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Posts for December, 2012

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.

Major Uganda Broadcaster Turns Cheerleader for Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

November 12th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Burroway

October 31st, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Burroway

September 12th, 2011

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

President Yoweri Museveni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo

Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikileaks: Ugandan First Lady “Ultimately Behind” Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

September 10th, 2011

Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni

Tomorrow’s edition of Sunday Monitor,  Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, cites leaked diplomatic cables to report that Ugandan First Lady, Janet Museveni, was behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. According to Sunday Monitor’s reading of Wikileaks cables, Senior Presidential adviser John Nagenda revealed this to U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier:

In Mr Lanier’s comments which were leaked on September 1, by whistleblower Wikileaks, Mr Nagenda is quoted to have told the US embassy that President Museveni is “quite intemperate” when it comes to homosexuality, but the First Lady, who he described as ‘a very extreme woman,’ “is ultimately behind the bill.”

Mr Nagenda said [Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba] Buturo is using the anti-homosexuality legislation to redefine himself and “will do anything in his power to be a populist.” He advised the US and other donors to refrain from publicly condemning the Bill as this fuels the anti-homosexual and anti-western rhetoric of the Bill’s proponents.

Mr Nagenda further told the US government that the bill’s most vociferous public supporter, the ex-Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo, was responsible for a campaign of mass arrests – known by the Swahili term ‘panda gari’ – during the Obote II regime.

Mr. Nagenda verified the conversation with a Sunday Monitor reporter. In December of 2009 as the controversy over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill exploded on the international stage, Nagenda published an op-ed in the government-aligned New Vision opposing the bill. The appearance of the op-ed in the pro-government newspaper was seen as a positive development at the time.

The revelation that Janet Museveni is one of the driving forces behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill once again casts a light onto the influence that American-based Dominionist movements such as the New Apostolic Reformation and its Seven Mountains Mandate exerts in Uganda. Janet Museveni has reportedly spoken at several conferences around the world hosted by Ed Silvoso, and CEO of the International Transformation Network (ITN) and an apostle in C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles. Silvoso has also been a guest of the Museveni’s at State House. Video of Museveni speaking at one such gathering can be seen here.

In 2010, Janet Museveni spoke at a youth conference at Kampala’s prestigious Makarere University and said, “In God’s word, homosexuality attracts a curse, but now people are engaging in it and saying they are created that way. It is for money… The devil is stoking fires to destroy our nation and those taking advantage are doing so because our people are poor.” More recently, she was the guest speaker at the inaugural dinner for members of the Ninth Parliament sponsored by the Ugandan Fellowship, a branch of the U.S.-based secretive group known as the C Street Fellowship or The Family. M.P. David Bahati, the author of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, had recent been elevated to chairman of the Ugandan Fellowship as well as caucus Vice Chair for the ruling party.

Janet Museveni is currently a member of Parliament representing Ruhaama County, located in the far southwest of the country near the border with Rwanda. She also holds a cabinet position as Minister for Karamoja Affairs. The restive Karamoja District is located at the opposite corner of Uganda, alongside its border with Kenya.

If this report is correct, it appears to indicate something of a schism within the Museveni family. Other cables posted on Wikileaks last February revealed that President Yoweri Museveni had assured U.S. diplomats that he would not allow the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to become law, and reminded them “that ‘someone in Uganda’, meaning himself, is handling the matter.” He also echoed Nagenda’s advice that too much outside pressure could backfire on his efforts to derail the bill. “Museveni warned outsiders of pushing Africa too hard on this issue, lest it create another hurricane,” the cable read. “Don’t push it, warned Museveni, ‘I’ll handle it’.”

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

Ugandan TV Coverage of Buturo’s Resignation: Buturo Issues Parting Call for Passage of Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

March 16th, 2011

Following up on what we reported yesterday, Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo’s resignation was featured on the evening news of independent broadcaster NTV yesterday. Toward the end of this report, he has a parting shot against the country’s LGBT community:

I urge Ugandans to reject roundly evils of corruption, homosexuality, pornography and witchcraft. They should remain steadfast in their rejection of these evils in the face of fierce opposition from the offers and apologists. … I urge you to put pressure on Parliament to debate, amend the Anti-Homosexuality Bill where necessary, and pass a law that will serve interests of Ugandans and not laws of our friends.

