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Posts for August, 2014

Ugandan President, MPs At Odds Over Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

August 13th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Burroway

August 2nd, 2014

The first video is an excellent report from NTV Uganda.

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

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

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

Constitutional Court Strikes Down Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2014

At noon this morning Kampala time, Uganda’s Constitutional Court has declared the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act null and void. The Court said that the law was invalid because Parliament lacked the constitutionally-mandated quorum when it passed the legislation last December. Article 88 of Uganda’s constitution (PDF: 469KB/192pages) requires that at least one third of members be present any time Parliament votes “on any question.”

The court room was reportedly tense as people gathered this morning for the session to start at 9:30 local time (2:30 a.m. EDT). The court had heard testimony on Wednesday and Thursday over the quorum issue, and observers were expected the court to rule on that question today. As 9:30 came and went, the Court announced that they were putting off the morning’s session until noon. Pastor Martin Ssempa reportedly became agitated as the morning progressed, and police had to step in to settle the situation down.

When the Constitutional Court resumed at Noon, it read its judgment nullifying the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Meanwhile, Ssempa’s twitter feed went silent after the court’s verdict. As of this moment, this was his last tweet:

J. Lester Feder reports that LGBT activists are bracing for another round of violence following the court’s decision:

The law’s supporters, like Ssempa and the leadership of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, had been whipping up their supporters during the two days of hearings before the ruling, and LGBT activists expected a backlash if they won.

“Many people are going to retaliate and attack community members,” said Kasha Jacqueline of the organization Freedom and Roam Uganda, another of the petitioners. “People are going to retaliate — not just the members of parliament and anti-gay groups and religious leaders, but in the community as well.”

The Anti-Homosexuality Act provided a lifetime sentence for those who convicted of homosexuality. It also imposed a lifetime sentence for those who convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” which include “serial offenders” of homosexuality “or related offences.” Related offenses include lifetime imprisonment for entering into a same-sex marriage, seven years for conducting one, five to seven years for advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people, five years for providing housing to LGBT people, and seven years for providing services to LGBT people. The Act also provided for the extradition of any “person charged with an offence under this Act.”

Before its passage, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill had been safely bottled up in Parliament, but observers believe domestic politics eventually took over and ensured the bill’s passage. Originally introduced in 2009, the bill remained bottled up in the House, which failed in its last minute efforts to pass the bill before the Eight Parliament expired in 2011. House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga had spent much of 2012 and 2013 raising her profile in a possible bid to challenge President Yoweri Museveni in the run-up to the 2016 general elections, engineered the bill’s reintroduction in Parliament in February 2012. It’s passage appeared imminent at the end of that year when it became a political football in a larger fight over control of the country’s newly-developing oil reserves. As Parliament tore itself apart over a contentious oil bill, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill rose to the top of Parliament’s published Order Papers, which sets the agenda for the day, under the heading of “Business to follow,” of actions to take place after the oil bill’s passage. It was believed that the hugely popular Anti-Homosexuality Bill was being held close at hand as a potential unifying measure. But after Parliament passed the contentious petroleum legislation, it broke for Christmas and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was quietly removed from the Order Papers when Parliament resumed in the Spring of 2013.

But behind-the-scene plans to swiftly pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill without debate emerged in April 2013, when the opposition magazine Observer reported that a MP’s were lobbying Kadaga to hold the debate in a closed-door session so that individual members could speak freely without having foreign donations to their pet projects or travel visas jeopardized. On December 20, Kadaga made a snap call to bring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill before the house for a final vote, despite the bill not appearing on the order papers for the day. Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi objected to the vote citing the lack of quorum, but Kadaga overruled Mbabazi and the bill passed on December 20.

Museveni’s initial reaction was to wrote a letter to Kadaga criticizing Parliament’s rushed approval about the bill. Among his many complaints were that the bill was passed without the proper quorum. He told representatives of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in January that he would reject what he called the “fascist” Anti-Homosexuality Bill. But again, politics intervened. Mbabazi was also maneuvering to challenge Museveni’s position at the same time as Kadaga, and he was already on record as objecting to Parliament’s passage of the legislation. Museveni’s about-face in February was seen by many as part of a larger effort to counter Mbabazi’s efforts to build a rival power base within the ruling National Resistance Movement. Museveni signed the bill on February 24.

