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Posts for September, 2014

Uganda Parliament Takes First Step Toward Reintroduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

September 3rd, 2014

Ugandan lawmakers took the first step toward re-introducing the nullified Anti-Homosexuality Act for another round of debate and possible passage by granting leave of two MPs to prepare the bill for introduction. The AHA had been annulled by the Constitutional Court on August 1 after Parliament passed the bill in December without a constitutionally-mandated quorum. Daily Monitor has more:

Yesterday, as the House resumed from a mini-recess, Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, said the two MPs (AHA’s original sponsor David Bahati and reputed co-author MP Benson Obua Ogwal) have been granted leave of Parliament to allow them time to prepare the Bill, triggering excitement among members.

…Shortly after the court nullification, lawmakers led by Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebagala began collecting signatures in support of a plan to immediately reintroduce the law. They wanted the House to suspend handling of the ongoing Budget process, with a proposal that the new Bill be the first on the Order Paper, a request that was turned down yesterday.

“We are now focusing on the Budget process and the Bill was already here and we passed it into law. If it had still been within Parliament, it would still be property of Parliament and we would have done whatever necessary to correct the anomalies,” Mr Oulanyah said.

“So when we finish the Budget and as soon as the movers of this Bill are ready, we will proceed. When it is introduced, we will handle it appropriately about those issues that were raised that caused the nullification,” he added. Under Uganda’s Penal Code Act, sexual acts “against the order of nature” are already criminalised.

This is officially the first step toward allowing a private member’s bill to be considered by Parliament. Before the original Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced in Parliament in October 2009, M.P. David Bahati had received similar leave from Parliament in a little-noticed procedure six months earlier. (Government bills, in contrast to private members’ bills, have a slightly more direct line to introduction.) The next step would be the bill’s first reading, which constitutes its formal introduction into Parliament. After that, it goes to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for consideration and proposed amendments. The bill then goes back to Parliament for its Second Reading, followed by the consideration of the Committee’s recommendations. After each clause of the bill and its proposed amendments are considered, then the bill goes to its third reading for final consideration. It then goes to the President for his assent. He may return the bill back to Parliament, but under Uganda’s constitution he has no power to veto the bill entirely.

These are the steps that the AHA followed before becoming law earlier this year, except that Parliament didn’t have a proper quorum when speaker Rebecca Kadaga called for a snap vote in December. This was apparently in keeping with the expressed desires of a large number of MPs who supported the bill’s passage but wanted to avoid having their names associated with it out of fear that they would be blacklisted for travel visas by foreign governments or that their pet projects would be de-funded. But since that maneuver didn’t work out so well with the Constitutional Court, Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya promised to follow the proper procedures this time:

Two weeks ago, President Yoweri Museveni met with ruling party members to strategize the way forward on the Anti-Homosexuality Act. The President announced the formation of a ten-member committee chaired by Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi. Because the Court only ruled on the matter of the quorum and didn’t address the other constitutional issues raised by the legal challenge, the committee was tasked to review the legal challenge in its entirety to anticipate other grounds on which a future Anti-Homosexuality Act may be annulled. This latest move by Parliament may be an end-run around the President’s committee. The NTV reporter’s mention of the Anti-Homosexuality Act being the “property” of Parliament hints at a tug-of-war between the President and Parliament over the legislation’s future.

Ugandan President, MPs At Odds Over Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

August 13th, 2014

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met with MPs from his ruling National Resistance Movement to discuss the way forward on the Anti-Homosexuality Act after the Constitutional Court annulled it because Parliament acted without a constitutionally-mandated quorum when it passed it last December. During the meeting, Museveni warned the caucus that the AHA had already had a serious impact  on the country’s economic development and announced a committee to study the bill and recommend changes. According to the government-controlled newspaper New Vision, Museveni evoked an African proverb in his discussions:

“This is now an issue of Semusota guli muntamu (a snake which has entered into a cooking pot). If we try to kill the snake, we may break the pot, if we don’t we won’t” the President reportedly told the caucus, citing a Luganda saying used to describe a delicate situation that poses a serious dilemma.

Another source said the president had set up a 10-member committee chaired by the Vice-President Edward Kiwanuka Sekandi to study the petition, which challenged the law. Sekandi had earlier excited MPs when he told the President that the Bill should be re-tabled in Parliament.

