Lawsuit Filed Against Scott Lively For Instigating Anti-LGBT Persecution in Uganda
March 14th, 2012
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
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
February 3rd, 2012
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
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:
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”
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.
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.
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.
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
September 2nd, 2011
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?
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.
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
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?
August 16th, 2011
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.
Uganda Parliament Appears Poised To Resurrect “Kill-The-Gays” Bill
August 1st, 2011
When Uganda’s Eighth Parliament came to an end last May, the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill died with it. Almost immediately, M.P. David Bahati vowed to resurrect the bill in the Ninth Parliament. Two weeks ago, Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda told reporters and bloggers that there are persistent reports that the bill may be resurrected sometime in mid- to late-August. Ugandan MP Otto Odonga, who has said that he would apply to be a hangman even if it were his own son who was gay and at the gallows, confirmed to Warren Throckmorton that the bill will be brought back “perhaps by the end of August,” and that it would pick up “from where the last parliament ended.”
It would be good to review where the bill was when the last Parliament ended. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee reported the bill back to Parliament during the legislative body’s last week in session amid widespread and erroneous reports that the committee recommended removing the death penalty from a newly defined crime of “aggravated homosexuality,” which would include those who are HIV-positive and those who are “repeat offenders” — meaning anyone who has had either more than one relationship or more than one sexual encounter with the same individual. The committee did recommend that the phrase “suffer death” should be replaced with “the penalty provided for aggravated defilement under Section 129 of the Penal Code Act.” But the penalty under Section 129 of the Penal Code reads that anyone who “commits a felony called aggravated defilement and is, on conviction by the High Court, liable to suffer death.”
In other words, the death penalty was replaced with — the death penalty under subterfuge. You can see a detailed rundown of other recommendations of the bill here. It is unknown at this time what form a new bill would take if it were revived in the Ninth Parliament.
The Ninth Parliament has already established a precedent for bringing a controversial bill from the Eighth Parliament’s death and put it on the fast track for passage. On July 13, Uganda’s Daily Monitor, the nation’s largest independent newspaper, reported that the Ninth Parliament had quickly revived the controversial HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill, which criminalizes the transmission of HIV/AIDS with ten years imprisonment. The bill also criminalizes the transmission of AIDS from mother to child through breast milk. HIV/AIDS workers and human rights advocates say that the penalties will will discourage testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS, as lack of knowledge of one’s status will be an effective defense against charges arising from the bill. The bill is now in the HIV/AIDS Committee.
Since the close of the Eighth Parliament, MP David Bahati’s start has continued to rise. He has been named the vice-chairman of the ruling party’s caucus in Parliament. He was also named chairman of the Ugandan Fellowship, a branch of the U.S.-based secretive group known as the C Street Fellowship or The Family. During the Ugandan’ branch’s inaugural dinner for the new Parliament, First Lady and M.P. Janet Museveni told Parliamentarians that it was their duty to “recognize and fulfill God’s word.”
“Kill The Gays” Bill Author Elevated In Ugandan “Family” and Ruling Party
June 21st, 2011
There had been speculation that MP David Bahati, author of 2009′s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, would be appointed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s cabinet at the start of the Ninth Parliament last month. Mercifully, that hasn’t happened. But Bahati’s star nevertheless is rising in the inner circle of Ugandan politics. Last week, Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, reported that Bahati has been named the ruling party’s caucus Vice Chairman. He had originally held the title of caucus treasurer.
And that’s not all. The government-affiliated New Vision today reports that Bahati has been named chairman of the Ugandan Fellowship, a branch of the U.S.-based secretive group known as the C Street Fellowship or The Family. The Ugandan fellowship held its inaugural dinner for members of the Ninth Parliament at the Sheraton Hotel Kampala on Friday. While Bahati is now the ruling party’s caucus vice chairman, he stressed that the Fellowship was open to members of all parties:
The chairman of the parliamentary fellowship, David Bahati, said the caucus of God is bigger than all other caucuses and does not discriminate against political affiliations.
The parliamentary fellowship was founded in 1986 by the late Hon. Balaki Kirya, and has since 1991 been organising a prayer breakfast on every October 8.
Bahati said the fellowship, initiated some bills like the Anti- Homosexuality and Anti-Pornography believes in a God led country and God led policies. [sic]
The guest speaker of the inaugural dinner was First Lady and MP, Janet Museveni, who told the gathering:
Members of the 9th Parliament have been urged to enact laws and policies that will build a better Uganda.
