DP)
Jesca Ababiku (Adjumani Woman, Indep).

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