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Posts for February, 2014

Museveni’s Political Calculus and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2014
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NTV Uganda recaps events since President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement that he will sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and reports that about 20% of Uganda’s budget is funded by donor money. In response to statements from donor countries that their aid would be jeopardized by the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, State Minister for Regional Affairs Asuman Kiyingi said, “What I’ve heard from the public… is that Ugandans are willing to forfeit the support that the donors are giving if it means that the support is conditioned on sacrificing their values. But I’m sure we’re going to find a middle ground.”

Kiyingi’s belief that there will be a “middle ground” with respect to foreign aid suggests that Museveni feels more confident that he won’t suffer severe international consequences if he signs the bill. Uganda has raised its strategic profile in the past couple of years, well-positoned geographically and sharing borders with Rwanda, Congo and Southern Sudan. Uganda provides peacekeeping (and sometimes not so peacekeeping) troops to Southern Sudan and Somalia, and regularly meddles in guerrilla fighting in Congo. Uganda is also central to that battle against the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army, and it receives a great deal of military technical assistance from the U.S. in that fight. This morning, Daily Monitor’s Daniel K. Kalinaki explains what all of that means:

Museveni also understands the centres of power in America. The White House and the State Department might be critical of him and his decisions but he has been around long enough to understand that the CIA and the Defence Department often deal in the cold rational reality of real-politick.

Thus while cuts in military support to the UPDF would hurt, there would be grave concerns for the Pentagon if Uganda were to withdraw its troops from Somalia, for instance. Museveni understands that US national security comes first, ahead of everything else. As long as he is willing to put boots on the ground to keep the regional peace and support the war against terror, he will always have friends at the Pentagon willing to help him manage his relations with the State Department.

There are also a number of internal political considerations that likely went into Museveni’s decision. Again, Kalinaki:

It is telling that President Museveni announced his intentions at a meeting of NRM MPs amidst a plot to endorse him as the sole party candidate for the 2016 elections. In signing, he gives the MPs a blank cheque. Having forced Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi on the defensive, he also cuts from underneath Speaker Rebecca Kadaga one of her populist planks within Parliament.

Mbabazi and Kadaga both were believed to be vying to challenge Museveni for the party’s nomination in 2016. This moves places Mbabazi on the defensive because he was the most vocal in pointing out that Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill without a quorum. At the time, Mbabazi appeared to be speaking for Museveni, since Museveni himself had argued against the bill’s passage, and complained about the lack of quorum Speaker Kadaga in a letter written a week after the bill’s passage. Museveni’s sudden U-turn left Mbabazi stranded out on a very weak political limb. At the same time, Kadaga, who sought to build her political legacy on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, is now seeing the oxygen being sucked out of the room with Museveni’s announcement. Mbabazi signed on to endorse Museveni’s 2016 bid, but Kadaga didn’t.

Kalinaki also points out that the political costs for signing the bill are minimal when compared to the benefits:

First, he is exercising power without responsibility for his actions; he is signing a Bill he never wanted, passed by Parliament against his advice, and on the recommendation of scientists. It wasn’t me, he could easily say. Secondly, Museveni must surely know that several lawyers have lined up to challenge the constitutionality of the law; one of them, your columnist hears, is Mr Fox Odoi, who spent many years doing legal work for the President and remains close to the inner circle.

Such a challenge would hold up the law in the courts for at least a couple of years. If the courts uphold it, it wasn’t me, the President would say. If they strike it down, it still wasn’t him. Throw in a few more years on appeal in the Supreme Court and you have a Bill all dressed up with nowhere to go.

A man like Museveni doesn’t stay in power for twenty-eight years as he has without either brute force or cynical cunning. Museveni prefers the latter but isn’t afraid of the former. It is, after all, how he came to power in the first place. So the question now is whether Museveni was correct in minimizing the political costs to signing the bill or did he misjudge? The Human Rights Campaign’s Chad Griffin wants the U.S. to up the political costs to Museveni. He has called on the U.S. to withdraw its ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria, which recently recently enacted similarly draconian anti-gay legislation:

“The Ugandan and Nigerian governments’ decisions to treat their LGBT citizens like criminals cannot be accepted as business as usual by the U.S. government. We urge Secretary Kerry to recall both Ambassadors for consultations in Washington to make clear the seriousness of the situation in both countries,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

Uganda (Seemingly) Backs Off From Anti-Homosexuality Bill (Maybe) (For Now)

Jim Burroway

December 13th, 2012

Uganda’s WBS Television posted this statement from Prime Minister  Amama Mbabazi, who addressed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which is now before Parliament:

In Uganda, we have had homosexuality for generations. Everybody knows it. You know, various local languages, we have a name for homosexuals, don’t we? We do. That means it has been there. Whoever had the homosexual was.. was killed. But there is a way in our cultures, we handle them to show our displeasure and no-acceptance of homosexual activities — homosexuality and homosexual activities, you should mark the difference between the two. Okay?