The First Lady and minister for Karamoja affairs, Janet Museveni, said this would enable the future generations to live in a better and prosperous country.
Mrs. Museveni said it is God who sets seasons and times, therefore those elected to the 9th Parliament should recognise and fulfil God’s purpose.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would have provided for the death sentence for the crime of “aggravated homosexuality,” died last month at the close of the Eighth Parliament. Despite numerous inaccurate news reports to the contrary, the bill was not amended to remove the death penalty. Bahati has since vowed to reintroduce the bill into the new Parliament.
“Kill the Gays” Bill Author Vows To Push Bill In New Parliament
May 22nd, 2011
Uganda’s independent Sunday Monitor this morning has published an interview with MP David Bahati, sponsor of the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill, in which he reiterated that the close of the 8th Parliament was simply “pressing the pause button.” He told Monitor reporter Philippa Croome that the bill’s death penalty “is something we have moved away from,” despite the fact that the death penalty has not been removed at all. In fact, the recommendation from the Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Committee, which was given jurisdiction over the bill, recommended striking the phrase “shall suffer death” and replacing it with the phrase “shall suffer the penalty provided for aggravated defilement under Section 129 of the Penal Code Act.” Section 129 itself calls for the death penalty, which means that if the committee’s recommendations were adopted the death penalty would remain in place. It just wouldn’t be so obvious to those who don’t know what Section 129 specifies.
The death penalty however is barely scratching the surface for what the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would do, which Bahati acknowledges:
But the focus is on inducement, stopping the inducement of our children to this behaviour, and promotion- those two things are the ones that we will be focusing on.
If protecting children is the focus of the Bill, why does it require an entirely separate bill from current child protection laws?
We are not really singling out anybody. In 2007, we had an Act which stops defilement, the defilement Act, it is already there. We have the Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality in some form, but it is not specific, it’s not effective, it needs strengthening.
The Bill comes in to include other issues that have emerged over time-issues of promotion, it has never happened, it is happening now, issues of inducing children- it was never there, it was happening now.
Sunday Monitor also interviewed gay rights LGBT Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. She is the founder and director of Freedom and Roam Uganda and winner of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders by a coalition of international human rights organizations. She called on the international community to continue to stand up for human rights in Uganda.
Every human rights violation that happens in Uganda, we need Ugandans to stand up and say enough is enough – and our allies in the international community to also stand up. At the end of the day, Uganda is not alone, we operate in a global village.
She also denounced the false charges that gays were trying to “recruit” children into homosexuality:
If I found someone trying to recruit children into homosexuality, I would even hand them in myself – he is trying to pretend that he’s protecting children of Uganda, but he’s not doing that.
Today, he thinks he is condemning Kasha, but he could be condemning his own children in future. There are very many children who are growing up and he is pretending to be protecting them, but they could turn out to be like some of us.
The issue here is not even recruitment or promotion. For two years, Bahati has been asked by everyone to produce the evidence and he has not produced it. He is just using that to get sympathy from the masses of people in Uganda who are parents – that’s the only reason he has insisted we are recruiting children. He does not have any other argument.
Report: “Kill the Gays” Bill Author On Museveni’s “Short List” for Cabinet
May 16th, 2011
Rumors are rife in Uganda now that President Yoweri Museveni is assembling a new Cabinet following the swearing in of the 9th Parliament. Sunday Monitor has what they say is Museveni’s short list of possible cabinet ministers.
When I first saw Anti-Homosexuality Bill author David Bahati’s name tapped as Ethics Minister late on Saturday, I re-read the article, and from the first two paragraphs concluded that it as something of a dream team put together by the paper’s staff. I was very dismayed to see it, because I have been very impressed with Monitor’scoverage throughout the past two years. But since I took it to be a list put together by Montor’s staff, I ignored it. Unfortunately. Because when Warren Throckmorton posted about it this afternoon, it prompted me to go back and look again. And sure enough:
We have defined the country’s needs as being economic development, geopolitical interests, social stability, environment and physical resource management, governance and integrity, and efficiency. We have also learned from reliable sources that these are names being considered by the President for appointment to the Cabinet and to junior minister positions. [Emphasis added].
