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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.

Uganda Parliament Speaker: Re-Approving Anti-Homosexuality Act “Is Going To Be Smooth”

Jim Burroway

August 11th, 2014

A march took place in Kampala to present a petition to Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga demanding the reintroduction of the recently nullified Anti-Homosexuality Act. Over the weekend, 207 Ugandan lawmakers signed a petition asking that Kadaga circumvent Parliamentary rules and call a snap vote to re-approve the AHA after the Constitutional Court nullified the law after parliament approved it in December without a constitutionally-mandated quorum. The first speaker in this raw NTV Uganda footage is unidentified, but the second is Kadaga, who told the crowd:

…thank the religious leaders, the young children, the public who are here, who have come to present a petition demanding that we re-table the Act. I just want to inform the public that I think that notwithstanding anything that happened, the public should be grateful to the members who have stood on the side of the family all this time and had the courage to sit and enact this law. And I want to assure you that now that we have the 207 signatures, the rest is going to be smooth.

The ruling National Resistance Movement’s Parliamentary caucus is set to meet with President Yoweri Museveni to map out a plan for the Anti-Homosexuality Act’s future.

Museveni’s Political Calculus and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2014
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NTV Uganda recaps events since President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement that he will sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and reports that about 20% of Uganda’s budget is funded by donor money. In response to statements from donor countries that their aid would be jeopardized by the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, State Minister for Regional Affairs Asuman Kiyingi said, “What I’ve heard from the public… is that Ugandans are willing to forfeit the support that the donors are giving if it means that the support is conditioned on sacrificing their values. But I’m sure we’re going to find a middle ground.”

Kiyingi’s belief that there will be a “middle ground” with respect to foreign aid suggests that Museveni feels more confident that he won’t suffer severe international consequences if he signs the bill. Uganda has raised its strategic profile in the past couple of years, well-positoned geographically and sharing borders with Rwanda, Congo and Southern Sudan. Uganda provides peacekeeping (and sometimes not so peacekeeping) troops to Southern Sudan and Somalia, and regularly meddles in guerrilla fighting in Congo. Uganda is also central to that battle against the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army, and it receives a great deal of military technical assistance from the U.S. in that fight. This morning, Daily Monitor’s Daniel K. Kalinaki explains what all of that means:

Museveni also understands the centres of power in America. The White House and the State Department might be critical of him and his decisions but he has been around long enough to understand that the CIA and the Defence Department often deal in the cold rational reality of real-politick.

Thus while cuts in military support to the UPDF would hurt, there would be grave concerns for the Pentagon if Uganda were to withdraw its troops from Somalia, for instance. Museveni understands that US national security comes first, ahead of everything else. As long as he is willing to put boots on the ground to keep the regional peace and support the war against terror, he will always have friends at the Pentagon willing to help him manage his relations with the State Department.

There are also a number of internal political considerations that likely went into Museveni’s decision. Again, Kalinaki:

It is telling that President Museveni announced his intentions at a meeting of NRM MPs amidst a plot to endorse him as the sole party candidate for the 2016 elections. In signing, he gives the MPs a blank cheque. Having forced Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi on the defensive, he also cuts from underneath Speaker Rebecca Kadaga one of her populist planks within Parliament.

Mbabazi and Kadaga both were believed to be vying to challenge Museveni for the party’s nomination in 2016. This moves places Mbabazi on the defensive because he was the most vocal in pointing out that Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill without a quorum. At the time, Mbabazi appeared to be speaking for Museveni, since Museveni himself had argued against the bill’s passage, and complained about the lack of quorum Speaker Kadaga in a letter written a week after the bill’s passage. Museveni’s sudden U-turn left Mbabazi stranded out on a very weak political limb. At the same time, Kadaga, who sought to build her political legacy on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, is now seeing the oxygen being sucked out of the room with Museveni’s announcement. Mbabazi signed on to endorse Museveni’s 2016 bid, but Kadaga didn’t.

Kalinaki also points out that the political costs for signing the bill are minimal when compared to the benefits:

First, he is exercising power without responsibility for his actions; he is signing a Bill he never wanted, passed by Parliament against his advice, and on the recommendation of scientists. It wasn’t me, he could easily say. Secondly, Museveni must surely know that several lawyers have lined up to challenge the constitutionality of the law; one of them, your columnist hears, is Mr Fox Odoi, who spent many years doing legal work for the President and remains close to the inner circle.