The bill’s signing initiated a wave of anti-gay vigilantism in the press while the government raided several NGO’s for allegedly “promoting” homosexuality. In March, a coalition of human rights groups petitioned the Constitutional Court, charging that the Anti-Homosexuality Act violated several constitutionally-guaranteed rights, including the rights to privacy, free expression, thought, assembly, association, civil participation, and the rights to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. It also charged that Parliament acted improperly in passing the bill without a quorum.

In Uganda, it’s typical for court cases to proceed at a snails pace, with months passing between small bursts of activity. Cases often languish for years. So it was a significant surprise when the Court’s first act came late last week with a snap call for both sides to present their cases on Wednesday and Thursday, which caught a lot of people off guard. State Attorney Patricia Mutesi complained that she wasn’t prepared to proceed with her arguments and asked for a delay, but the court rejected that request. It heard testimony Wednesday and Thursday, and delivered its decision today. That lightning-quick movement is practically unprecedented, leading many to speculate on the politics behind the court’s dramatic move. Museveni is planning to travel to Washington, D.C. next week to attend a summit of African leaders.

LGBT and human rights activists say they expect the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be reintroduced in Parliament again, but it would mean starting the entire process over again, including motions to seek permission to introduce the bill, a certificate of financial implication from the government, and committee hearings. That certificate of financial implication is likely the most logical step for Museveni to step in to quash the bill. When the bill was first introduced, the certificate certified that there were no financial implications, but with several countries suspending or canceling foreign aid to Uganda over the AHB, the financial toll of reintroducing the bill is now known to be enormous. It is believed that foreign aid makes up from twenty to thirty percent of Uganda’s GDP, and about twenty percent of the government’s budget.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court Hears Challenge to Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

July 31st, 2014

NTVUganda reported on Wednesday’s proceedings before Uganda’s Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Petitioners challenging the AHB contend that the law not only violates the constitution, but was passed in Parliament without a quorum. If this report is representative, it appears that the central question in today’s proceedings was the lack of quorum. Uganda’s Daily Monitor this morning provided further details of that exchange:

“You should be very careful if you are to pass this Bill, you must have quorum. These are not joking matters,” (attorney for petitioners) Mr. (Nicholas) Opiyo quoted the Prime Minister as saying to the Speaker of Parliament.

Mr Opiyo further quoted the Prime Minister: “I would like to see quorum in the House before passing this Bill.”

He argued that Ms Kadaga violated the Rules of Procedure of Parliament and the Constitution. Another lawyer representing pro-gay activists, Mr Caleb Alaka, accused Ms Kadaga of not minding to check whether there was the right quorum to pass the Bill into law despite being alerted about the lack of the same.

Mr Alaka added that another MP during the voting process, whose name he did not mention, shouted that they should go ahead and pass the Bill into law, saying after all they had passed other Bills into law without the recommended quorum.

Mr Alaka submitted that the AG, through the affidavit of Mr Denis Bireije, the commissioner of Civil Litigation has not challenged the issue of quorum, literally meaning that they have conceded.

In the circumstances, Mr Alaka asked the court to allow their petition and among others, declare that the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed without the right quorum, hence its null and void.

The matter of a quorum is very important here. Article 88 of the Uganda Constitution (PDF: 469KB/192 pages) is very specific about it:

88. Quorum of Parliament.

(1) The quorum of Parliament shall be one-third of all members of Parliament entitled to vote.

(2) The quorum prescribed by clause (1) of this article shall only be required at a time when Parliament is voting on any question.

(3) Rules of procedure of Parliament shall prescribe the quorum of Parliament for the conduct of business of Parliament other than for voting.

There are 375 members of Parliament, 263 of which are held by the ruling National Resistance Movement. A quorum would consist of 125 members.

There was one interesting bit of pertinent information that came out of this report. In order for a law to go officially in effect, it must be printed in the Uganda Gazette. “Gazetting” a law is a common procedure in Commonwealth countries. It’s typically a mere formality but an important one, as it marks the law’s first official day in force. According to Daily Monitor:

The pro-gay activists, among others, want court to issue permanent orders staying the operationality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. They also want court to permanently stay the gazetting of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 which has not yet been gazetted.