YouTube Preview Image

Buturo has been, from the very beginning,  a staunch defender of the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which may be brought for a vote when Parliament returns for its lame duck session beginning March 22.

Daily Monitor’s Takedown of Ugandan Ethics Minister

Jim Burroway

March 15th, 2011

We reported earlier today that Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, a staunch Anti-Homosexuality Bill advocate, has resigned following his electoral loss. That report was based on an announcement in the government-owned New Vision. Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, Daily Monitor, follows with an excellent takedown of Buturo’s career as Ethics minister, including his own scandal at the start of his tenure:

A few months after his appointment as Ethics minister, Parliament in October 2006 ordered Dr Buturo to pay back Shs20 million he received from Mega FM, a local radio station in Gulu. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told he had received the money while he was Information Minister. Dr Buturo, who put up a spirited defence against the allegations, eventually bowed to public pressure and paid the money in installments.

Butoru’s parting shot called for passage of the “Kill the Gays” bill:

Yet even as he left office, Dr Buturo took a parting shot at the gays and lesbian community in Uganda, urging Ugandans to support government to ensure the anti-homsexuality Bill is passed.  “I urge you to put pressure on Parliament to debate, amend the anti- homosexual Bill and pass a law that will serve the interest of Ugandans and not our friends,” Dr Buturo said.

The bill may be brought to a vote when Parliament reconvenes for its lame duck session on March 22.

Ugandan “Kill The Gays” Bill Promoter Resigns From Cabinet

Jim Burroway

March 15th, 2011

Uganda's Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo

New Vision, Uganda’s government-aligned newspaper, reports that Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo has complied with a Supreme Court order and resigned from his Cabinet post.

Last autumn, Buturo was among nine Cabinet members who lost their primary elections for nominations to Uganda’s Parliament on behalf of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). The primary elections were very chaotic. Buturo charged that his loss was the result of fraud, which, ironically may well be true, given the lack of transparency in what is effectively a one-party state. While it is possible for the President to name Buturo to the cabinet post despite not holding a seat in Parliament, Buturo’s resignation signals that, for whatever his reason, he has worn out his welcome with President Yoweri Museveni.

Buturo was , from the very beginning,  a staunch defender of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was introduced into Parliament in 2009. That bill is still languishing in committee, but a recent New Vision article indicates that the bill may be brought up for a vote when the Parliament returns for its lame duck session beginning March 22.

Uganda Parliamentary Committee Chair: Anti-Homosexuality Bill May Not Come Up For A Vote

Jim Burroway

March 3rd, 2011

That’s the word Warren Throckmorton received from the Chair of the Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Committee, Stephen Tashobya. His committee was assigned the Anti-Homosexuality Bill for consideration and possible revision before reporting the bill back out to Parliament for a vote. Tashobya now says “I am not sure if we will get to that one now” before the current Parliament ends in May, citing a backlog of other bills that require consideration. Warren notes that this contradicts Tashobya’s prediction in January that the bill would be brought to a vote during Parliament’s lame duck session following February’s elections.

Uganda held Presidential and Parliamentary elections on February 18, which returned 25-year ruling President Youweri Museveni to another five year term and assured his ruling party a veto-proof majority in Parliament. His ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) also holds the required majority in Parliament to change the constitution at will. On the bright side, Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, one of the bill’s most ardent supporters, lost his re-election bid. It’s not clear though that this guarantees the end of his tenure in Museveni’s cabinet since the constitution allows the President to appoint ministers who are not members of Parliament. David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor, easily won re-election to represent his Ndorwa West constituency after his opponent withdrew from the race over concerns for his safety and that of his family.

The next Parliament will be seated in June. If the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is not reported out of committee and onto the floor of Parliament for a vote before the current Parliament ends, it will die at the close of Parliament.

Uganda Government Blocks Film Depicting LGBT Human Rights Workers

Jim Burroway

December 14th, 2010

Uganda's Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo

Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo yesterday blocked the showing of a documentary film, claiming that organizers intended to “promote homosexuality,” according to Uganda’s largest independent newspaper Daily Monitor. Organizers had intended to show the film at the National Theatre in central Kampala, but found the theater locked when they arrived for the event. The film, appropriately, portrays the difficulties that human rights workers encounter in fighting discrimination in the country.

The showing was organized by the United Nation Human Rights office of the High Commissioner (UNHR), Uganda Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Centre Uganda. The Uganda Human Rights Commission is an official office of the Ugandan government.