We know that in our own Penal Code, we carried this from the British. We amended this law, the Penal Code by Parliament (I’ve forgotten the year). That particular provision was amended. So it is unlawful already. So to the extent that it is unlawful, and the attempt in this bill to repeat what is already unlawful is not something we’ll support, supporting what is already in the bill. Why? Why won’t we support it? Because it’s already covered.

But there are certain aspects which may be new, like promotion of homosexuality, things like that. Those are things, when we come to debate, we’ll [unintelligible]… We set up a committee which has made a report, we go through this…

It’s a puzzling statement. While he doesn’t say so directly, Mbabazi appears to distance himself and the government from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, while simultaneously referring to perhaps retaining Clause 13 (which bans all advocacy for LGBT rights) or other recommendations which the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has reportedly made but has refused to make public. Nevertheless, Mbabazi’s statement is notable. He was one of the figures believed to have “blocked” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill when it came up in the previous Parliament, and Ugandan LGBT advocates last week targeted him in a Twitter campaign urging him to speak out against the bill.

As always, we need to look at these latest developments in a broader context. During an unannounced session late last Friday, Parliament passed a contentious Petroleum Bill, which concentrates exclusive power to negotiate exploration and drilling contracts in the hands of the presidentially-appointed Energy Minister and cuts all outside observers out of any oversight role. Parliament has 375 members, and exactly 188 members — just half a member above the magic 187.5 halfway mark for a quorum — just happened to be in the chambers for the fateful vote, which passed easily. Wow! Who would have thought that they would have been able to round up the exact minimum number from among those who just happend to be hanging around the Parliament building late on a Friday afternoon? It wasn’t a unanimous vote — it was 149-39 — but just by showing up to form a quorum, those thirty-nine no votes were, for all practical purposes, yes votes.

President Yoweri Museveni now gained control over the country’s oil. And with word of the maneuver coming out in what we Westerners recognize as a classic Friday afternoon news dump, the country had the weekend to decide that there was no point in protesting any further. Ubiquitous corruption has a way of numbing the senses. And so the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which had been waiting in the wings in case a diversion was needed, has now been pushed down from the top spot to number 6 under “Business to Follow” on Parliament’s Order Paper for yesterday (DOC: 37KB/2 pages). Today’s Order Paper (DOC: 33KB) shows that Parliament will meet for a Special Sitting for an address by Museveni, undoubtedly to talk about why it is so important for one person to control the country’s entire oil wealth.

Pope Benedict XVI and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga (via the Uganda Parliament web site.)

Meanwhile, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who helped  engineer the bill’s reintroduction in February and called for its passage before Parliament begins its Christmas breaks on December 15, has suddenly turned up in Vatican City yesterday, where, according to the Parliament web site, she received a special blessing from the Pope while leading a delegation for a World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights. All of the sudden that Christmas deadline doesn’t seem so important.

Which is just as well, since Museveni has a lot on his plate right now. Back last summer when talk first emerged that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be revived, the only thing anyone could see on the horizon was the contentious Petroleum Bill. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill would make a handy wingman, if you will, to divert attention away from the Petroleum Bill, if needed. But other nasty surprises have cropped up since then. In addition to pushing the first and most contentious of two Petroleum Bills through Parliament, Museveni is furiously trying to broker some kind of a truce/cease-fire/peace deal between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the M23 rebels in the eastern part of that country after a United Nations report blasted Uganda and Rwanda for supporting the rebels.