What follows are two lists: the “president’s shortlist” and the Monitor’s dream list. Formatting of the two lists prevented me from noticing that there were, in fact, two lists. Bahati’s name does not appear on Monitor’s dream list, but it does appear on the one that matters: the one that reported to be the president’s list
Meanwhile, state-supported New Vision, which generally has closer ties to Museveni’s government, came out with theor own list about some possible new faces in the cabinet. One interseting name:
The MP-elect for Kyamuswa County, Kalangala District, is also likely to bounce back on the list of the ministers.
Lwanga, a Born-again Christian, is a former Minister of Ethics and Integrity. He had been dropped from the list of ministers after losing in the 2006 parliamentary elections.
Lwanga was replaced by James Nsaba Buturo, who was also defeated in the recent elections.
New Vision doesn’t say what position Lwanga would be considred for. Bahati is not on New Vision’s list. And so the rumor mill grinds along…
[This post replaces an earlier post in which I erroneously stated that Warren Thockmorton and David Badash (at the New Civil Rights Movement) "misread" Monitor's article when, in fact, it was I who misread it. I apologize to Warren, David, and to the readers who saw that post.]
Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” Bill May Be Fast Tracked For A Vote
May 6th, 2011
That’s what the blogger GayUganda is hearing, that the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill may be getting its hearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Uganda’s Parliament:
Now, the anti-Homosexuality Bill is at present being discussed in the parliament of Uganda. Just today, as I write. Yes, today, Friday the 6th of May 2011. Committee hearings are reportedly going ahead.
Now, remember that this is the lame duck session of parliament. And, remember that it is supposed to end soon, on 11 May 2011.
If the bill makes it out of the committee today, it could conceivably receive its final vote next week before Parliament ends on Wednesday.
[Update: Warren Throckmorton spoke with M.P. David Bahati, the bill's sponsor, and Charles Tuhaise, a researcher for parliament’s research office. They confirmed that hearings did begin on the bill today, and will likely wrap up on Monday, and will include testimony from the NGO Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law. Also expected to testify are Pastors Martin Ssempa and Steven Langa. It was Langa who first organized the infamous Kampala conference featuring three American anti-gay activists in March 2009 which kicked the entire anti-gay campaign which culminated with this bill. Bahati was keen to point out that while Parliament may wide up its business next week, it won't officially end until May 19.]
Uganda has been rocked in recent weeks with rioting and demonstrations against rising gas prices. The government has been responding with extraordinarily violent crackdown on dissent. One opposition leader was seriously injured and fled to neighboring Kenya for treatment. The disturbances even spilled onto the floor of Parliament, which had to suspend its session temporarily on Tuesday. GayUganda believes that forces behind the bill see as an opportunistic diversion for the violence that is racking the country:
So, it is a DIVERSION. The government needs a heady diversion for the country. For the outraged citizens of Uganda.
So, and this is very important, what is the government trying to do?
In actual fact, that diversion is not going to work. Because the citizens of Uganda are simply more concerned about the rising prices of food, and the deteriorating human rights situation. Their homophobia is a reflex which the government wants to use. But, it is not likely to work.
The diversion also can work both ways. With most of the media’s attention focus on the ongoing violence and protests, it could also be that the bill’s supporters see an opening for it to be passed when nobody’s paying attention.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, if passed in its current form, would impose the death penalty for those who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender,” or whose partner is deemed “disabled” regardless of whether the relationship was consensual. It would also impose a lifetime sentence for other cases. The bill would lower the bar for conviction, making mere “touching” for the perceived purpose of homosexual relations a criminal offense. It threatens teachers, doctors, friends, and family members with three years imprisonment if they didn’t report anyone they suspected of being gay to police within twenty-four hours. It also would broadly criminalize all advocacy of homosexuality including, conceivably, lawyers defending accused gay people in court or parliamentarians proposing changes to the law. It even threatens landlords under a “brothel” provision if they knowingly rent to gay people.
Last week, the bill’s sponsor, M.P. David Bahati, agreed to “drop” the death penalty provision in order to get the bill passed. He has made this offer several times before. Given the draconian nature of the bill, the removal of the death penalty is hardly an improvement over the alternative of lifetime imprisonment in a Ugandan prison. The ruling government announced in March that the bill would be shelved over Bahati’s loud objections. Since then, Bahati and others have exerted increasing pressure to revive the bill, including paying people to pose as “ex-gays” to launch false allegations against the gay community.