This should be surprising, as the government has been raiding NGO’s and shutting them down over allegations that they were violating specific clauses of the AHB, namely those prohibiting the “promotion” of homosexuality.

The WBS report was considerably less balanced, reporting unfounded allegations that the former Opposition leader Prof. Moris Ogenga Latigo was petitioning against the AHB “to get quick money from individuals promoting inhuman acts.” Pentecostal Pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the AHB’s staunchest supporters, was given free access to WBS’s cameras for his speech.

The law that was passed, was passed out of great difficulty. And we see over here many men and women who have been given money by the whites, the Europeans, the Americans, to come and to try to stop the good law that was made. And they are using every trick necessary. They have also threatened our judges and our officers that if they do not make rules or they are seen as against homosexuality, that they will not have visas, they will not travel.

In a separate article, Daily Monitor reported that after the State Attorney tried to put off proceedings to a later date, she submitted the government’s response Thursday morning. This means that Constitutional Court could deliver a ruling as early as tomorrow.

Petitioners against the AHB include Makarere University School of Law’s Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango, MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda, former opposition leader Prof. Morris Latigo, Dr. Paul Nsubuga Ssemugoma (who longtime BTB readers may remember as the formerly-anonymous blogger GayUganda), and LGBT activists  Frank Mugisha, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, and Pepe Julian Onziema.

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: Ssempa, Kyazze Celebrate Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2014
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Pastor Michael Kyazze of the Omega Healing Center, a Kampala church, celebrates President Yoweri Museveni’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law:

“A law of love, a law of order has been signed, and your future since will be better than what other perpetrators were trying to promote. There is no one who is going to kill homosexuals. No one is going to kill the homosexuals, the law doesn’t say so, but the law says the habit itself is unnatural and the habit itself, if it is promoted by anyone, that person is liable for punishment.

Pastor Martin “Eat Da Poo-Poo” Ssempa also celebrates:

“The biggest problem here is confusion. Homosexuals are boys who think they are girls, and girls who think they are boys. So the issue is they want to confuse us, but Africa said, “No confusion!”

In October of 2012, Ssempa, Kyazze, and three others were convicted by a Uganda court of conspiring to tarnish a rival pastor’s reputation by accusing him of homosexuality.

NTV also interviews other Ugandan officials and reviews reactions from retired South African Desmund TuTu and and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay.

VIDEO: Ugandan Morning TV Devotes Segment to Anti-Homosexuality Bill Debate

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2014
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In this video, Morning @NTVhost Simon Kasyate dues his best to referee a debate between and Anti-Homosexuality Act support and virulently anti-gay pentecostal pastor Martin “Eat Da Poo-Poo” Ssempa, and virulently anti-gay pentecostal pastor but Anti-Homosexuality Act opponent Solomon Male, who calls it “a populist bill, it is opportunistic, it is based on nepotism, and it is based on lies.” Male’s still as anti-gay as ever though. One of his objection now seems centered on an incorrect reading of Uganda’s gener-neutral law against pedophilia which madates the death penalty for anyone convicted of child sexual abuse. Male contends that with the removal of the death penalty from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, that homosexual child abusers (as though they are the only kind of homosexuals in existence) will now have a lesser penalty than heterosexual child abusers. In 2012, Solomon voiced his opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, accusing security agencies of covering up for prominent people who were supposedly “luring” children in to homosexuality and calling it “a waste of precious time, financial and other resources that should have been applied more productively elsewhere.”

Ssempa counters that Uganda “has joined the group of superpower nations such as Russia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, in taking a strong stand against sodomy.” Ssempa has designs to take the bill to the parliament of the East African Community and then to the African Union.

Male is a former Ssempa ally. In October of 2012, Male and Ssempa were convicted by a Uganda court of conspiring to tarnish a rival pastor’s reputation by accusing him of homosexuality.

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.

Trangender Activist and Pentecostal Pastor Spar On Ugandan TV

Jim Burroway

December 20th, 2012

Pepe Julian Onziema, a transgender advocate with Sexual Minorities Uganda, appeared on a talk show on Uganda’s NBS television with anti-gay pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa, who has been one of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s most outspoken supporters. I thought it was encouraging to see the host, reacting to Ssempa’s referring to Pepe using a female pronoun, interject strongly, “Mister Onziema!” But as you can see, that hardly deterred Ssempa from producing a banana to “explain” homosexuality.