And Museveni is having to contend with foreign aid cuts in response to a massive corruption scandal in the Prime Minister’s office — that would be the very same Prime Minister who issued the statement above. Germany, Britain, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden have all announced cuts to direct government-to-government aid to Uganda following revelations that foreign aid funds have wound up in the private bank accounts of several people in the Prime Minister’s office. Uganda, for its part, has acknowledged the scandal (it was a Ugandan auditor which brought it to light). Museveni’s government has taken notice and vowed to refund the stolen funds — with the Ugandan taxpayers footing the bill. Interestingly, when Germany announced its aid cuts, Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel specifically cited Uganda’s meddling in the Congo and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as reasons number two and three respectively (reason number one, of course, was the  foreign aid scandal). But a spokesperson for Museveni took pains last week to deny that the Congo mess or the Anti-Homosexuality Bill had anything to do with Germany’s announcement:

It is not true that the suspension is a result of false allegation by the UN group of experts that Uganda supports the M23 rebels in the DRC. Being a member of the UN Security council, The Federal Government of Germany is satisfied with Uganda’s role in the pacification of Eastern DRC, under the mandate of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region that is currently chaired by President Museveni.

It is equally NOT true that the suspension of Aid is tagged to the current debate in parliament on Homosexuality.

While that’s going on at home, Museveni found time earlier this week to take a trip to Russia where he was “decorate(d) with the highest award order of valour, honour and glory of the Eminent Military and Political leaders of Africa.” Whatever that means. Why he’s really there is anybody’s guess. The last time he went to Russia, he came home with some expensive MiG jet fighters and left it to Parliament to figure out how to pay for the unbudgeted multi-million dollar aircraft. Whatever Museveni’s doing there this time, nobody knows. But he took the opportunity to lambast the West for its “hegemonism and imperialist practices. …Whatever is pushing those actors [in the West]; they are making a big mistake. Cooperating with Africa is the wise thing to do.”

So, this is what we have. Uganda has gotten more of its share of international attention due to scandals, civil wars and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and all of that attention has been decidedly negative. And we see that Ugandan officials are visibly striving to put out at least two of those fires in order to get back into the West’s good graces. And with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill dropping to priority six on Parliament’s “Business to Follow” and Prime Minister Mbabazi’s statement at the top of this post, we may be seeing positive movement on the third fire. It turns out that the negative attention internationally has outweighed whatever diversionary value the bill might have had domestically. Speaker Kadaga’s “Christmas gift” to the Ugandan people just might end up being not passing the bill. At least for the time being.

Uganda LGBT Advocate: “To the Twitter!”

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2012

The cry used to be “to the baracades!” But in the social media-verse that we inhabit today, it’s all about Twitter. Pepe Julian Onziema posted this call to action on Facebook:

Dear Friends on Twitter: This is a Call for Urgent Web Action, we’re asking you to participate in a twitter blast directed at the Ugandan Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi. In this twitter blast, we’re asking him to speak out against the Bill. Please send multiple tweets with the tags #stopthehate @AmamaMbabazi. Please be reminded to keep the tone of your tweets polite. For example: Can @AmamaMbabazi make a statement against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda? #stopthehate

Amnesty International has also asked everyone to send emails to the Prime Minister.

Uganda Parliament Continues To Argue Over Oil

Jim Burroway

December 5th, 2012

Today’s Order Paper (DOC: 37KB/1 page) has Parliament taking a pause for a memorial observance. The momentary respite will probably be welcome among members of Parliament after failing yesterday to come to an agreement over a highly contentious clause in one of the Petroleum Bills. President Yoweri Museveni’s government is trying to push changes to Clause 9 of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill to strip a commission answerable to Parliament of its powers to negotiate, sign and revoke contracts for exploration, drilling and refining, and hand those powers over to a single person, the Energy Minister– who just happens to be a presidential appointee. Because the proposed changes would cut everyone else out who could provide oversight or transparency into that process, it will effectively legalize the wholesale theft of Uganda’s potential oil wealth.

The first item on yesterday’s agenda was supposed to be a presentation from the Rules Committee of the results of its investigation into the events that led to last week’s breakdown in Parliament. That session ended in chaos when several M.P.s erupted in open rebellion as a vote to approve the changes to Clause 9 was about to take place. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga ordered the Rules Committee to determine those responsible for the rebellion for possible sanctions. But when the Committee reported that it wasn’t finished with the investigation, Parliament moved on to its next order of business, Clause 9. That’s when, according to Daily Monitor, several opposition M.P.s rose to announce that they had ironed out a compromise with the Energy Minister:

“We met yesterday (Monday) with the minister and the vice president up to close to midnight. The minister herself typed a new clause which we agreed to sell to our members but I am surprised she has not told the House so,” Shadow Attorney General Abdu Katuntu (FDC, Bugweri) told the House, prompting a postponement of proceedings.

The Speaker had, on the request of Ms Muloni, first adjourned proceedings for 15 minutes so that those with different opinions consult and agree. However, when they returned, the minister did not report to the House on the discussions, forcing the Speaker to call for voting.