Other committee members include David Bahati, Chris Baryomunsi, Steven Tashobya, Jim Muhwezi, and Ruth Nankabirwa
“The committee has been tasked to report back to the caucus within a period of one month. The court only focused on quorum, but there are other grounds, which were not considered,” said the source.

…Museveni had also warned critics of the law, including the US not to push Uganda on the matter. “I would like to discourage the US government from taking the line that passing this law will “complicate our valued relationship” with the US, as President Obama said.

Museveni also announced that the Attorney General would withdraw its notice that it would appeal the Constitutional Court’s decision to the nation’s Supreme Court.

More than 220 MPs in the 375-member Parliament have signed a petition asking Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to circumvent Parliament’s normal rules and bring the AHA up for a re-vote within three days. The NRM controls 263 seats in Parliament. In addition, the Ugandan military is allocated ten more seats.

Many of those MPs who signed the petition came away from the meeting dissatisfied with the committee’s formation. According to Uganda’s largest independent newspaper Daily Monitor:

However, a section of NRM MPs rejected the proposed committee, dismissing it as “dilly-dallying” and a “distraction”, continuing with the process of signing for the reintroduction of the Bill.

…However, NRM MPs; Amos Okot Ogong (Agago County), Eddie Kwizera (Bufumbira East) and Hatwib Katoto (Katerera County) told journalists while receiving a petition from the ex-gays association in support of the annulled law that they could not wait for the committee’s recommendations.

The “ex-gay association” was not named. It’s unclear whether the association is American or a local group. Pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa had used the ex-gay angle in the months leading up to the introduction of the original Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009. American extremist Scott Lively, whose appearance at a March 2009 conference in Kampala with two other ex-gay activists, has called for “offering” convicted gays the false choice between lengthy prison terms and ex-gay therapy.

The tabloid Red Pepper, which has a long history of launching anti-gay vigilante campaigns in the media, has more on the disgruntled MPs:

Agago County MP Okot John Amos explains that appending signature on a motion seeking immediate re-tabling of the bill was the right move to tackle the approach by the activists.

Bufumbira East MP Eddie Kwizera noted that President Museveni’s warning to the Caucus meeting that the Anti-Homosexuality Act is a snake in the cooking pot which must be handled carefully can be solved by “applying heat on the pot and the snake flees”.

He added that since the mistake was made by Parliament, it will be corrected by the same institution. “This is not the first time a law is being nullified, the Referendum law was nullified on the grounds of quorum and Parliament had to reconvene, because it is the same parliament that erred,” Kwizera noted.

Katerera County MP Hatwib Katoto noted that he is ready to vote on the bill even if other procedures are put in place. “So we appeal to MPs who are still dilly-dallying saying this that, it is not in any way natural“, Katoto stated.

Ugandan Leaders to Strategize Ways to Re-Enact Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

August 11th, 2014

Daily Monitor reports that the Parliamentary caucus of the National Resistance Movement, Uganda’s ruling party, will meet today to discuss the way forward for re-enacting the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was nullified by the Constitutional Court just days before President Yoweri Museveni was to attend a White House dinner in Washington, D.C. Museveni has confirmed that he will attend the meeting, according to MP David Bahati, who sponsored the original bill in 2009. According to Daily Monitor, there is a great deal of impatience among some of the MPs to get the law back on the books:

These MPs want Parliament to put on hold the handling of the ongoing Budget process and first ensure the restoration of the anti-gays law. There is also a request to the Speaker for the suspension of the House rules of procedure to allow the Bill to be passed without going through all the lengthy phases.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kampala Cyprian Kizito Lwanga has reportedly given his support for the act.

Kampala is rife with rumors about how and why the AHA came to be struck down, especially since Ugandan courts are not known for acting with the kind of speed the Constitutional Court acted. The Ugandan magazine The Independent has a lengthy report outlining why they believe the law was nullified and Museveni’s options going forward. It’s hard to know how much stock to place in this report. None of the article’s sources are identified, and the point where the Independent discusses the judiciary’s independence — “No judge who opposes gay rights is ever appointed, according to those familiar with the process” — seems very unlikely. But it does show the kinds of rumors that are floating around Kampala.

Ugandan TV Coverage of the Court Decision Striking Down Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

August 2nd, 2014

The first video is an excellent report from NTV Uganda.

The second video has one very minor error: the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in 2009, not 2007. Otherwise, it’s a very good recap of the bill’s progress through Parliament and ends with an overview of the debate over Parliament’s lack of quorum. In between, you’ll see reactions from the bill’s supporters including the bill’s sponsor, MP David Bahati.

