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Posts for April, 2014

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:

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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.”

Ugandan Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox Bishops Call for Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s Revival

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2012

Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, reported this worrisome call on Sunday:

Top religious leaders from across the country have asked Parliament to speed-up the process of enacting the Anti-Homosexuality law to prevent what they called “an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage”.

Speaking after their recent annual conference organised by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical body which brings together the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches, the bishops resolved that the parliamentary committee on Gender should be tasked to engage the House on the Bill which is now at committee level.

“We also ask the Education committee to engage the Ministry of Education on the issue of incorporating a topic on human sexuality in the curricula of our schools and institutions of learning,” the resolutions signed by archbishops Henry Luke Orombi, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, indicated.

This is a worrying development. Roman Catholic Archbishop Lwanga’s Christmas message of 2009 included his opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He reiterated that message the following January. He was also a signatory to a multi-faith letter in 2010 which criticized the bill. More than a year later, we learned that prior to the Archbishop’s statements, the Vatican had intervened with its opposition to the bill. This statement now appears to be an about-face on the part of Lwanga.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s sponsor, M.P. David Bahati, continues to lie about the bill’s provisions:

Among some of the propositions in the Bill was one of death and life sentence for those for those caught engaging in homosexuality for a second time.

However, Mr Bahati said these penalties had since been removed from the Bill.

This is as untrue now as it has been every time Bahati has repeated this lie since the bill’s first introduction in 2009. It was referred to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, where it languished until 2011. When the committee finally reported the bill back onto the House floor in May, 2011 they suggested removing some clauses of the bill while adding of a new clause criminalizing the conduct of same-sex marriages. As for the death penalty provision, 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 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 actual removal and Parliament adopts that recommendation in a floor vote.

Lawsuit Filed Against Scott Lively For Instigating Anti-LGBT Persecution in Uganda

Jim Burroway

March 14th, 2012

L-R: Unidentified woman, American holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge, Exodus International boardmember Don Schmierer, Family Life Network (Uganda)’s Stephen Langa, at the time of the March 2009 anti-gay conference in Uganda.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has announced this morning that they are filing a lawsuit on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) against American anti-gay extremist Scott Lively for his role in “the decade-long campaign he has waged, in coordination with his Ugandan counterparts, to persecute persons on the basis of their gender and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.” CCR announced its action this morning in a conference call with reporters. I was among those participating in the call.

The complaint (PDF: 2.2MB/47 pages) was filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts at Springfield, where Lively currently resides. CCR is bringing the suit under the Alien Tort Statute, which provides federal jurisdiction for “any civil action by an alien, for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” In other words, it allows a foreign national to sue in U.S. courts for violations of U.S. or international law conducted by U.S. citizens overseas. According to CCR, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that ATS is a remedy for serious violations of international law norms that are “widely accepted and clearly defined.”

The crime against humanity in international law that CCR alleges that Lively violated is the crime of persecution, which is defined as the “intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity.” CCR alleges that the defendant plaintif, Sexual Minorities Uganda, as well as individual staff members and member organizations, suffered severe deprivations of fundamental rights as a direct result of a coordinated campaign “largely initiated, instigated and directed” by Scott Lively.

In a conference call with reporters, CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pam Spees said that the Alien Tort Statute act had been applied in other specific cases of human rights violations against individuals. But she acknowledged that if this case prevails, it would establish a precedent for applying it to the crime of persecution, which, as a crime against a group, is different from a general “ordering the killing of people in his custody.” She pointed out U.S. asylum cases have acknowledged sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as legitimate claims for persecution.

Lively is best known for his role, reported first here on BTB, as featured speaker at an anti-gay conference held in Kampala in March 2009. During that conference, Lively touted his book, The Pink Swastika, in which he claimed that gays were responsible for founding the Nazi Party and running the gas chambers in the Holocaust. Lively then went on to blame the Rwandan genocide on gay men and he charged that gay people were flooding into Uganda from the West to recruit children into homosexuality via child sexual molestation.