It is this move that caused the disagreement and eventual standing over of the clause. “This kind of behaviour is unprecedented. The rules are made to achieve justice, do not rely on technicalities. How can a government indulge in foolery? How can a government be dishonest with its own Members of Parliament? We have worked all the way to create consensus. If some anarchists want to take over oil, so be it,” Mr Katuntu said.

There’s a lot of inside baseball here, but it seems to sum up this way: the opposition said they had a compromise solution worked out with the Energy Minister, while Government ministers countered that there was no such agreement. The phrase “eventual standing over the clause” refers to Parliament’s decision to “stand over the matter” — in other words, to metaphorically stand and wait but in practice to suspend discussions — until the Petroleum Minister is available to respond. Which means that Parliament has kicked to can further down the road on Clause 9 until later this week or next.

So what does all of this mean for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill? Parliament could take this downtime in its debate over the Petroleum Bill to move the Anti-Homosexuality Bill up from its first place standing under “business to follow” and begin debate, but the House appears uneager to do so. While Ugandan human rights advocates are carefully watching to see whether that might happen, there appears to be little political incentive to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill right this minute.

As I’ve argued before, I don’t think you can look at the timing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill without looking at the broader political context in Uganda. And right now, the Museveni government is locked in a power struggle with some members of Parliament over who gets to control (and steal, given Uganda’s reputation as the most corrupt country in eastern Africa) the country’s newly discovered oil wealth. As a sign of how important that struggle is, Daily Monitor reported that Museveni will address Parliament himself on Thursday. “Although Mr Museveni’s address is supposed to be listened to in silence with no questions and debate, he is expected to meet resistance from MPs over his position to grant the energy minister unilateral powers over key areas of the oil sector,” Daily Monitor reported. (The pro-government New Vision says he will address Parliament Friday.)

Museveni’s fight to control Uganda’s oil isn’t the only black mark against the government these days. Germany’s recent announcement that it was joining Britain, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden in cutting direct government-to-government aid to Uganda following the discovery that nearly US$20 million has ended up in the private bank accounts of Prime Minister  Amama Mbabazi and several of his cronies. Britain also expanded its announcement to cover all bilateral aid to Uganda, which includes funding for programs and NGOs. Daily Monitor reports that the government is about to announce several budget cuts because of the drop in donor aid. While most of that aid was intended for structural support of basic government functions, Ugandan officials are threatening to cut delivery of services to the people who need it the most.

So with that, coupled with the controversy over Clause 9 of the Petroleum Bill, I suspect that Parliament will wait until after Clause 9 is dealt with and the entire bill is passed before turning to the unifying distraction for everyone that is the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Parliament could conceivably turn to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill now during this lull, but I don’t see the political advantage for it. Sure, it could unite Parliament and take everyone’s eyes off of Clause 9, but the advantage of that distraction would only be temporary, ending when Clause 9 resurfaces again. What’s more likely is that Parliament deals with Clause 9 first, then looks for a handy issue that everyone can rally around and distract them from what Museveni has done with the country’s oil wealth. That appears to be the real purpose of bringing up the Anti-Homosexuality Bill now. While all of that could happen this week — Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement controls more than 70% of Parliament — next week now appears much more likely.

Update: The Uganda Parliament ordinarily does not meet on Mondays and Fridays, although a quick look at past Order Papers shows several exceptions over the past few months.

Germany Announces Three Year Suspension of Aid to Uganda

Jim Burroway

November 30th, 2012

Dirk Niebel, Germany’s Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), has announced that Germany has “placed on ice” its foreign aid to Uganda (via Google Translate):

The budget support for Uganda of the BMZ has been exposed. That gave Dirk Niebel, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, announced today in Berlin. Reasons are a massive corruption scandal in Prime Minister’s Office, the allegations of the United Nations, the Ugandan military support the rebel group M23 in eastern Congo, and the debate that has flared up again about an anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

Ugandan Court had uncovered one of the most serious corruption scandals in recent years, in which 13 million euro budget support funds were embezzled from a program for the development of Northern Uganda. German funds are not affected.