Such a challenge would hold up the law in the courts for at least a couple of years. If the courts uphold it, it wasn’t me, the President would say. If they strike it down, it still wasn’t him. Throw in a few more years on appeal in the Supreme Court and you have a Bill all dressed up with nowhere to go.

A man like Museveni doesn’t stay in power for twenty-eight years as he has without either brute force or cynical cunning. Museveni prefers the latter but isn’t afraid of the former. It is, after all, how he came to power in the first place. So the question now is whether Museveni was correct in minimizing the political costs to signing the bill or did he misjudge? The Human Rights Campaign’s Chad Griffin wants the U.S. to up the political costs to Museveni. He has called on the U.S. to withdraw its ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria, which recently recently enacted similarly draconian anti-gay legislation:

“The Ugandan and Nigerian governments’ decisions to treat their LGBT citizens like criminals cannot be accepted as business as usual by the U.S. government. We urge Secretary Kerry to recall both Ambassadors for consultations in Washington to make clear the seriousness of the situation in both countries,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

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 Parliament To Adjourn Until February

Jim Burroway

December 14th, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga (via the Uganda Parliament web site.)

The Second Meeting of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament is expected to Adjourn today without bringing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill up for debate. According to Warren Throckmorton, who spoke with a Parliament spokeswoman, Parliament will begin its Christmas break after today’s sitting and will return on February 4. There had been some speculation that Parliament may extend is session through next week, but with Speaker Rebecca Kadaga off galavanting in Italy meeting the Pope and attending a human rights conference — I kid you not — it looks like the prevailing opinion is that the earlier they can start their Christmas break, the better.

Which is just as well, because if today’s Order Paper is any indication (DOC: 41KB/2 pages), Parliament’s eagerness to take up the Anti-Homosexuality Bill appears to be waning. It has now fallen to number seven under “Notice of Business to Follow,” following some fairly mundane committee reports, after having held the top spot just two weeks ago.

Uganda Parliament Speaker suspends House sessions

Timothy Kincaid

November 28th, 2012

The contentious House session dealing with the assignment of control over the nation’s oil resources to the government (without oversight) ended on Monday when the Speaker stomped out the door. Now she is suspending sessions:

The Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Kadaga Rebecca has suspended sittings of the House and directed the Parliament Committee on Rules Privileges and Discipline to review the behaviour of MPs in Tuesday’s Sitting.

In her address to Parliament November 28, the Speaker described the conduct exhibited by Members in yesterday’s prematurely adjourned House as unparliamentarily, unruly and disorderly. She said the behaviour exhibited by some MPs was beneath the dignity and honour expected of Honourable Members.

She has directed the Rules, Privileges and Discipline Committee to review video of the session and report back on Monday with recommendations for punishment of unruly members.

Conflicting Reports Emerge About U.S. Sanctions Against Uganda

Jim Burroway

November 23rd, 2012

WBS Television in Uganda posted this YouTube report titled, “USA slaps travel ban on Speaker Kadaga over Anti-Gay Bill.” The report itself doesn’t address the travel ban, but a statement posted on the Parliament’s web site denies receiving any communication from the U.S. Mission in Kampala about any travel bans. Instead of describing specific sanctions, the WBS report merely speaks of unspecified sanctions “threatening the country and individuals.” M.P. Stephen Tashobya, who chairs the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee charged with holding hearings on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, says that some members of Parliament have received letters threatening sanctions.

As the demand for the anti-gay bill gains pace in the country, it appears the Western world is putting a fierce energy in ensuring that the anti-gay bill does not find its way into the law books of the country. U.S. President Barack Obama has reportedly expressed his discomfort with the proposal to criminalize homosexuality and lesbianism, threatening the country and individuals behind the move with grave sanctions.

“…To have had, I think, from two members of Parliament that they have received a letter from an assistant from the President of the U.S. expressing concern about the passing of the bill.”

(Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chairman Stephen) Tashobya however says that as the committee starts to scrutinize the proposals, it will collect views of both local and international stakeholders.

“First of all, any person anywhere in the world has the right to come in to give his views about this bill which is before Parliament.”

