Is Ugandan President Looking For a Way Out of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill?
February 21st, 2014
As I wrote earlier, the political incentives weighing on Uganda President Yoweri Museveni to sign the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law are extraordinarily powerful. But Museveni can’t ignore the international cost of doing so, especially given Obama’s warning that signing the bill “would complicate (our) valued relationship.” That relationship includes, among many other things, U.S. technical military assistance in Uganda’s ongoing fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency.
Earlier today, Uganda’s Observer published a lengthy statement by Museveni defending his decision last weekend to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on the basis of a statement by Ugandan scientists that homosexuality is “not genetic.” He then called on the U.S. to “help us by working with our Scientists to study whether, indeed, there are people who are born homosexual. When that is proved, we can review this legislation.”
Since then, that same identical statement has appeared in its entirety in all five major Ugandan publications with a web presence. In addition to the opposition-friendly Observer, the full statement is also being carried in the government-owned New Vision, the independent Daily Monitor, Uganda’s The Independent, and even in the notoriously anti-gay tabloid Red Pepper. The statement is dated last Sunday, February 18, but it’s being reprinted in full, virtually simultaneously, in all five publications today.
More typically, a government press office releases a statement and publications quote from this. The unusual detail is this: all five publications have reprinted Museveni’s entire statement in full. In my five years of watching events in Uganda, I cannot recall a any other time where all the major papers published an official statement verbatim on the same day. This represent a high degree of coordination at the very least, and it may possibly be the result of a direct order from the government. Museveni plainly wants everyone to see this.
And since he wants everyone to see it, I’ll include it here also:
H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
President of the Republic of Uganda
Responding to H.E. Obama’s statement on Homosexuality
18th February 2014
I have seen the statement H.E President Obama of the USA made in reaction to my statement that I was going to sign the anti-homosexual Bill, which I made at Kyankwanzi.
Before I react to H.E. Obama’s statement, let me, again, put on record my views on the issue of homo-sexuals (ebitiingwa, bisiyaga in some of our dialects).
Right from the beginning of this debate, my views were as follows:
1. I agreed with the MPs and almost all Ugandans that promotion of homosexuality in Uganda must be criminalized or rather should continue to be criminalized because the British had already done that;
2. those who agreed to become homosexuals for mercenary reasons (prostitutes) should be harshly punished as should those who paid them to be homosexual prostitutes; and
3. exhibitionism of homosexual behavior must be punished because, in this part of the World, it is forbidden to publicly exhibit any sexual conduct (kissing, etc) even for heterosexuals; if I kissed my wife of 41 years in public, I would lose elections in Uganda.
The only point I disagreed on with some of the Members of Parliament (MPs) and other Ugandans was on the persons I thought were born homosexual. According to the casual observations, there are rare deviations in nature from the normal. You witness cases like albinos (nyamagoye), barren women or men (enguumba), epa (breastless women) etc.
I, therefore, thought that similarly there were people that were born with the disorientation of being attracted to the same sex. That is why I thought that that it was wrong to punish somebody on account of being born abnormal. That is why I refused to sign the Bill and, instead, referred it to our Party (the NRM) to debate it again.
In the meantime, I sought for scientific opinions on this matter. I am grateful to Ms. Kerry Kennedy of the USA who sent me opinions by scientists from the USA saying that there could be some indications that homosexuality could be congenital. In our conference, I put these opinions to our scientists from the Department of Genetics, the School of Medicine and the Ministry of Health.
Their unanimous conclusion was that homosexuality, contrary to my earlier thinking, was behavioural and not genetic. It was learnt and could be unlearnt. I told them to put their signatures to that conclusion which they did. That is why I declared my intention to sign the Bill, which I will do.
I have now received their signed document, which says there is no single gene that has been traced to cause homosexuality. What I want them to clarify is whether a combination of genes can cause anybody to be homosexual. Then my task will be finished and I will sign the Bill.
After my statement to that effect which was quoted widely around the World, I got reactions from some friends from outside Africa. Statements like: “it is a matter of choice” or “whom they love” which President Obama repeated in his statement would be most furiously rejected by almost the entirety of our people.
It cannot be a matter of choice for a man to behave like a woman or vice-versa. The argument I had pushed was that there could be people who are born like that or “who they are”, according to President Obama’s statement.
I, therefore, encourage the US government to help us by working with our Scientists to study whether, indeed, there are people who are born homosexual. When that is proved, we can review this legislation.
I would be among those who will spearhead that effort. That is why I had refused to sign the Bill until my premise was knocked down by the position of our Scientists.
I would like to discourage the USA government from taking the line that passing this law will “complicate our valued relationship” with the USA as President Obama said. Countries and Societies should relate with each other on the basis of mutual respect and independence in decision making.
“Valued relationship” cannot be sustainably maintained by one Society being subservient to another society. There are a myriad acts the societies in the West do that we frown on or even detest. We, however, never comment on those acts or make them preconditions for working with the West.
Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody. We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by Western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality. It is better to limit the damage rather than exacerbate it.
I thank everybody.
Yoweri K. Museveni Gen. (Rtd)
P R E S I D E N T
18th February 2014.