Dirk Niebel: “I welcome the fact that the Ugandan Court’s task was just here Even if German agents were not concerned, I have arranged to Germany in accordance with all other donors holding back the pending disbursement of budget support We are setting a clear.. Signs: Budget support is an anomaly It reflects the highest confidence in the good governance of partners where trust has been disappointed, we must draw the appropriate consequences Therefore, the preparation for a new budget support commitments, which was planned for the period 2013 to 2015… placed on ice. ”

Reason for the decision also allegations against Uganda, the rebel group M23 in eastern Congo are to support logistically and financially. Such accusations are for the first time in the UN report of 12 October has been mentioned.

Dirk Niebel. “There is evidence that M23 was also supported by Ugandan locations logistically and materially to what extent, the Ugandan government is actively involved, remains to be the expert group of the United Nations is mandated to verify the allegations in more detail..”

The human rights situation in Uganda observed BMZ remains critical. Dirk Niebel: “We are concerned that the debate about a tightening of legislation against homosexuals in Uganda resurgence Who fired the debate in Uganda, know the needs that he so the international image of the country causing damage Should human rights discrimination in.. Ugandan Parliament be adopted, it could not remain without consequences for our cooperation. “

While the debate over the Anti-Homosxuality Bill is mentioned in the BMZ’s announcement, the main catalyist for the cuts appear to be the massive corruption scandal that was exposed in the Uganda Prime Minister’s office and the UN report alleging Uganda’s covert support for the M23 rebels in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Britain, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden have previously announced that they were cutting direct aid to the Ugandan government after learning that much of it went into the personal bank account of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. Britain then followed with another announcement that it had gone further by freezing all bilateral aid, including aid to NGO’s and Ugandan financial institutions as well. Total bilateral aid for this year was set for £98.9 million (US$157 million), but it’s not known how much of that aid was already disbursed.

SwedenBritain, and the European Union have previously stated that they would cut foreign aid to Uganda if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes law. LGBT and other human rights advocates in Uganda argue that public statements like these are unhelpful because they have the opposite of their intended effect. They embolden Anti-Homosexuality Bill supporters to not only prove their contempt for gay people but also to prove their patriotism and “African-ness” against what they see as foreign (read: colonial) coercion.

US Ambassador to Uganda: No Aid Will Be Cut

Jim Burroway

November 22nd, 2012

The Uganda Parliament is poised to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill sometime between now and Christmas. Meanwhile, five European countries — Britain, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden —  have already announced they were freezing aid payments to Uganda due to massive corruption when it was discovered that millions of Euros in foreign aid has ended up in the personal bank accounts of several Ugandan top leaders including Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. Their announcements came before the Anti-Homosexuality Bill went onto Parliament’s agenda, although Sweden and Britain have previously stated that they would either cut foreign aid if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes law. The US last year issued a directive stating, “Agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance, and development shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure regular Federal Government engagement with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.”

But with so many reasons for the U.S. to cut aid to Uganda — or at least to have a serous sit-down with Ugandan authorities, US Ambassador to Uganda Scott H. DeLisi has made the rounds in Kampala to say that there are no plans to spend your tax dollars more effectively elsewhere:

Ambassador Scott H. DeLisi

“The U.S has decided to continue giving aid to Uganda despite the ongoing numerous investigations into the misuse of foreign aid.” Ambassador Scott H. DeLisi said

Scott H DeLisi, the Ambassador of US to Uganda said they will work with several organisations that receive funds to ensure proper use and allocation of the funds.

He said that in a meeting with Uganda’s minister of internal affairs Hilary Onek on Nov 20, the ambassador said they agreed to work together with the ministry to monitor and fulfill the intended purposes of their funds.

Onek thanked the U.S government for its commitment to send funds to Uganda and equated the current state of corruption to measles which has produced a rush on the skin as a sign of healing.

To be clear: the five European countries took action before the Anti-Homosexuality Bill returned to the headlines, and we have no evidence that their actions are related to the renewed push to pass the bill into law. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill appeared on Parliament’s agenda only yesterday, the day after DeLisi made his statement. But now that the bill is on the table, it’s time for the U.S. to step up and insist that my tax dollars and yours — a half a billion dollars’ worth — will not be shipped to a country that is bound and determined to kill its LGBT people. I don’t know about you, but I have no intention of going over the fiscal cliff while Uganda embarks on another anti-gay with hunt with my money.

This is a human rights crisis of epic proportions that is unfolding before our eyes. It is our Nuremberg. And it’s time our State Department stepped up and sent the only message that matters to Uganda’s leaders: pass this bill and the flow of dollars ends.

You can find contact information for the U.S. Mission in Uganda here. They even have a Twitter feed here, although it doesn’t appear to respond to tweets.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Why Now?