The point of contention is that the film specifically depicted the difficulties in dealing with anti-gay discrimination in Uganda. Buturo took this as being “promotion of homosexuality”:

Mr Buturo told Daily Monitor that the organisers refused to delete homosexual contents in the documentary. “Some people are determined to change the morals of our country and are using all tactics. We shall put up resistance because Uganda doesn’t believe in homosexuality,” he said, adding that 40 pupils were invited to watch the documentary.

“This is terrible. I told those people to shut up because they are supposed to defend our country,” Mr Buturo said.

Buturo strongly supports the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Parliament. The bill, more famously, provides for the death penalty for LGBT people under certain circumstances and life imprisonment for the rest. If the bill becomes law, another provision would hold the organizers personally liable with fines and imprisonment for five to seven years for trying to show the film.

Buturo's letter demanding the cancellation of a conference to discuss issues affecting sex workers (click to enlarge).

Last month, Buturo ordered a halt to a conference in Entebbe that was organized to discuss the health issues of sex workers and other problems. Noting that prostitution is illegal in Uganda, Buturo apparently seeks to broaden the reach of the law to also include merely discussing issues surrounding prostitution.

Last September, Buturo lost his race in the ruling party’s primary election to represent the Bufumbira East constituency. He lost to former presidential advisor Eddie Kwizera Wa-Gahungu. Buturo charged that his loss was due to massive fraud, and given Uganda’s less than stellar record with elections, there is credible evidence that fraud might have been a factor. Nevertheless, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) demanded that defeated NRM M.P.’s honor the results, which Buturo has refused to do. He is now running as an independent candidate for Bufumbira East. And as we all know, when you’re down in the polls and facing enormous political odds (namely, a ruling party that won’t back you in what is effectively a one-party state), then lashing out against LGBT people is the tactic of choice among those for whom “ethics” and “integrity” have very little meaning.

Chapter 4, paragraph 29 of Uganda’s constitution (PDF: 460KB/192 pages) provides for “freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and other media” and the “freedom of thought, conscience and belief which shall include academic freedom in institutions of learning.” The same paragraph also guarantees “freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed.” Paragraph 34 also contains an affirmative action clause which reads, “Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the State shall take affirmative action in favour of groups marginalised on the basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom, for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them.” And Paragraph 38 guarantees that “Every Ugandan has a right to participate in peaceful activities to influence the policies of government through civic organisations.” It’s a fine document. Someone should show it to Buturo sometime.

Uganda To Revive Anti-Homosexuality Bill Soon

Jim Burroway

November 19th, 2010

The big news yesterday was that Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo ordered a women’s conference scheduled for Wednesday in Entebbe canceled. The reason given was that one of the topics to be discussed was to have been the plight of sex workers. But buried beneath all of that in the last paragraph of this Daily Monitor news item:

Dr Buturo also revealed that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which brought controversy between government and donors, will be revisited upon completion of the Chogm debate which is on-going.

The “Chogm debate” is over rampant corruption in the awarding of government contracts and other acts of bribery that took place when Uganda was preparing for its role as host for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2007. Parliament is due to issue its report into the investigation. If that report follows previous patterns in dealing with corruption, it will likely offer up a few low-level scapegoats while protecting the guilty among the elites.

But the big news for us is the indication that the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to be debated in full Parliament. That bill, in its current form, would impose the death penalty for gay people under certain circumstances, and impose life imprisonment (which is practically a death sentence when it comes to Ugandan prisons) under all other circumstances. It would also outlaw all free speech and advocacy on behalf of gay people and threaten relatives and friends of gay people with three years imprisonment if they fail to report their LGBT loved ones to police.

Earlier this week, Warren Throckmorton interviewed MP David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor, who said that the anti-gay bill remains in the queue:

“The last time I talked to the chairman,” Bahati said referring to the chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, “what he assured us is that he is going to work on this for sure.” Bahati added that the timing is unclear. “But if it will come up before recess, I am not certain.” The Parliament is slated to recess for nominations on November 25. Bahati told me that there were other bills in committee that would need action before his could be considered.