During that same trip, Lively met with several members of Uganda’s Parliament. Only two weeks later, there were already rumors that Parliament was drafting a new law that “will be tough on homosexuals.” That new law, in its final form, would be introduced into Parliament later in October. Meanwhile, the public panic stoked by the March conference led to follow-up meetings, a march on Parliament, and a massive vigilante campaign waged on radio and the tabloid press. Lively would later boast that his March 2009 talk was a “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.”

In the complaint filed in Federal District Court, CCR provides details of Lively’s activities in Uganda going back to 2002, when Lively began touring Uganda and establishing contacts with leading Ugandan figures, including Stephen Langa (who organized the March 2009 conference) and Pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa. While there, he was interviewed for major daily newspapers and appeared on radio and television. In a conference call with reporters, Spees said that Lively’s particular influence on Uganda’s religious leaders was the primary avenue for “telegraphing the sense of terror” through his accusations against the gay community, and that influence picked up significantly following the 2009 conference. The complaint includes several examples where Lively’s rhetoric showed up virtually verbatim in statements from Ugandan religious and political leaders. She also pointed out that the preamble of the bill’s original draft included language that was lifted straight out of conference materials.

Tarso Luís Ramos, Executive Director of Political Research Associates, echoed Spees’s assertion that Lively’s influence played a major role in the growing climate of persecution in Uganda. He described the main avenue of influence as from religious leaders like Lively to prominent Ugandan religious leaders who also wield considerable moral and political influence. Ramons said that during Lively’s 2009 trip to Uganda, he also met with members of the Ugandan Christian Lawyers Association and members of Parliament, and spoke at an assembly of 5,000 college students and at major pentecostal churches. According to the complaint, M.P. David Bahati, author of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was among those who attended the Kampala conference. Bahati and former Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo were also named as co-conspirators in the complaint.

Ramos and Spees contrasted Lively’s role with that of the secretive U.S. organization known as The Family or The Fellowship. Spees described Lively as the “go-to guy whose rhetoric went into hyperspace to stamp out” LGBT people “in a strategic way.” She alleged that he provided a “tangible, clear plan” in contrast to The Family, which tried to distance itself from the bill. One  part of the “clear plan” outlined in the complaint was Lively’s recommendation for the criminalization of LGBT advocacy in Uganda. That recommendation became Clause 13 in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Spees emphasized that while Lively’s “violent anti-gay rhetoric” forms a basis for the evidence of the complaint, the case is not about hate speech but what she described as his systematic efforts to provoke persecution in Uganda and elsewhere. She described Lively as a “key player in persecution” in a concerted effort to deprive and remove rights for LGBT Ugandans.

Speaking via telephone form Uganda, SMUG Executive Director Frank Mugisha welcomed the filing. He said that when the March 2009 Kampala conference was announced, they had no idea how far that conference’s influence would go. Before 2009, he described an atmosphere where people were somewhat freer to live in groups as gay people, but after the conference there were demonstrations, meetings, reports of arrests, people being thrown out of their houses and churches, beatings, and severe curbs on freedom of assembly. Just last month, Ugandan authorities raided a meeting by LGBT leaders at a hotel in Entebbe and tried to arrest Kasha Jacqueline Nabagese, founder of the lesbian rights group Freedom and Roam Uganda.

More information about the lawsuit against Lively can be found at the CCR web site.

Update: The New York Times has this reaction from Lively:

Reached by telephone in Springfield, Mass., where he now runs “Holy Grounds Coffee House,” a storefront mission and coffee shop, Mr. Lively said he had not been served and did not know about the lawsuit. However, he said: “That’s about as ridiculous as it gets. I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue. There’s actually no grounds for litigation on this.”

Going After Ugandan Gays a Convenient Government Diversion

Jim Burroway

February 23rd, 2012

In a New York Times blog post, Journalist Dayo Olobade sees Uganda’s LGBT community a convenitent diversion whenever government leaders have too many other problems to grapple with.