The government-run UBC doesn’t run an active YouTube channel, but on its Facebook page, it gave this response from President Yoweri Museveni:

President Museveni’s response on the Anti-homosexuality Ruling yesterday. ” I belong to a political party called NRM. I don’t answer questions on a freelance way. I have not had time to meet the caucus. When i meet with the NRM caucus, i will have an answer, I am sent bills by the authorised people and I sign them if I agree with the contents.

Uganda’s Government to Appeal Court Decision Nullifying Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2014

Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, quotes MP David Bahati as saying that the government will appeal the Constitutional Court’s decision striking down the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to the nation’s Supreme Court:

Ndorwa West MP, David Bahati on Friday said that the Attorney General will petition the Supreme Court over the Constitutional Court ruling on the Act; just hours after court nullified it (Anti-Homosexuality law) which was approved by President Yoweri Museveni in February 2014.

“I want to thank the speaker, MPs who stood for what is right. The lawyer that represented government said she was not given chance to prove that there was quorum in parliament.

The court case ruling is no victory at all, the morals of the people of Uganda will prevail,” Mr Bahati said in a press briefing before adding, “The Attorney General who is very competent will petition the constitutional court over the constitutional court ruling. Our competent legal team will continue to petition the Supreme Court and I believe we will win.”

Bahati was the sponsor of the Private Member’s Bill. There has been no confirmation from the Attorney General’s office. The Constitutional Court is made up of five members of Uganda’s Court of Appeals and is subordinate to the nation’s Supreme Court.

Ugandans Celebrate Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2014
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Uganda’s Inter-Religious Council, a coalition of religious denominations, organized a ceremony of prayer and thanksgiving yesterday at the Kololo Independence Grounds, the nationally-revered site where Uganda’s independence was declared in 1962. Religious and political leaders gathered to honor President Yoweri Museveni for signing the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law despite widespread international condemnation. Buzzfeed’s J. Lester Feder was there and described the carnival atmosphere at Kololo:

Fire jugglers, acrobats, and schoolchildren performed at a five-hour ceremony in the Ugandan capital on Monday called to celebrate the country’s new Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Speakers paid tribute to President Yoweri Museveni, the official guest of honor, and linked Uganda’s fight against homosexuality with shedding its colonial past in an event that had the feeling of a campaign rally.

“Today, we come here again [to celebrate] sovereignty and freedom … [and] to take charge of our destiny,” said David Bahati, the lawmaker who sponsored the bill, noting that the event was taking place at the Kololo Independence Grounds, the parade grounds where Ugandan independence was granted in 1962. “The citizens of Uganda are with you, Mr. President. The religious and cultural leaders are with you, Mr. President. The members of parliament and the nation is behind you.”

Sheik Shaban Mubajje, Mufti of Uganda, spoke on behalf of the Inter-Religious Council in offering prayers of thanksgiving for the Anti-Homosexuality Act, while complaining that foreign donors have cut US$3.5 million in aid to the group that had been earmarked its HIV/AIDS programs. HIV/AIDS providers and legal experts have warned that the overly broad wording of the Anti-Homosexuality Act’s “aiding and abetting” clause would, at best, have a chilling effect on the delivery HIV/AIDS services to LGBT people, and, at worst, could be interpreted as criminalizing it. Other religious leaders offering thanksgiving prayers included Roman Catholic Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, and evangelical pastor Simon Peter Emiau. Ahead of the celebration, Pastor Martin Ssempa, of “eat-da-poo-poo” fame and staunch supporter of the new law, led a march of supporters from Makarere University to Kololo.

Museveni charged that Western countries were “attacking our culture, which is the bedrock of our survival,” and promised to support a domestic fund to replace lost foreign dollars for HIV/AIDS.

VIDEO: Ugandan TV Covers the Five Year History of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2014
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VIDEO: Ugandan TV Coverage of Signing of Anti-Gay Bill, Reactions from Supporters

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2014
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MP David Bahati, who introduced the private member’s bill into Parliament, reacted to the signing:

This is a victory for the family of Uganda, the future of our children and certainly a triumph of our sovereignty as a country that got independence fifty years ago.

Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo (a defrocked Catholic priest) dismissed the potential international fallout from the bill:

Because I know any sensible person will take this positively and say, oh, this bill as asserted their position, they’ve asserted their mind, and let’s respect them as they are and we’ll continue relating.