Ugandan Cabinet Minister: Anti-Homosexuality Bill Will Be Passed “In Due Course”

Jim Burroway

October 22nd, 2010

CNN has a story following up on the “Hang Them” outing campaign recently waged by the now-suspended tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. magazine by the same name). CNN spoke with LGBT advocate Julian Pepe, who said that in the aftermath of the outing campaign, Sexual Minorities Uganda is helping those who are being attacked:

“We are providing some with psychological support,” she said. “People have been attacked, we are having to relocate others, some are quitting their jobs because they are being verbally abused. It’s a total commotion.”

Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Butoro dismisses the reports that LGBT people are being attacked:

“They [the activists] are always lying,” Buturo said. “It’s their way of mobilizing support from outside, they are trying to get sympathy from outside. It’s part of the campaign.”

Buturo also told CNN that the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which has been held in Parliamentary committee for most of the year, will be debated in Parliament and passed “in due course.” He added, “Of course I hope it passes.”

The bill, if passsed in its current form, would impose the death penalty on LGBT people under certain circumstances (including if the individual is HIV-positive or is a “serial offender”). It would also impose a three year sentence on anyone who failed to report an LGBT person to police within 24 hours of learning of that fact. The bill would also outlaw all free speech and advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people in Uganda, and provide for extradition of LGBT Ugandans living abroad for prosecution back home.

"Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids", published in the October 2, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (Names, places and photo obscured by BTB. Click to enlarge)

"Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids", published in the October 2, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (Names, places and photo obscured by BTB. Click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, the Ugandan tabloid which launched the latest outing campaign may be back in business soon. Paul Mukasa, secretary of the Media Council, said that the reason Rolling Stone was shut down was because they failed to file the required permits

“Until they fill in the required paperwork, they are breaking the law,” Mukasa said.

The secretary said the newspaper has initiated the process “to put their house in order.”

“Some rights groups have complained that the newspaper is inciting people, but the council is focusing on its lack of paperwork,” Mukasa said.

This contradicts what  Media Council’s Executive Secretary Haruna Kanaah told Voice of America yesterday, but it is consistent with the letter that was sent to Rolling Stone’s editors from the media council.

Which means that any day now, we may see Rolling Stone’s parts two through four of their vigilante campaign hit the streets again. The tabloid’s editor, Giles Muhame, defended the campaign, saying that he published the names so authorities could arrest those named. He also told VOA that journalists had a duty to expose the so-called “evil in the Ugandan society,” and that the campaign will resume in upcoming issues once the paper resumes publication.

Defeated Ugandan Anti-Gay Minister Blames “Political Mafia”

Jim Burroway

September 12th, 2010

Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo, the staunch supporter of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill who was defeated in the ruling NRM party’s primary elections a week ago, is not going quietly into the good night. He is declaring instead that his loss was orchestrated by “political mafia”, while a party spokesman effectively tells him to STFU:

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Did Buturo become too much of a liability for the Ugandan government? Perhaps. NRM’s conduct of its own party elections does appear to be a showcase in corruption, but undoubtedly its a form of corruption that suits party leaders. While President Yoweri Museveni is coming under criticism for the chaos, it’s not difficult to imagine that at least some of those outcomes were in line with his goals. When you’re dealing with a president who is in his twenty-fifth year in power, you can expect that very little happens by accident.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni

While it is difficult to read the tea leaves from so far away, I suspect that Buturo may have become too much of a problem for Museveni. During the international outcry over Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Billlast winter, tensions appeared to have already formed within the Ugandan government. In one camp was President Museveni, who had to deal with international condemnations and threats to foreign aid. His approach was to urge lawmakers to “go slow” on the legislation while he appointed a special cabinet committee to come up with a way out of the mess. That committee recommended that the bill be “rejected” while agreeing that some passages should be passed under other guises (namely, Clause 13 of the bill which would outlaw all advocacy on behalf of LGBT people.)

But Buturo placed himself in an entirely different camp. He strongly rejected the committee’s recommendation, denounced the committee for allegedly meeting in secret without him, and demanded that the bill be passed in its entirety. (The bill still remains sidelined, for now.) And that wasn’t Buturo’s first act of defiance on behalf of the bill. At one point last December, Buturo may have been responding to  some sort of message from higher-ups when he suddenly announced that he would remain silent about the proposed law “until it has been passed or defeated.” That silence barely lasted a week,

And with that, the two camps appeared to have been well established, with Museveni trying to calm international outrage over the bill while Buturo remained a stubborn supporter of the bill’s passage. But the problem for Buturo is that in a country like Uganda, there is only room for one camp and Buturo wasn’t in it.