Last year, the government spent more than $500 million on new military planes while failing to build, staff or maintain maternity hospitals. This year, parliament approved payments of 103 million Ugandan shillings (about $45,000) per representative in order for each to buy a new car. A recent wave of influence-peddling scandals has left seven cabinet positions vacant. In this climate, it seems curious that (Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon) Lokodo, whose portfolio includes both “gay issues” and dealing with corruption in government, should invest such personal interest in the former and not the latter.

…The long-serving President Yoweri Museveni, meanwhile, has disavowed parliament’s activity both times the (Anti-Homosexuality) bill has been considered, primarily, it seems, out of fear that gay-bashing might endanger foreign aid from rights-conscious donors like the United States and Britain. That’s not to say he and his cohort don’t benefit from this culture-war sideshow: three days before Bahati’s bill resurfaced this month, the president signed a controversial new oil contract. Last year, after a series of opaque agreements with foreign companies, parliament had ruled that no new production-sharing agreements were to be signed until a comprehensive regulatory regime had been established. The president’s office, insisting that an engagement with the British energy company Tullow Oil pre-dated the moratorium, went ahead anyway.

“You’d think that the government, given pressure regarding the oil sector, would begin the legislative session with the oil reforms,” says Angelo Izama, an experienced Ugandan journalist on the oil beat. “But they began with the gay bill. It’s not accidental.” The semi-successful diversion, coupled with disregard for parliamentary procedures, illustrates the lack of checks on the behavior of the Museveni government.

Museveni, who has held power since winning a civil war in 1986, has spoken out against the bill. But it doesn’t take a political genius to see that he finds having the bill around benefits him politically. He elevated Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest, to his cabinet and Lokodo immediately set about raiding a workshop on LGBT advocacy. Museveni also undoubtedly had a hand in raising MP David Bahati, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s sponsor, to the position of acting chairman of the ruling party’s caucus in Parliament. It’s inconceivable that Bahati would have reached that position without Museveni’s solid support, and its very difficult to read that move as a reward for providing Museveni with a convenient diversion that he can use whenever he needs it.

Meanwhile, Museveni appeared in a BBC television interview to deny that gay people are being persecuted in Uganda. “Homosexuals — in small numbers — have existed in our part of black Africa. They were never prosecuted, they were never discriminated,” he told BBC’s Stephen Sackur just days after his government’s raid on Entebbe. Museveni made those comments during a visit to London to launch a tourism innitiativeand attend a summit on Somolia.

Report: Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill To Be Discussed In Parliament Next Week

Jim Burroway

February 3rd, 2012

Moments ago, the online news portal UGPulse reported that the Ugandan Parliament’s Business Committee will hold discussions on the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Monday, February 6.

In a letter to MPs on the committee from the office of the Clerk to Parliament, the meeting slated for Monday next week is expected to consider the legislative programme for the 3rd meeting of the 1st session of the 9th Parliament.

The Business Committee is presided over by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who is believed to be a bill supporter. Membership also includes the “Leader of Government Business,” although the Parliament’s web site doesn’t specify who that is. M.P. David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor, is also the acting head of the ruling party’s caucus, and that position might give him a presence at that meeting.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was revived at the start of the Ninth Parliament after the Eight Parliament expired before bringing it to a final vote. Shortly before the end of the Eight Parliament, there were false reports that the death penalty provisions were about to be removed from the bill. In fact, no changes have been made to the bill itself because Parliament expired before proposed changes could be voted on. But even if those proposed changes had been accepted by Parliament, the death penalty would have remained firmly in place.