The language is mostly in English, although they switch to Luganda from time to time. But you can certainly get more than the drift. At one point, Ssempa has gotten himself so riled up that it looks like he was about to leap out of his chair. The host was able to impose a momentary semblance of order so that this exchange could take place.

Host: Pepe, how do you want society to perceive you?

Pepe: “As a human being. As a person who is part of society…

Host: But society has rejected you.

Pepe: It has not rejected me. It is the propaganda of the likes of Ssempa. My family loves me as I am.

Ssempa quickly resumed interrupting and shouting over Onziema every time he tried to speak. But Onziema got a very good dig in at the host: “I cannot believe you put me on the show with a hooligan.”

As you can see, Ssempa remains bizarrely obsessed with gay sex. In January, 2010, he displayed gay S&M porn at a press conference while calling for the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He did the same thing again the following month at a news conference in his church. His antics when viral later that summer with re-mixes of Ssempa’s “Eat Da Poo-Poo” talks.

Ssempa is believed to be linked to the now-defunct Rolling Stone tabloid (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name), which launched an infamous 2010 “Hang Them!” vigilante campaign featuring LGBT advocate David Kato on the front cover. Kato, Onziema, and Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera sued Rolling Stone, and in a landmark ruling won an injunction barring the tabloid from any further outing campaigns. But Kato was brutally murdered just a few weeks later. Last month, was convicted by a Kampala court as part of the conspiracy to accuse a rival pastor of homosexuality.

Uganda President’s Remarks “Split” Anti-Gay Activists

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2012

According to this NTV report, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni’s remarks last weekend has stirred some controversy, pitting die-hard anti-gay activists against fanatic anti-gay activists. (Yeah, I can’t tell the two camps apart either.) As you watch this report, it may help to have this dance card handy so you can keep the characters straight:

Pastor Solomon Male: He is against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, not because he thinks gay people shouldn’t be jailed, but because he thinks that the law would actually end up protecting powerful gay people in government and business. In October, Male was convicted by a Uganda court of conspiring to tarnish a rival pastor’s reputation by accusing him of homosexuality.

James Nsaba Buturo: He is the former Ethics and Integrity Minister who was among the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s strongest supporters. One U.S. State Department cable posted to Wikileaks described Buturo as “obsessed” with the bill. In this report, Buturo again claims that the death penalty provision as “a falsehood which has been spread around the world,” despite the bill’s exceptionally plain language spelling out the death penalty specifically. Buturo was among the Ugandan officials who met with American anti-gay extremist Scott Lively in 2009 just as the idea of drafting a new Anti-Homosexuality Bill was taking shape.

Pastor Martin Ssempa: The famous “Eat-Da-Poo-Poo” pastor, believed to be linked to the now-defunct Rolling Stone tabloid (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name), which launched an infamous 2010 “Hang Them!” vigilante campaign which featured LGBT advocate David Kato on the front cover. Kato was brutally murdered just a few months later in January 2011. Ssempa was convicted in October with Male as part of the conspiracy to accuse a rival pastor of homosexuality.

Martin Ssempa Begins Serving Sentence

Jim Burroway

October 17th, 2012

And he brings the cameras along to turn what was supposed to be punishment for wrongdoing into a canonization of St. Ssempa.

Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, who had been a vigorous supporter and apologist for that country’s proposal to impose the death penalty on gay people, was found guilty two weeks ago with five others of falsely accusing a rival pastor of having sexual relationships with male members of his congregation. The guilty verdict stemmed from a May 2009 incident in which Ssempa and the others engaged in a conspiracy to coerce a male church member at Robert Kayanja’s Rubaga Miracle Center Cathedral to claim that the parishioner had had sex with Kayanja.

The six were sentenced to a fine of one million Shillings each (about US$390) and one hundred hours of community service. Uganda’s NTV caught up with Ssempa — undoubtedly at Ssempa’s invitation — at Mulago Referral Hospital as he started serving his sentence. Ssempa is many things, including a masterful manipulator of mass media, as this clip very clearly illustrates.