The NTV report erroneously states that first-time offenders against the new Anti-Homosexuality Act “would face up to fourteen years in jail.” In fact, the final act as signed into law sets a penalty of lifetime imprisonment regardless if whether it is a first conviction or not.

Uganda TV Airs MPs’ Reactions to Museveni’s Promise to Sign Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2014
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Reactions include that from M.P. David Bahati, who sponsored the legislation in Parliament.

Well, the scientists’ conclusion is very clear that homosexuality is not a disease, that it is not an abnormality, there is no definitive … gene that is responsible for homosexuality.

You can read the “scientists’ conclusion” here.

 

The Secret Plan to Pass Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill by Stealth

Jim Burroway

December 27th, 2013

Last Friday’s passage of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill by Uganda’s Parliament caught quite a lot of people by surprise including, it would appear, members of President Yoweri Museveni’s government. The bill was nowhere to be found on Parliament’s Order Paper for the day (RTF: 131KB/5 pages), and there is still some question of whether Parliament actually had a proper quorum when Speaker Rebecca Kadaga (who is among the bill’s more vigorous defenders) called for a snap vote. Warren Throckmorton points to this article  by Uganda’s Observer which gives us a few clues about the plan to bring the bill up by stealth:

But promoters of the bill were encouraged by the recent passage of similar laws in Russia and Nigeria. Sources said the final onslaught was planned mid last week, and on Thursday evening. The bill’s promoters sent out messages to supportive MPs from both NRM and opposition.

“I went to bed knowing that this bill was coming up, they sent me a message yesterday [Thursday],” Dr Lulume Bayigga (DP, Buikwe South) told The Observer.

At least four MPs: Fox Odoi (West Budama North), Sam Otada (Kibanda), Krispus Ayena (Oyam North) and Abdul Katuntu (Bugweri) were known to be against the bill, having dissented from the position of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, and wrote a minority report against the bill. The minority report was, however, signed only by Odoi and Otada, who were not in the House to defend their position.

“I was not aware that it was coming because it [was] not reflected on the [hard] copy and the electronic copy of the order paper that was sent to my email,” Odoi said when contacted.

As Parliament voted to pass the bill, (M.P. David) Bahati, the promoter, paced the corridors, following proceedings on TV, and only appeared after it was passed to join his colleagues in celebration.

“This is the perfect Christmas gift we could give Ugandans, I want to thank the speaker for her courage that led to the passing of this bill,” Bahati told journalists.

He later told The Observer that it was tactical not to include the bill on the order paper because they feared government would block it.

“We knew that if it were to be included on the order paper, they [government] would scheme against it, it was in our plan that members request for it and the speaker uses her prerogative to have it included on the order paper,” Bahati told us on Friday.

…(Pentecostal pastor Martin) Ssempa was part of the group that planned the final onslaught. He said the plot was hatched on Wednesday, but they agreed to keep it secret.

“If we had let it out, we couldn’t have handled the resistance of gay activists; by this time, this place [Parliament] would be flooded by whites resisting the law,” he said.

Journalist Andrew Mwenda, founder of Uganda’s Independent newspaper, appeared on NTV to give his thoughts on Parliament’s move on what he calls “a very primitive law”:

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Uganda’s Parliament Passes Anti-Homosexuality Bill (UPDATED)

Jim Burroway

December 20th, 2013

There are multiple reports from Uganda media indicating that the nation’s Parliament has given its final approval to the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill today. The independent Daily Monitor leads with the story:

Parliament has passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, which proposes life imprisonment for homosexual acts.

A proposal for a 14-year-sentence for those convicted for homosexual acts, which the Bill criminalises, was rejected by Members of Parliament who instead maintained the life imprisonment proposal.

After voting to pass the Bill into law MPs asked the President to assent to it fast enough so it becomes law. They also passed a motion thanking the House Speaker for the “gift”.

The tabloid Red Pepper confirms the story, as do Warren Throckmorton and the BBC, which reports that the bill apparently passed despite a possible lack of quorum in Parliament:

The prime minister opposed the vote, saying not enough MPs were present. …She says that Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi might follow up on his complaints about a lack of quorum, while it remains to be seen whether President Yoweri Museveni will sign the bill into law.

The government-owned New Vision reports that the Prime Minister said “there would be further ‘consultations’ on part of the government.” It also reports that President Yoweri Museveni “will decide if it becomes law or not.”

Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s decision to bring the bill up for a vote appears to have been a surprise. There has been no indication that the bill would be brought for a vote in the Order Papers posted on Parliament’s web site.

It is unclear which provisions of the bill’s original proposals made it into the final version passed by Parliament. This BBC report indicates the death penalty was dropped, but news agencies, including the BBC, have a very long history of getting this wrong before. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the death penalty was removed in favor of life imprisonment.) Last year, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee made numerous recommendations to the bill, but held those recommendations secret. Warren Throckmorton has obtained a copy of those recommendations and posted them here.  The original bill (PDF: 847KB/16 pages) contained the following provisions:

Clauses 1 and 2: Anybody Can Be Gay Under the Law. The definition of what constitutes “homosexual act” as defined in the first two clauses are so broad that just about anyone can be convicted of just about anything, including “touching” with the “intent” of committing “homosexuality,” even when fully clothed. It also sets the penalty for any “homosexual act” as life imprisonment. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended reducing that sentence to fourteen years, but based on news reports it appears that Parliament has rejected that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the subclause outlawing “touching” with the “intent” of committing homosexuality was deleted.)
Clause 3: Anyone Can Be “Liable To Suffer Death”. And you don’t even have to be gay to be sent to the gallows. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended replacing the death penalty with a life sentences, but it is not clear whether Parliament approved that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the death penalty was removed in favor of life imprisonment.) But can anyone seriously imaging that spending a lifetime in Uganda’s notorious Luzira prison is any better? Especially once your fellow prisoners learn that you were sent there for “aggravated homosexuality”?
Clause 4: Anyone Can “Attempt to Commit Homosexuality”. All you have to do is “attempt” to “touch” “any part of of the body” “with anything else” “through anything” in an act that does “not necessarily culminate in intercourse.” The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended the removal of this clause for being “too hard and difficult to prove and may cause absurdities.” (Update: Parliament Watch conforms that Clause 4 was deleted.)
Clauses 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10: How To Get Out Of Jail Free. The bill is written to openly encourage and even opens the possibility for financial incentives for one partner to turn state’s evidence against another. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended the removal of Clause 8, which would have prohibited the “conspiracy to engage in homosexuality.” The committee also recommended the removal of Clause 10, which would have prohibited the “detention with intent to commit homosexuality.” The reason given for the removal of both clauses was to prevent “absurdities.” At this time it is unknown whether Parliament followed through on those recommendations. (Update: Parliament Watch confirms that Clause 8 was deleted. They also confirm that Clause 10 was deleted.)
Clauses 7, 11, and 14: Straight People In The Crosshairs. The bill has specific clauses that would also target family members, doctors, lawyers, and even landlords for refusing to turn gay people over to the police or providing services to anyone that they know to be gay. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating Clause 14 (“failure to disclose”), but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the “failure to disclose” clause was deleted.) Providing services or providing lodgings still appear to be illegal.
Clause 12: Till Life Imprisonment Do You Part. Officiating a same-sex wedding results in up to three years’ imprisonment. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended changing the penalty for entering into a marriage from life to fourteen years. It’s unclear whether that recommendation was adopted. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the penalty for conducting a marriage was raised to seven years.)
Clause 13: The Silencing of the Lambs. All advocacy — including suggesting that the law might be repealed — will result in prison sentences.
Clause 14: The Requirement Isn’t To Report Just Gay People To Police. It’s To Report Everyone. A closer look shows that the requirement to report doesn’t just apply to gay people, but to anyone, gay or straight, who violates the law’s clauses. (Update: Parliament Watch tweets that the “failure to disclose” clause was deleted.)
Clauses 16 and 17: The Extra-Territorially Long Arm of Ugandan Law. “Crimes” committed outside of Uganda by Ugandan citizens or residents will result in prosecution in Uganda.The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating these clauses, but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation
Clause 18: We Don’t Need No Stinking Treaties. The bill not only violates several international treaties, it also turns the Ugandan constitution on its head. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating Clause 18, but it’s unclear whether Parliament adopted that recommendation
Clauses 15 and 19: The Establishment Clauses For The Ugandan Inquisition. These clauses empower the Ethics and Integrity Minister to enforce all of the bill’s provisions. He’s already gotten a head start.