Ugandan Television Reports on US Foreign Policy Initiative for LGBT Human Rights

Jim Burroway

December 7th, 2011

NTV is owned by the same company that publishes Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper. This news report was posted to their YouTube channel just moments ago:

YouTube Preview Image

The report itself is very calm and measured. But it does reflect prevailing opinion not only in Uganda but through much of Africa when the reporter asks at the end, “Will Uganda blink and bow to the pressure?” The image of bowing, as you can imagine given Africa’s history, has a very specific humiliative resonance that goes much deeper than much of the rest of the world. The three lawmakers in the report — Anti-Homosexuality Bill author M.P. David Bahati, M.P. Steven Ochola of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDP), and Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo (Lokodo is identified as “Rev. Fr.,” despite having been defrocked by the Vatican) — all spoke against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks in Geneva. Human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi suggests that a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise might be the best way to go for Uganda’s LGBT community.

Update: Paul Canning pointed me to this question which NTV has put on its Facebook page. The responses are pretty fascinating. Yes, there are some pretty odious comments. But at least on Facebook, those East Africans who are defending gay rights as human rights are not exactly shrinking violets. I would ordinarily suggest that you chime in, but as it is, we have plenty of people in Uganda making the case to  fellow Ugandans for fellow Ugandans. That’s always good to see.

Wikileaks on Uganda’s Homosexuality Bill: Museveni “Surprised” and Buturo “Obsessed”

Jim Burroway

September 12th, 2011

The latest batch of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables reveals a fascinating look at U.S. diplomatic efforts to convince Uganda’s political leadership that killing gay people is lousy public policy. A batch posted on Wikileaks last February revealed that diplomats thought M.P. David Bahati, author of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, operated with a “blinding and incurable” homophobia, and they discussed security concerns with LGBT advocates who were trying to head off the bill’s passage.  They also described diplomats’ discussions with President Yoweri Museveni over U.S concerns about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, in which Museveni promised to head off the bill, but he also warned that international pressure could be counter-productive.

President Yoweri Museveni

The newest batch of Wikileaks cables reveals few new details about U.S. diplomats’ discussions with Museveni and his push-back against international pressure. Those cables are mostly dated December 2009 or later, and mostly reflect moves which were also publicly reported in the press. But one cable dated November 9, 2009, describes an October 24 meeting between Museveni and several U.S. diplomats. This would have been nine days after the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in Parliament. The bill had been introduced as a private member’s bill by M.P. David Bahati, rather than by the more normal route of being a government-sponsored bill from a member of the President’s cabinet or the President himself. This cable does show that Museveni may have been caught off guard by the bill:

(Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs Johnnie) Carson also raised the issue of “anti-homosexuality” legislation recently tabled in Parliament. The draft bill, which is not sponsored by the Ugandan government, criminalizes homosexuality with proposed sentences ranging from imprisonment to, in some cases, death (ref. D). Recognizing that homosexuality is a difficult topic for Ugandans, Assistant Secretary Carson said the issue attracts a great deal of international attention and that passing this legislation will result in condemnation for Uganda.

Apparently unaware of the proposed legislation, Museveni said Uganda is “not interested in a war with homosexuals” and asked who was responsible for drafting the “anti-homosexuality” bill. When informed of the author by acting Finance Minister Nankabirwa, Museveni exclaimed: “But that’s a member of our party! We shall discourage him. It will divert us.” Museveni explained that Ugandans used to ignore homosexuality, blamed the legislation on western “advocacy” groups who call homosexuality a human right, and asked how Uganda should respond to the homosexual recruitment of young people. Assistant Secretary Carson noted that sexual exploitation of minors – whether hetero or homosexual in nature – was morally reprehensible and should be criminalized. Museveni agreed that criminalizing homosexuality between consenting adults “is going too far” and said Uganda should instead focus on protecting children from sexual exploitation.