Jim Burroway

November 21st, 2012

Uganda Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and President Yoweri Museveni (Uganda Observer)

Since the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced in Uganda’s Parliament in October 2009, it has been like a recurring bad dream. Like most recurring dreams, you don’t have this one every night; you only experience it when stressful events trigger its return. Over the past three years, we’ve seen the AHB dominate the headlines, then go dormant, and then come back whenever there are external or internal events which call for either a diversion or a handy weapon.

Did Britain threaten to cut off aid?  Let’s revive the bill. Did a  feisty opposition leader provoke a violent crackdown? Let’s bring back the bill. Did the American Secretary of State just declare that “gay rights are human rights“? Time to bring it back. Clinton’s speech before the United Nations in Geneva proved a handy pretext to re-introduce the bill into Parliament last February, but it has been languishing in committee since then.

So why the sudden impetus now? One Ugandan human rights leader sees one possibility:

But Kikonyogo Kivumbi, executive director of civil rights organisation Uhspa-Uganda, painted a different picture by describing the anti-gay legislation as a “political weapon” for the Ugandan dictatorship in its attempts to influence the UN.

“Uganda is using the bill to threaten and blackmail the West,” he told IBTimes UK. “They know that respect of human rights is a sensible subject in the West and they are using it to blackmail the international community.”

The activist added that the Ugandan government is furious at a UN report which claimed it was abetting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report found that ministers in Kampala are supporting the M23 rebels “in the form of direct troop reinforcements in DRC territory, weapons deliveries, technical assistance, joint planning, political advice and facilitation of external relations”.

Kivumbi said. “When the report came out, the regime was furious and threatened to pull out of Somalia [where around 5,000 Ugandan troops are currently supporting the African Union’s peace-keeping mission and curbing the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab].

“They are threatening the sovereignty of a state, Congo, using the Somalia deal which they consider a soft spot for the West.”

This news mostly escaped western notice, but the UN report was a huge deal in Uganda when it came out. President Yoweri Museveni was clearly stung by the report, and he has threatened to pull Ugandan troops out of its peacekeeping mission in Somalia, where they have played a central role in pushing armed clans out of Mogadishu. Ugandan authorities are also making a show of closing its border with Congo even as Congolese rebels have captured the strategic Eastern city of Goma.

L-R: Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, First Lady and M.P. Janet Museveni

That row over the Congo is only one of a long list of conflicts confronting the Ugandan government. Over the past few months, Britain, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden announced that they were cutting direct aid to the Ugandan government after learning that much of it went into the personal bank account of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. Well gee, how did it get there?, he asked with feigned ignorance as he promptly found seventeen scapegoats to fire. Those scapegoats are now firing back. A similar scandal is reaching First Lady and Parliament Member Janet Museveni. And in yet another scandal, dozens of leaders have been caught in a US$650 million pension scam in which they registered thousands of so-called “ghost pensioners” to skim payments off of the nation pension plan’s meager resources. In reaction to all that, the World Bank has now warned that it would review its aid to Uganda, and last weekend, Britain announced that it not just halted its direct aid, but had frozen all bilateral aid, including aid to NGO’s and Ugandan financial institutions as well. That’s a huge hit. Total bilateral aid for the year was set for £98.9 million (US$157 million).

(By the way, the nation’s clerics, sensing an opportunity, have called on foreign governments to bypass the kleptocracy and give the foreign aid directly to them. But obviously, Britain isn’t buying.)

Meanwhile, Uganda’s primary referral hospital, Mulago Hospital, was forced to close its intensive care unit due to lack of funds while the country continues to struggle with nodding disease (the government’s response included feeding its victims rotten food) and a fresh Ebola outbreak. But when anti-corruption activists tried to hold a meeting to demand accountability in government, police intervened and put a stop to it. And, by the way, foreigners are getting brand new identity cards soon. The only reason Ugandans aren’t getting new national identity cards is because that project, too, has been botched by corruption.

Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga

So with all that going on, why not throw the masses some tripe and bring up the Anti-Homosexuality Bill? The timing is obviously ripe for it. All that was needed was a pretext. And that came earlier this month when Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga went to Canada for an Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly and was present when Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird blasted Uganda’s human rights record. Baird particularly singled out the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the murder of Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato in January, 2011. Kadaga replied with an angry retort, complete with the usual appeals to Uganda’s sovereignty and denunciations of Western colonialism. When she returned home to Entebbe, she was greeted with a hero’s welcome. She then announced to the cheering crowds that Uganda, by God, would show the world it can’t be pushed around anymore.