Major Uganda Broadcaster Turns Cheerleader for Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

November 12th, 2012

Uganda’s NTV is normally a reasonably reliable source of information, but this report suggests that the influential independent channel may have become yet another cheerleading outlet promoting the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Toward the end of NTV’s coverage of a rally by religious leaders in Uganda’s parliament (featured speakers included former Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo and M.P. David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor), the announcer attributes the bill’s failure in the Eighth Parliament to pressure from “western countries and wealthy gay activists.” The announcer also describes the bill this way:

2:10: The bill originally proposed a death sentence for adults found guilty of raping young boys, but has since been revised to life imprisonment.

The entire statement is patently false: the death sentence went far beyond those found guilty of “raping young boys.” In fact, a careful reading of the bill’s language makes clear that just about anyone convicted of homosexuality or related crimes (a frighteningly broad category) stands a good chance of being charged with so-called “aggravated homosexuality.”

The second part of the statement, claiming that the death penalty has been shelved, is also a boldfaced lie. In May of 2011, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee  recommended a sly change to the bill, removing the explicit language of “suffer(ing) death,” and replacing it with a reference to the penalties provided in an unrelated law which already exists. That law specifies the death penalty, which means that the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended that the death penalty be retained through stealth. Bahati then went on to claim that the death penalty was removed even though it was still a part of the bill. The Eighth Parliament ended before it could act on the committee’s recommendation. On February 7, 2012, the original version of the bill, unchanged from when it was first introduced in 2009, was reintroduced into the Ninth Parliament. The bill was again sent to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Despite reports to the contrary, the original language specifying the death penalty is still in the bill, and will remain there unless the committee recommends its removal and Parliament adopts that recommendation in a floor vote. To date, that has not occurred.

NTV, which is owned by the same media outlet which publishes Daily Monitor, has generally been a reputable broadcaster. That it should now misrepresent the bill’s penalty while attributing its earlier failure, without evidence, to “wealthy gay activists,” is a distressing turn of events.

Uganda’s Parliament Speaker Promises to Revive Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

October 31st, 2012

Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga returned home to Entebbe Airport to a hero’s welcome after attending a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Quebec, Canada. The rally at Entebbe’s airport was organized by religious leaders, former Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, and  Anti-Homosexuality Bill sponsor M.P. David Bahati. She told supporters and the press that she would instruct the chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee “to quickly bring the report on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill” to the House floor for a vote.

Kadaga was also defiant in the face of threats by several foreign governments to withhold aid and visas if the bill passes. “If the price of aid is going to be the promotion of homosexuality in this country,” she told supporters, “I think we don’t want that aid.”

Kadega made those remarks in response to criticisms by Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird over Uganda’s proposal to execute gay people and for its refusal to protect LGBT people in the country. As Uganda’s independent Daily Monitor reported last Thursday:

She told IPU organisers that she was not aware that the assembly had been summoned to promote gay rights.
Earlier, at the inaugural plenary on Monday, Mr Baird had demonised Uganda on allegations of persecuting sexual minorities. The Foreign Minister referred to the specific incident of gay-rights activist David Kato, who was bludgeoned to death in January 2011.

Responding to the unprovoked Baird attack, Ms Kadaga said: “When we came for this Assembly, to which we were invited, we expected respect for our sovereignty, our values and our country … “I, therefore, on behalf of the Ugandan delegation, and, indeed, the people of Uganda, protest in the strongest terms the arrogance exhibited by the Foreign Minister of Canada, who spent most of his time attacking Uganda and promoting homosexuality.”

…For that matter, Ms Kadaga said: “If homosexuality is a value for the people of Canada they should not seek to force Uganda to embrace it. We are not a colony or a protectorate of Canada. The subject under discussion is ‘Citizenship, Identity and Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in a Globalised World’, please stick to it.”

No Ugandan politician has ever lost anything by resorting to appeals to Uganda’s sovereignty. Until just fifty years ago, Uganda was a British colony subject to the whims of a (white) government on a different continent and more than four thousand miles away. Uganda recently celebrated is fiftieth anniversary this past summer. On Friday, Daily Monitor reported that Kadaga’s comments were receiving considerable support from among its readers:

By press time, Ms Kadaga’s retort carried in the Daily Monitor yesterday had attracted numerous comments on this newspaper’s web site with most of them applauding her for defending the culture, values and norms of Ugandans from “Western cultural perversion”.