Whether Museveni was actually caught off guard or his expression of surprise was for diplomatic consumption, no one can say. (Some observers suspect the bill may have been introduced as a private member’s bill in order to provide a safe distance for the government.) But what the public record does show is that Museveni subsequently warned a party conference to “go slow” on the bill because of its international implications. He also convened a special Cabinet subcommittee to try to come up with a solution to the controversy surrounding the bill. The subcommittee met on January 20, 2010, after which Ugandan media offered conflicting reports about the subcommitte’s recommendations. A cable dated February 4 describing a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Henry Okello Oryem provides a small inside look at what actually happened during that meeting:

Oyrem also advised patience on the anti-homosexuality bill, stating that Uganda is trying to craft a “win-win” situation for all stakeholders without provoking a backlash in Parliament and with the public. He urged the U.S. and other international donors to “take time out to consider and appreciate” the perspective of Uganda and Africa in general, and said additional “noise” on this issue from the international community plays into the hands of those supporting the bill.

Asking his note takers to leave subsequent statements out of the Ministry’s official record, Oryem assured (U.S. Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero) that Cabinet is moving to quietly shelve the bill without agitating core members of the NRM caucus. He described the January 20 Cabinet meeting on the bill as a “free for all” that revealed the previously unknown positions of several Cabinet members. “Now we know who is who,” said Oryem, “and how to deal with it. It will be worked out.”

Another cable dated December 8, 2009 describes reactions among international donors to the proposed legislation, including comments by UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on AIDS in Africa, Elizabeth Mataka, and Sweden’s threat to withhold aid if the bill passes, both developments that BTB reported at the time. In the cable, Mataka is described as being alarmed not only by the draconian measures spelled out in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but she was concerned about the bill’s controversy diverting much-needed attention away from the massive corruption that was draining AIDS/HIV funding from their intended recipients.  Interestingly, the cable says that after Mataka spoke with M.P. David Bahati, she concluded that Bahati was not the main force behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

Mataka said the bill’s sponsor, MP David Bahati, appeared amenable to softening some of the most offensive aspects of the legislation. However, she questioned whether Bahati is the main force behind the bill. Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo, who is actively promoting the bill, canceled his meeting with Mataka, leaving Presidency Minister Beatrice Wabudeya as the senior-most Ugandan official on the Special Envoy’s agenda. At the end of her meeting with the U.S. Mission, Mataka expressed doubts that she delivered her message on anti-homosexuality and HIV/AIDS to the right Ugandan leaders.

Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo

Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo

As we reported yesterday, another Wikileaks cable quotes a presidential adviser pointing the finger to First Lady Janet Museveni as being “ultimately behind” the bill. It’s unclear from the context whether being “ultimately behind” is intended to mean that the bill was her initiative, or whether she was placing her support behind the bill. The December 8 cable is silent on the First Lady’s role, turning instead to Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, who had earlier issued an angry statement condemning international criticism of the bill. The diplomatic cable reported that Mataka’s parallel concern about corruption also hit a nerve:

Responding to allegations that the Ugandan government is “offering lip-service as far as corruption is concerned,” Buturo said such comments come from “individuals who either know the truth but choose not to say it or are unaware of what is going on.” Buturo accused foreign diplomats of failing to understand the “complexities of corruption,” and said it is unrealistic to expect the Ugandan government to single-handedly address “matters to do with morality.” Buturo said Ugandans should remind donors “that there is integrity to be defended and that threats are not the way to go. If one chooses to withdraw their aid, they are free because Ugandans do not want to engage in anal sex. We do not care.”

The diplomatic cable then went on to offer this assessment of Buturo as a “misguided minister”:

Buturo’s homosexuality obsession is rapidly undermining any credibility his office might have to oversee Uganda’s anti-corruption institutions. Local contacts continue to warn that international condemnation of the anti-homosexuality legislation – and threats to withdraw donor aid if the bill is passed – will further embolden the legislation’s supporters by fueling accusations of western cultural imperialism. We do not believe President Museveni shares Minister Buturo’s dismissal of donor aid, given that foreign assistance accounts for more than 30% of Uganda’s budget and nearly the entirety of Uganda’s HIV/AIDS response. The bill’s proponents clearly overlooked the impact of the legislation on Uganda’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. In private discussions with Ugandan officials, we continue to stress the bill’s offensive human rights aspects and the negative impact this legislation will have on HIV/AIDS prevention.