Now maybe Buturo’s loss really was the result of a legitimate voter backlash against the incumbent. Or maybe, as Buturo charges, his primary challenger won because of corruption and bribes. With such rampant corruption, Buturo’s complaint is very credible. But observing, as we are from afar, a country in which the ruling party completely controls the so-called “independent” election commission, and whose president is very determined to extend his rule to at least thirty years, it appears highly plausible that Buturo’s loss may have been preordained. It’s hard to know. Uganda is a country that is rife with conspiracy theories. But that doesn’t mean that some of those conspiracies aren’t real.

Uganda’s constitution allows the president to appoint someone to a state ministry who is not a member of Parliament. If Buturo is not around after next year’s elections, we’ll know that he became too much of a problem for Museveni. (And, to add further complication, that problem may not have had anything to do with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill after all. It may have been something else entirely.)

But if he still carries the title of Minister of Ethics and Integrity, we’ll know something else about Museveni’s aspirations. And that won’t be good either.

Defeated Ugandan Anti-Gay Minister Continues To Threaten Gays

Jim Burroway

September 10th, 2010

We noted on Wednesday that Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo was defeated in Uganda’s ruling party’s primary elections, which means that he will not stand as the National Resistance Movement’s candidate for Bufumbira East in the 2011 elections. And that means that Buturo, who was a staunch supporter of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, would lose his influential Cabinet post. But this report that comes to us via Radio Netherlands indicates that under Uganda’s Constitution, President Yoweri Museveni has the power to appoint ministers who are not members of Parliament. That may explain Buturo’s confidence:

Nsaba Buturo was addressing the media at the Uganda Media Centre this week. He said the stand against homosexuality in Uganda is not only the responsibility of individuals but that of the government as a whole. Buturo stated this after the gay communities in Uganda celebrated the loss of Nsaba Buturo’s bid for for re-election as a Member of Parliament for the National Resistance Movement in his Bufumbira East constituency.

Nsaba Buturo warned that Uganda was determined to crack down on homosexuality and pornographic materials which he called a terrible vice and a curse.

“I am sorry for the gay communities in Uganda who think that my loss marks the end of our war on homosexuality and pornography” Nsaba Buturo says. “I am still here. As a nation we have a decent culture and moral values, it is our stand as a government and we are not going to shift even an inch from it” he swore.

Update: Uganda’s Constitution is posted online (PDF: 459 KB/192 pages). The relevant clause is clause 113 on page 84:

113. Cabinet Ministers.

1) Cabinet Ministers shall be appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament from among members of Parliament or persons qualified to be elected members of Parliament. [Emphasis mine]

Prominent Ugandan Anti-Gay Minister Defeated In Party Elections

Jim Burroway

September 8th, 2010

This is a shock. Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, who is also a Member of Parliament for Bufumbira East, lost out in his party’s primary elections last week. According to last Friday’s Daily Monitor:

Shortly before the results were announced at Kisoro District Council Hall yesterday, Mr Buturo went on a local radio contesting the results. He argued that the results from Bukimbiri and Nyundo Sub-Counties were fraught with several irregularities that needed to be sorted out before the final winner is declared.

The Minister said elections in his constituency should be repeated. Kisoro NRM returning officer, Mr Herbert Nsabimana, advised dissatisfied candidates to petition the NRM Electoral Commission.

It appears that the ruling NRM (National Resistance Movement), which holds two-thirds of the seats in Uganda’s Parliament, is doing some house-cleaning. News reports over the past several weeks show that many incumbents are losing their primaries. Many of those losses are accompanied with charges of fraud and irregularities in the party-run elections. In fact, it is possible that Museveni may support the house cleaning, since the NRM is not known for its stellar electoral record.

If this result holds, this would be a stunning defeat for “The Family’s” man in Uganda. Buturo has been, from the very beginning,  a staunch defender of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was introduced into Parliament last year.

It has always been rather amazing to me that Uganda, a country known for its heavy political corruption, has a Minister of Ethics and Integrity, and one wonders what such a minister does on a day-to-day basis, other than to serve as the country’s preacher in chief. As our reporting over the past year has demonstrated, “ethics and integrity” has not prevented him from lying about the contents of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. And accourding to Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, “ethics and integrity” also doesn’t preclude the ministry from diverting state funds into personal bank accounts.

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