Speaker Kadaga has emerged as a pivotal figure lately in Ugandan politics. Amid widespread discontent over Museveni’s determination to remain in office through media manipulation and constant crackdowns on the opposition, Kadaga’s fearless brashness plays like a breath of fresh air. Her longstanding position in the ruling National Resistance Movement doesn’t appear to hurt either, as that makes her both a practical and a plausable successor to Museveni should he accept calls to restore term limits when his current term ends in 2016, after which he will have been in power for more than thirty years.

Kadaga’s political instincts are sharp, and she knows a popular, career-enhancing platform when she sees one. She has been a supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill from the very beginning, and before that, for increased penalties for homosexuality.  In April 2009, while Deputy Speaker, she presided over Parliament as M.P. David Bahati sought approval to submit an Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a private member’s bill. The bill failed to come to a vote before the Eight Parliament expired in May 2011.But after the Ninth Parliament elected her as Speaker, Kadaga promptly to engineered the bill’s reintroduction in February 2012. She is now pushing for its passage before Parliament breaks for Christmas on December 15. She says it will be a “Christmas gift” to the Ugandan people, and given the widespread homophobia in Ugandan society, the bill’s passage would only enhance Kadaga’s reputation further. And by the way, the bill’s passage under her leadership might, conveniently, help to quash rumors which surround the fact that, at age 56, Kadaga remains unmarried and without children in a country that takes these things very seriously.

So where is Museveni in all this? It’s usually right about now when a government spokesperson comes forward to tell us that the President or his cabinet has “rejected” the bill. But nobody from Museveni’s cabinet is throwing cold water on it this time. And it may well be that with all of the challenges that Museveni is facing, the bill’s passage, or even its mere threat, may serve Museveni’s interests as much as they serves Kadaga’s. If this bill is passed, she will get the credit — a good thing in domestic politics in the short term — because it will have her fingerprints all over it. But those fingerprints won’t dust off so easily in the long term when the country deals with the fallout with further reductions of foreign aid. That could be particularly damaging in the eyes of those who had supported her as a potential successor to Museveni, and that could play to Museveni’s long-term benefit.

None of this says that the bill’s passage is imminent, and none of its says that it’s not. That’s the tricky thing about trying to read the tea leaves in Uganda. The only thing that is certain is that it all comes down to whose interests are served best and how they are best served. If Kadaga passes the bill now, she will be a hero, for at least few months anyway. If its delayed again, then it’s still out there, ready to be acted on, until the Ninth Parliament expires in 2016. Either way, the larger message has gone out: leave us alone or the gays gets it.

Britain Suspends All Foreign Aid To Uganda

Jim Burroway

November 18th, 2012

Not because Uganda may be poised to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill soon, but because corruption in Uganda is so rampant that the UK has no idea where its money has gone.

Britain has suspended all direct aid to the Ugandan government with immediate effect, the international development secretary, Justine Greening, announced on Friday.

Aid to the Ugandan prime minister’s office was frozen in August, following allegations of fraud, while an independent forensic audit was ordered. Greening has now suspended other bilateral aid, which is spent through Uganda‘s financial systems, known as direct financial aid.

…”Britain has frozen all UK aid spent through the Ugandan government. This is a result of initial evidence emerging from our ongoing forensic audit of the office of the prime minister, which indicates aid money may have been misused,” said DfID. “We are extremely concerned by these preliminary findings and we will assess the decision further when we have considered the full findings of the report. Unless the government of Uganda can show that UK taxpayers’ money is going towards helping the poorest people lift themselves out of poverty, this aid will remain frozen and we will expect repayment and administrative and criminal sanctions.”

Auditors discovered that joint foreign aid funding from Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden to the tune of €12 million  (£10 million, US$15 million) have mysteriously shown up in the private bank accounts of officials in prime minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi’s office. Those countries and Britain suspended its aid to the Prime Minister’s office in August, and Britain has now expanded that freeze to include the entire Ugandan government. Britain was due to provide £11.1 million (US$17.7 million) in direct aid between now and the end of March. Total bilateral aid for the year was set for £98.9 million (US$157 million), but it’s not clear how much of that bilateral aid has already been spent.

Uganda Parliament May Vote On Anti-Homosexuality Bill By Christmas

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2012

According to this morning’s Daily Monitor:

Parliament yesterday passed a resolution in recognition of Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s stand on homosexuality. The House also urged the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee to immediately table its report on the Bill for general debate.