In one of the comments, an online reader writes: “Hahaha!! I have read so many of these forums but trust me, I have never seen so many comments yet all speaking with a single voice! Kudos Ugandans, I am proud of all of ya (sic). It means all is not lost of our society.”

The incident in Quebec also elicited this comment from the government:

Weighing in on the diplomatic spat, State minister for International Relations Henry Okello Oryem said the position of government is that sodomy is a crime and that Uganda does not persecute sexual minorities. “We have no business with the people who are behind closed doors but those who flaunt sexual activities in public will be dealt with,” Mr Oryem said.

Mr Okello Oryem observed that in Britain – Uganda’s former colonial master – the law books described “sodomy as a crime long before Uganda even got its independence”.

Ugandan police have routinely shut down conferences in which human rights for gay people were a topic of conversation, including a workshop in Entebbe in February and another conference in June. Speaker Kadaga promised then that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be taken up in the next session of Parliament. The Second Session of Parliament has been meeting since August.

In September, British national David Cecil was arrested and charged with “disobeying lawful orders” when he staged a pro-gay play at a small theater in a Kampala suburb after the Media Centre refused to allow him to mount the production at the National Theatre. Cecil was released on bail pending trial, where he faces the possibility of two years in prison.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced into Parliament last February and referred to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for possible modifications. When the same committee considered the bill in May of 2011, the committee recommended a sly change to the bill, removing the explicit language of “suffer(ing) death,” and replacing it with a reference to the penalties provided in an unrelated already existing law. That law however specifies the death penalty. Which means that the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee actually recommended that the death penalty be retained through stealth while the bill’s supporters publicly stated that the penalty had been removed. The previous Eighth Parliament expired before the house could vote on the committee’s recommendations. After the Ninth Parliament convened, the original language of the bill, including its death penalty, was reintroduced and referred back to the same committee.

Ugandan Gays Now Allowed To Meet? Anti-Homosexuality Bill “Shelved”?

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2012

That’s what the Associated Press is reporting. But I think it’s safe to say that the best way to approach this AP article is to read it and then believe the opposite. It has two whoppers: 1) it claims that the Ugandan government says that LGBT advocates are now free to meet, and 2) that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been “shelved.” From what I’m seeing, neither appears correct.

Let’s take the first point first. In response to growing international criticism over two recent raids of gay rights conferences, the Ugandan government issued this statement signed by Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo:

Kampala

Uganda has come under criticism for intervening in a gay activists’ meeting that was taking place at a Hotel in a city suburb early this week. Police intervened in the meeting that was suspected to be promoting gay activities and questioned the participants who were later released.

The Government would like to state that much as promoting gay activities is illegal according to Section 145 of the Penal code Act, Uganda does not segregate against people of a different sexual orientation.

No government official is bent to harass any section of the community and everybody in Uganda enjoys the freedom to lawfully assemble and associate freely with others.

Cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in the world, 2/3 of African countries outlaw homosexual activity and 80% of East African countries criminalize it. Whilst at a global level more than 80 countries outlaw homosexual acts.

The government would like to encourage all Ugandans to be vigilant and stay away from unlawful activities that would get them in trouble with the law.

Rev.Fr. Simon Lokodo
Minister of Ethics and Integrity

Lokodo continues to sign himself as “Rev. Fr.” even though he was defrocked by the Vatican last year. So already you know something of the veracity of the man’s statements. But look at what he says in the second paragraph. He references Section 145 of the Uganda penal code and claims that it makes LGBT advocacy illegal. But this is what the code actually says:

Section 145
Unnatural offences

Any person who
(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature;
(b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.

As far as I know, no one was having any sort of carnal knowledge at the conference that Lokodo broke up earlier this week. Everyone I saw in the news reports were fully clothed. What’s more, when he appeared on Ugandan television to talk about the raid, he used Section 145 to justify his actions then. His predecessor used the same justification to cancel the screening of a documentary that included LGBT human rights workers in 2010. This latest statement posted on the Ugandan Media Centre’s web site merely repeats what Lokodo said on Monday when he took credit for the raid. And not only did he use Section 145 to justify the raid, he closes this statement with a warning to ” stay away from unlawful activities that would get them in trouble with the law” — or at least his strange reading of Section 145 of that law. The Associated Press’s report has woefully misread Lokodo’s statement.