Buturo no longer holds the title of Ethics Minister, and he is no longer a member of Uganda’s Ninth Parliament. He appears to have been effectively sidelined politically after losing his seat in a chaotic primary election for the ruling National Resistance Movement. He was subsequently forced to resign his Cabinet post.

See also:
Feb 17, 2011: Wikileaks Posts Cables from US Embassy in Uganda Concerning Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Feb 17, 2011: More Wikileaks Cables on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Sep 10, 2011: Wikileaks: Ugandan First Lady “Ultimately Behind” Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Sep 11: 2011: More On Ugandan First Lady’s Support For Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Sep 11, 2011: Wikileaks: Vatican Lobbied Against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Sep 12, 2011: Wikileaks on Uganda’s Homosexuality Bill: Museveni “Surprised” and Buturo “Obsessed”
Sep 12, 2011: Ugandan Presidential Aide Confirms Wikileaks Conversation
Sep 23, 2011: Ugandan First Lady Affirms Support For “Kill The Gays” Bill

Ugandan Health Minister Says Prayer Cures AIDS, Linked to American Dominionist Movements

Jim Burroway

September 2nd, 2011

Health Minister and pastor Christine Ondoa

Christine Joyce Dradidi Ondoa wears two hats. She is a pentecostal preacher at a Life Line Ministry in a Kampala, Uganda, suburb, and she is also the new Health Minister for the Ugandan government:

Asked if she expected to be named a minister, the Mount St. Mary’s Namagunga and Moyo SS alumna, said: “Yes and no”.

“Yes because I knew that I was always meant for good things and knew that God was preparing me for a big task. But I did not know that it was going to come this soon and at this time.”

Ondoa is not without qualifications. She is reportedly a trained pediatrician, and she served previously as the Executive Director of one of Uganda’s three national referral hospitals. However, as Bruce Wilson discovered at Talk To Action, she has some decidedly unorthodox medical opinions. According to the Ugandan news magazine The Observer:

The newly appointed health minister, Dr Christine Ondoa Dradidi, has told The Observer that prayer heals HIV/AIDS, and that she knows three people who were once positive but turned negative after prayer for deliverance.

She, however, said medical workers and the general public should be cautious about people who claim they were healed of HIV.

“I am sure and I have evidence that someone who was positive turned negative after prayers,” Ondoa told The Observer on last week, promising to ask colleagues in Arua hospital, where she once worked, to find the relevant documentation.

As pastor, at Life Line Ministries, she works under the direction of apostle Julius Peter Oyet, who is one of the most influential evangelical leaders in Uganda you’ve never heard of. Oyet was present in the gallery when the Ugandan Parliament first considered the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009, and he has been very open about his belief that homosexuality should be a capital offense. Oyet, who is also President of the Ugandan branch of the U.S.-based College of Prayer (or COP, which itself is a ministry of Rev. Fred Hartley’s Lilburn Alliance Church in Atlanta), was made a member of M.P. David Bahati’s staff to lobby Parliament for the bill’s passage. While Bahati is the bill’s author and sponsor, Oyet played a crucial role in its drafting. He reportedly told a documentary filmmaker:

I was there. Id have been part of the brains behind it. We worked on it. We planned who should propose it. It is the Ugandan’s bill. It is the culture of Uganda to keep purity. It is everybody’s voice. I worked with Bahati on this.

Wilson, who was among the first to raise the alarm over role played by the particular branches of Dominionism — you know, the thing that’s supposedly a myth — known as the New Apostolic Reformation and the so-called Seven Mountains Mandate in propelling the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into Uganda’s Parliament, has effectively connected the dots between Ondoa and Oyet, to U.S. evangelical groups headed by Fred Hartley, III and C. Peter Wagner. Wilson points out that one key rhetorical hallmark of these groups is that they refer to homosexuality as a manifestation of “Baal worship.” Wilson also reports that two weeks after the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament in October, 2009, Hartley led a two day COP training session in Uganda to “mentor” Bahati and fifty other members of Parliament. Wilson’s report has many more details on the entire movement, tracing its inspiration from Christian Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony and Gary North, who advocated bringing back the Old Testament as the basis for civil law, including the mandate to kill gay people.