The committee’s chairperson Steven Tashobya yesterday said their report is almost done and will be brought to Parliament before it breaks off for Christmas recess. MPs across the political divide in a plenary session chaired by Ms Kadaga denounced homosexuality and said the country’s moral values are threatened by cultural inventions from the western world.

…The MP for Kinkiizi West, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, moved the motion that was overwhelmingly supported by legislators who committed themselves to passing the anti-homosexuality Bill.

“I rise to add my voice to state clearly that you represented Uganda effectively in Canada. You represented our right to do what we want to do as a country. We have made a point very clearly that we abide by the country’s Constitution which guarantees the right of members and back benchers to move private members Bills and MP Bahati exercised that right,” said Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

This latest push to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill comes as part of a broader backlash against remarks by Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird, who condemned Uganda’s proposed legislation to impose the death penalty for gay people. The bill would also impose criminal penalties for all advocacy on behalf of gay people, providing lodging and services to gay people, and even knowing someone who is gay and failing to report it to police. The last time the Anti-Homosexuality Bill made it through the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, it emerged with only a few minor tweaks while adding a new crime of “conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex,” punishable by three years in prison.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga was an early supporter for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and before that, for increased penalties for homosexuality.  She presided over Parliament in April 2009 in her role as Deputy Speaker when MP David Bahati sought approval to submit an Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a private member’s bill. She helped to engineer the bill’s reintroduction in the current parliament after the previous parliament expired before it could be brought to a vote.

Does Uganda’s Cabinet Ultimately Hold the Key To Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s Passage?

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2011

That’s what the South African LGBT blog Behind the Mask says:

Under Uganda’s Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, a Private Member of Parliament can table a bill. However Cabinet ordinarily discusses the bill and associates itself (cabinet) with such a bill. The legislator can then approach the Ministry of Finance to get a Certificate of Financial Implications, indicating how much it will cost government to set up institutions and frameworks for managing the bill if passed into law.

“That’s where Mr Bahati will have a technical challenge. The Ministry of Finance can refuse to give him this Certificate. That will mean he cannot reintroduce the bill,” Mr James Mukaga, a Clerk Assistant to the Parliament of Uganda said.

Obviously, one factor that would have to be considered in determining the bill’s cost would be the impact the bill’s passage would have in foreign aid. It is estimated that foreign aid makes up a third of Uganda’s budget. Sweden has already announced that they would cut aid if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes law, and it is believed that many other nations, including the United States, Britain and Canada, may have issued similar warnings privately.

Last weekend, the Ugandan Cabinet announced that they were “throwing out” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Members of Parliament then responded that the bill, which is a private member’s bill, is the “property” of Parliament and that the Cabinet does not have the authority to kill the bill. If this report from Behind the Mask is true, then the ball may truly be in Cabinet’s court.

However, the bill was already introduced in the Eight Parliament following a similar procedure, presumably including a Certificate from the Finance Minister at the time the bill was introduced in October, 2009. If the bill is simply carried forward from the Eighth Parliament to the Ninth Parliament, it is unclear whether a new certificate would have to be issued.

MP David Bahati

Behind the Mask also includes this background information which shows that M.P. David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor, may see the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as his pathway to becoming Prime Minister:

Mr Bahati has meanwhile been preparing to bring back the bill to fight his own local political battles. He recently formed a local political grouping, the Kabale Parliamentary Forum (KPF) in his home area of Kabale, a town in western Uganda.

The group is seen as a potential political threat to Uganda’s Prime Minister, Mr Amama Mbabazi who also hails from Kabale. Mr Mbabazi is the leader of Government business in Uganda’s Parliament.

Some pundits have hinted that Mr Bahati may be using the bill for his own local political agenda. They claim he wants to show that Mr Mbabazi is the one blocking the Kill the Gays Bill if it is not reintroduced in the ninth Parliament. Bahati would then undercut the premier politically on the home front through trying to link him with the protection of homosexuals.

Bahati’s political star has been rising lately on the strength of his notoriety. He was elevated to the ruling party’s caucus vice chair last June, and he was also named the chairman of the Ugandan Fellowship, a branch of the U.S.-based secretive group known as the C Street Fellowship or The Family. When the Ugandan fellowship held its inaugural dinner for members of the Ninth Parliament at the Sheraton Hotel Kampala in June, first lady Janet Museveni was on hand as guest speaker.

[Hat tip: Paul Canning]