But it does appear that Lokodo has become an embarrassment for the Ugandan government. Whenver we see confusion being sown like this, it often comes during times of heightened international scrutiny. The AP claims to have spoken with an un-named official who says that Lokodo was told to tone things down. If so, then this confusing and contradictory statement appears to be the product of that order. Its appearance on the official Ugandan Media Centre web site, which is an official press clearing house for the Ugandan government, suggests that the government is feeling the pressure. But it also can be read as trying to ease the pressure without committing to any changes in policy.

As for the second point the Associated Press got wrong:

Parliamentarian David Bahati said at the time that homosexuals deserved to die for recruiting young, impoverished children into gay culture by luring them with money and the promise of a better life.

The bill has since been shelved. Uganda’s president said it hurt the country’s image abroad. The bill has been condemned by some world leaders, with U.S. President Barack Obama describing it as “odious.”

But the bill is highly popular among local Anglican and Pentecostal clerics. Some recently petitioned the authorities to quickly pass it. Bahati said he had been “assured” that the bill would be passed one day.

How many times have we seen reports like this before in the past three years? There have been numerous false reports claiming, variously, that the death penalty has been removed (it hasn’t) or that the bill has been shelved (it hasn’t). The bill died briefly at the close of the Eighth Parliament, only to be revived again in the Ninth.  The bill is currently in the hands of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. The Associated Press is just one more in a long line of news outlets to get this wrong.

What’s more, it was just last Tuesday when Bahati said that Parliament would take up the bill during its next session. That next session begins next week. Bahati should know what he’s talking about: he’s the caucus chairmain for the ruling National Resistance Movement in Parliament.

Ugandan Parliament Leader Says Anti-Homosexuality Bill Will Be Taken Up In Next Session

Jim Burroway

June 19th, 2012

That is the lede that was deeply buried in this report from Uganda’s NTV:

YouTube Preview Image

Towards the end of this clip, MP David Bahati, the sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, told NTV’s reporter:

The current legal regime in the penal code act is so weak, that’s why we brought in the bill to strengthen it. [edit] And we have been assured by Hon. Tashobya that he is going to work on this bill this time in session.

Bahati is the caucus leader of the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement. MP Stephen Tashobya is chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, which is responsible for rewind and recommending changes to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The NTV report errs in saying that the bill would provide a lifetime sentence for LGBT people. It would, as that is one of the penalties spelled out in the bill. But that implies that the death penalty has been removed from the bill. That is not true. The last time the bill went through Tashobya’s committee in 2011, his committee recommended removing the explicit language of “suffer(ing) death,” and replacing it with a reference to the penalties provided in an unrelated existing law — which just happens to specify the death penalty. Which means that the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended that the death penalty be retained through stealth. Bahati then went on to claim that the death penalty was removed even though it was still a part of the bill. The Eighth Parliament ended last year before it could act on the committee’s recommendation. After the Ninth Parliament convened, the original language of the bill, including its death penalty, was reintroduced and referred back to Tashobya’s committee.

The occasion for this news report was yesterday’s raid on a workshop at Esella Country Hotel in the Kampala suburb of Najjeera. The workshop yesterday was intended to provide training in monitoring human rights violations to Ugandan LGBT advocates, who instead saw their own freedoms of assembly, association and speech violated by the raid from Ugandan police. The head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Kampala’s police says that his investigation into whether any laws were broken is ongoing. The CID is routinely called upon to handle politically repressive actions on behalf of the government.

According to Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, “At least five staff of the project were detained alongside 12 of the workshop participants while others escaped after being tipped off about the police raid.” The paper also reports that participants came in from Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and quotes Michelle Kagari, the Amnesty deputy director for Africa, denouncing the raid as a “senseless and ludicrous harassment of rights activists which has no basis in law” She also said it was part of a larger pattern of intimidation of legitimate human rights work. (Daily Monitor and NTV are owned by the same media company based in neighboring Kenya.)

Ethics and Integrity Minister Fr. Simon Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest, also led a raid of a gay rights conference in Entebbe in February. He appears to be behind this raid as well, having tipped off NTV that the raid would take place several ours before police arived. Lokodo in this report said that that he will make sure that “all is done to bring them to book” (to be charged with a crime). He also reiterated that “everybody else will know that at least in Uganda we have no room here for homosexuals and lesbians.” He also denounced international pressure on Uganda to respect the human rights of all its citizens, including LGBT citizens, saying that Ugandans “would rather die poor than loose our dignity as Ugandans.”

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