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]

Ugandan MPs Reject Cabinet’s “Rejection” of Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2011

Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, today reports on reaction from members of Parliament to the weekend’s announcement that the Cabinet has “rejected” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Daily Monitor reports:

Members of Parliament yesterday accused Cabinet of bowing to pressure and described the Executive’s decision to block the gays Bill as “moral corruption”.

Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, the architect of the Bill, says Cabinet cannot throw out his Bill because it is now property of Parliament and insists that he is going to push for it.

The lawmakers said it was immoral for government to think that donor funds matter more than traditional values and vowed to push for the Bill and ensure that it is passed even without the support of government. “Whether they want or not, we are going to pass it. For government to come up and throw out such a Bill means we are living in a crazy world,” said Mr Andrew Allen (Bugabula North).

Ugandan lawmakers are particularly sensitive to the perception that they are under the domination of international pressure. Open defiance against foreign (read: rich, white, colonialist, etc.) pressure plays very well politically at home, as does any expression of hatred toward gay people. Adding to that is a third factor, the opportunity for members of Parliament to assert its independence by tweaking a very powerful and entrenched president. With that, support for the bill becomes a three-fer. The first and third elements are illustrated here:

Prior to the move, the international community had put pressure on government by threatening to cut aid if government passes the Bill. Ms Betty Amongi (MP Oyam South) says Cabinet has given Parliament a chance to exercise and prove its independence and not allow donor influence to “also jeopardize its works.”

The Anti-homosexuality Bill is a private members Bill and Shadow Attorney General, Abdu Katuntu (MP Bugweri) said Cabinet cannot throw out a Bill it didn’t bring. “The only option they have is to come and oppose it on the floor of the House,” he said.

Ugandan Anti-Gay Bill Pushed Back Until November?

Jim Burroway

August 16th, 2011

All reports like this need to be taken with a huge boulder of salt, but Warren Throckmorton points to a Ugandan blogger who wrote:

However perhaps even matching its own record on the bizarre and grotesque was the so-called “Kill the Gays” Bill that was introduced by arguably one of the more capable Members of Parliament today, the Ndorwa West MP David Bahati. Last time I had a chat with the MP (who I had incidentally advised against the bill precisely because of the storm it may generate and because I considered it a waste of valuable time), he told me the bill would return to the house in November. “ I am winning,” he said.

These days I am sort of resigned to how disagreeable things can become what with an economic storm, a crisis of the Ugandan shilling and real hurt amongst Ugandan families that I consider this bill largely academic. But just like the bail law some people have suggested to me that the bill is intended for political purposes as well. My sources in parliament also add that because of the world wide storm it generated it will come to the House for debate in stealth not reflected in “ the order paper” of the day.

As I said, all such reports should be taken with skepticism, but there are several elements to this one which has important elements of credibility. The “stealth” plan, for example, builds on what appears to be a growing recognition among Ugandan lawmakers that if they want to pass this draconian bill, the best way to do it is on the down low. Such measures that we’ve already heard discussed include slipping various sections of the bill into other otherwise innocuous legislation, and concealing its the death penalty provision by quietly linking it to another law providing for capital punishment. And so why not extend the subterfuge to the methods for passing the bill and not just limit them to the contents of the bill? Throckmorton writes:

I have also heard today from sources I trust that ministers are quietly appealing to MPs to pass the bill via letters and emails. The relevance of this is that the movement to get the bill considered is not as public as during the previous parliament.

The current Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, was an early supporter for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and before that for increased penalties for homosexuality. She was Deputy Speaker in 2009, and presided over Parliament in April when MP David Bahati sought approval to submit an Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a private member’s bill. As Throckmorton notes, as speaker she has the authority to revive the bill from the prior Parliament, as was done with the controversial HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill just last month.

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