Uganda’s economy depends on foreign donors for much of its support. Uganda, in recent years, has also tried to improve its coffee exports to premium distributors, an effort which has largely failed to get off the ground due to the reluctance of American and Western consumers to purchase coffee bearing the Ugandan label. Eco-tourism, which has been an important part of Uganda’s economic development, is also taking a hit due to Uganda’s declining reputation, despite being at the headwaters of the Nile at Lake Victoria, and possessing an abundance of wildlife and natural beauty.
GayUganda reminds is that what is happening is not occurring in isolation. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill may well be passed while, at the same time, the Ugandan government is instituting a violent and repressive crackdown against the human rights of all its citizens. As I observed last week, Uganda is now treating its citizens with just a small taste of how it will seek to treat its LGBT residents. GayUganda draws the point further:
But, remember that this is time for the GAY MOVEMENT around the world to make COMMON CAUSE with the average citizen of Uganda to decry the abuse of human rights of ALL UGANDANS.
Do not separate the two issues. Mention both in the same sentence, in the same breath.
Tell this to your leaders in the community, to your leaders in your country. To your leaders in your parliament, and to your leaders nationally and internationaly.
LGBTI rights are HUMAN Rights. They are not divisible. They are not above others, they are not distinct from the others.
Make common cause in demanding the cessation of abuse of rights of Ugandans, including LGBTI ugandans, by the Government of Uganda.
Let the message go out, simple, clear, unambiguous.
LGBTI rights are human rights. And, we are concerned about the rights of ALL Ugandans, including LGBTI Ugandans.
Sponsor Seeks To Revive Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill
April 26th, 2011
Ugandan M.P. David Bahati is not taking no for an answer. Last month, Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko articulated the government’s position that the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill would not be voted on in Parliament. Immediately, Bahati swung into action demanding that Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, where the bill had been held for more than a year, schedule hearings on the bill. Since then, committee chairman Stephen Tashobya has been somewhat ambivalent about the bill, saying on the one hand that it may come up for discussion, and on the other hand pointing out that there is very little time left for the current Parliament to act before it expires next month.
Today, the Associated Press rorts that Bahati re-issued his “consession” that he would consider dropping the death penalty from the bill if it would help to move the bill forward. That’s not much of a concession; the more “lenient” punishment is lifetime imprisonment in a Ugandan prison. That’s hardly an improvement, and it’s barely scratching the surface. The bill would lower the bar for conviction, making mere “touching” for the perceived purpose of homosexual relations a criminal offense. It threatens teachers, doctors, friends, and family members with three years imprisonment if they didn’t report anyone they suspected of being gay to police within twenty-four hours. It also would broadly criminalize all advocacy of homosexuality including, conceivably, lawyers defending accused gay people in court or parliamentarians proposing changes to the law. It even threatens landlords under a “brothel” provision if they knowingly rent to gay people.
More worrying, newspapers all over the world are carrying this AP article with a misleading headline indicating that the death penalty’s being dropped is a fait accompli. Nothing could be further from the truth. The penalty has not been officially dropped. This is merely a statement of concession that Bahati is reiterating, one that he has made many times before. The bill itself remains unchanged.
The AP report also has Tashobya providing some wiggle room on whether the bill will come up for a vote:
But Stephen Tashobya, the chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, said the legislation may come up for a vote before parliament’s session ends May 12.
“We shall try and see how far we can go with the bill. It may be possible. We are doing all we can. We have limited time,” he said Tuesday, before adding: “Many people have expressed concern about that provision providing for the death sentence and I’m sure when we start hearings on that bill we will hear many more concerns.”
Whether Parliament can take up these measures in the two weeks it has left remains uncertain. Over the past week, the Ugandan government has been struggling with an open rebellion on the streets of Kampala. Things are only now beginning to quieten down, but the situation remans tense. That distraction only adds to the issues that Parliament will be grappling with before it ends on May 12.
In recent weeks, the bill’s supporters have been ratcheting up pressure for a vote, pressure which includes paying enourmous sums of money by Ugandan standards to gay people to hurl false accusations and pose as “ex-gays.” Governmental sources have responded by suggesting that some provisions of the bill be shifted to other bills, where they stand a better chance of passing with little notice.