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Uganda TV Coverage of Martin “Eat Da Poo-Poo” Ssempa’s Conviction

Jim Burroway

October 4th, 2012

Uganda’s pastor Martin Ssempa yesterday was without his usual strut and bravado as he learned that he and fellow pastors Solomon Male, Robert Kayiira amd Michael Kyazze were found guilty of falsely accusing a rival pastor of having sexual relationships with male members of his congregation. The guilty verdict stems from a May 2009 incident in which Ssempa and the others engaged in a conspiracy to coerce a church member at Robert Kayanja’s Rubaga Miracle Center Cathedral to claim that he had had sex with Kayanja.

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The sentence imposed on Ssempa, Male and the others is light, but I suspect that the damage to their reputation may be significant. While Ssempa and Male may receive some support from the West, they have since 2009 seen many prominent Western pastors and organizations cut financial and other ties to them.

This is not the only case in which Ssempa is believed to be involved in launching public accusations against others. There is considerable evidence suggesting that Ssempa had close ties to the now-defunct Rolling Stone tabloid (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name), which launched an infamous 2010 “Hang Them!” vigilante campaign which featured LGBT advocate David Kato on the front cover. Kato was brutally murdered just a few months later in January 2011.

Martin Ssempa (the “Eat Da Poo-poo” Pastor), Five Others Convicted by Ugandan Court Over False Sodomy Charges

Jim Burroway

October 3rd, 2012

L-R: Pasters Solomon Male, Michael Kyazze and Martin Ssempa in court recently. (Photo via Daily Monitor)

Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male were among four Ugandan pastors, along with a business man and a musician, who were convicted by a Kampala court for conspiring to tarnish a rival pastor’s reputation by accusing him of homosexuality. According to Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper:

Pastors Solomon Male, Martin Ssempa, Michael Kyazze and Robert Kaira, together with Ms  Deborah Anita Kyomuhendo, a businesswoman and David Mukalazi, a musician, were convicted by Buganda Road Grade I magistrate, Julius Borore.

Mr Borore sentenced them to a fine of Shs1 million each and community service of 100 hours or serve six months in prison upon failure to pay the fine and performing community service.  Community service is where a convict is forced perform manual labour like digging, cleaning public facilities such as schools, collecting garbage among other chores.

The six are still being held in a holding cell at Buganda road court as they make up their minds. Meanhile Kayanja’s supporters are chanting outside court.

The magistrate said the case is sensitive in nature adding that genocides around the world have happened after the propagation of false information.

The fine of Shs1 million is equivalent to US$390.

One of the more immediate fallouts of the infamous March 2009 conference put on by Scott Lively and two other American anti-gay activists in Kampala, besides the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was a long and fearsome anti-gay vigilante campaign waged by the tabloids and on television and radio, with the full backing and participation by Ssempa and Male. During the anti-gay hysteria that swept Uganda, Ssempa and Male were among other powerful pastors who took the opportunity to launch wild accusations against rival pastors in a bid to increase their own power base and financial clout.

This particular case revolved around charges that Ssempa, Male and others made against Pastor Robert Kayanja of the Rubaga Miracle Center Cathedral of being a homosexual, along with “a group of other pastors.” Before they made their charges public in the summer of 2009, Kayanja’s personal aide, Chris Muwonge, was allegedly kidnapped and tortured by armed men and held for five days. His captors allegedly wanted him to make a video statement accusing Kayenja of molesting young boys. Kayanja accused his rival, Pastor Michael Kyazze of the Omega Healing Center of being behind the plot. The ensuring investigation ultimately connected Ssempa and Male to the conspiracy.

Ssempa at one time had been a darling of American Evangelicals, boasting of ties to Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren; Peter E. Waldron, a Christian Reconstructionist and close advisor to Rep. Michele Bachman; Las Vegas megachurch Canyon Ridge Community Church; Willow Creek Church; among several others. Most (though not all) American Evangelicals have broken their ties with Ssempa since 2009. When Warren denounced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Ssempa issued a sharp video rebuke against his former friend.

As part of Ssempa’s public campaign to push the Anti-Homosexuality Bill through Parliament, he resorted to showing graphic gay porn in his church and at new conferences. When one of those news conferences was filmed for CurrentTV’s documentary “Missionaries of Hate,” the clips of Ssempa alleging that gay people “eat da poo-poo” became an internet sensation.

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.”

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