Same-sex practices are unpopular in the African context, but are considered a human right by activists in the West. The letter comes a few weeks after Speaker Rebecca Kadaga pledged to deliver the bill as a Christmas package to Ugandans.

Warren Throckmorton says that the State Department has denied that Obama has threatened sanctions.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Why Now?

Jim Burroway

November 21st, 2012

Uganda Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and President Yoweri Museveni (Uganda Observer)

Since the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced in Uganda’s Parliament in October 2009, it has been like a recurring bad dream. Like most recurring dreams, you don’t have this one every night; you only experience it when stressful events trigger its return. Over the past three years, we’ve seen the AHB dominate the headlines, then go dormant, and then come back whenever there are external or internal events which call for either a diversion or a handy weapon.

Did Britain threaten to cut off aid?  Let’s revive the bill. Did a  feisty opposition leader provoke a violent crackdown? Let’s bring back the bill. Did the American Secretary of State just declare that “gay rights are human rights“? Time to bring it back. Clinton’s speech before the United Nations in Geneva proved a handy pretext to re-introduce the bill into Parliament last February, but it has been languishing in committee since then.

So why the sudden impetus now? One Ugandan human rights leader sees one possibility:

But Kikonyogo Kivumbi, executive director of civil rights organisation Uhspa-Uganda, painted a different picture by describing the anti-gay legislation as a “political weapon” for the Ugandan dictatorship in its attempts to influence the UN.

“Uganda is using the bill to threaten and blackmail the West,” he told IBTimes UK. “They know that respect of human rights is a sensible subject in the West and they are using it to blackmail the international community.”

The activist added that the Ugandan government is furious at a UN report which claimed it was abetting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report found that ministers in Kampala are supporting the M23 rebels “in the form of direct troop reinforcements in DRC territory, weapons deliveries, technical assistance, joint planning, political advice and facilitation of external relations”.

Kivumbi said. “When the report came out, the regime was furious and threatened to pull out of Somalia [where around 5,000 Ugandan troops are currently supporting the African Union's peace-keeping mission and curbing the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab].

“They are threatening the sovereignty of a state, Congo, using the Somalia deal which they consider a soft spot for the West.”

This news mostly escaped western notice, but the UN report was a huge deal in Uganda when it came out. President Yoweri Museveni was clearly stung by the report, and he has threatened to pull Ugandan troops out of its peacekeeping mission in Somalia, where they have played a central role in pushing armed clans out of Mogadishu. Ugandan authorities are also making a show of closing its border with Congo even as Congolese rebels have captured the strategic Eastern city of Goma.

L-R: Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, First Lady and M.P. Janet Museveni

That row over the Congo is only one of a long list of conflicts confronting the Ugandan government. Over the past few months, Britain, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden announced that they were cutting direct aid to the Ugandan government after learning that much of it went into the personal bank account of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. Well gee, how did it get there?, he asked with feigned ignorance as he promptly found seventeen scapegoats to fire. Those scapegoats are now firing back. A similar scandal is reaching First Lady and Parliament Member Janet Museveni. And in yet another scandal, dozens of leaders have been caught in a US$650 million pension scam in which they registered thousands of so-called “ghost pensioners” to skim payments off of the nation pension plan’s meager resources. In reaction to all that, the World Bank has now warned that it would review its aid to Uganda, and last weekend, Britain announced that it not just halted its direct aid, but had frozen all bilateral aid, including aid to NGO’s and Ugandan financial institutions as well. That’s a huge hit. Total bilateral aid for the year was set for £98.9 million (US$157 million).

(By the way, the nation’s clerics, sensing an opportunity, have called on foreign governments to bypass the kleptocracy and give the foreign aid directly to them. But obviously, Britain isn’t buying.)

Meanwhile, Uganda’s primary referral hospital, Mulago Hospital, was forced to close its intensive care unit due to lack of funds while the country continues to struggle with nodding disease (the government’s response included feeding its victims rotten food) and a fresh Ebola outbreak. But when anti-corruption activists tried to hold a meeting to demand accountability in government, police intervened and put a stop to it. And, by the way, foreigners are getting brand new identity cards soon. The only reason Ugandans aren’t getting new national identity cards is because that project, too, has been botched by corruption.

Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga

So with all that going on, why not throw the masses some tripe and bring up the Anti-Homosexuality Bill? The timing is obviously ripe for it. All that was needed was a pretext. And that came earlier this month when Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga went to Canada for an Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly and was present when Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird blasted Uganda’s human rights record. Baird particularly singled out the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the murder of Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato in January, 2011. Kadaga replied with an angry retort, complete with the usual appeals to Uganda’s sovereignty and denunciations of Western colonialism. When she returned home to Entebbe, she was greeted with a hero’s welcome. She then announced to the cheering crowds that Uganda, by God, would show the world it can’t be pushed around anymore.

Speaker Kadaga has emerged as a pivotal figure lately in Ugandan politics. Amid widespread discontent over Museveni’s determination to remain in office through media manipulation and constant crackdowns on the opposition, Kadaga’s fearless brashness plays like a breath of fresh air. Her longstanding position in the ruling National Resistance Movement doesn’t appear to hurt either, as that makes her both a practical and a plausable successor to Museveni should he accept calls to restore term limits when his current term ends in 2016, after which he will have been in power for more than thirty years.

Kadaga’s political instincts are sharp, and she knows a popular, career-enhancing platform when she sees one. She has been a supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill from the very beginning, and before that, for increased penalties for homosexuality.  In April 2009, while Deputy Speaker, she presided over Parliament as M.P. David Bahati sought approval to submit an Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a private member’s bill. The bill failed to come to a vote before the Eight Parliament expired in May 2011.But after the Ninth Parliament elected her as Speaker, Kadaga promptly to engineered the bill’s reintroduction in February 2012. She is now pushing for its passage before Parliament breaks for Christmas on December 15. She says it will be a “Christmas gift” to the Ugandan people, and given the widespread homophobia in Ugandan society, the bill’s passage would only enhance Kadaga’s reputation further. And by the way, the bill’s passage under her leadership might, conveniently, help to quash rumors which surround the fact that, at age 56, Kadaga remains unmarried and without children in a country that takes these things very seriously.

So where is Museveni in all this? It’s usually right about now when a government spokesperson comes forward to tell us that the President or his cabinet has “rejected” the bill. But nobody from Museveni’s cabinet is throwing cold water on it this time. And it may well be that with all of the challenges that Museveni is facing, the bill’s passage, or even its mere threat, may serve Museveni’s interests as much as they serves Kadaga’s. If this bill is passed, she will get the credit — a good thing in domestic politics in the short term — because it will have her fingerprints all over it. But those fingerprints won’t dust off so easily in the long term when the country deals with the fallout with further reductions of foreign aid. That could be particularly damaging in the eyes of those who had supported her as a potential successor to Museveni, and that could play to Museveni’s long-term benefit.

None of this says that the bill’s passage is imminent, and none of its says that it’s not. That’s the tricky thing about trying to read the tea leaves in Uganda. The only thing that is certain is that it all comes down to whose interests are served best and how they are best served. If Kadaga passes the bill now, she will be a hero, for at least few months anyway. If its delayed again, then it’s still out there, ready to be acted on, until the Ninth Parliament expires in 2016. Either way, the larger message has gone out: leave us alone or the gays gets it.

Uganda Parliament Speaker Demands Anti-Gay Bill Be Brought to House Floor on Tuesday

Jim Burroway

November 16th, 2012

House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga

Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, today reports that Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has demanded that Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee bring Anti-Homosexuality Bill to the House floor for debate and a vote by next Tuesday:

The committee chairperson, Mr Stephen Tashobya, passed on Ms Rebecca Kadaga’s directive to committee members yesterday as he summoned them to attend next week’s session in person “to have the Bill concluded”.<

In her November 13 letter, the Speaker advised Mr Tashobya to be mindful of what she said was the high demand by the public to address homosexuality.
“I write to reiterate my earlier instruction to your committee to expeditiously handle the review of the report on the Bill. As you are aware, there is high demand by the population to address the escalating problem of promoting and recruiting minors into homosexuality,” the letter reads in part.

“This is therefore to inform you that I shall place the Bill on the Order Paper immediately after conclusion of the Oil Bills,” she wrote. Parliament is concluding consideration of the Petroleum (Exploration, Production and Development) Bill as the House breaks off for Christmas recess on December 15, which suggests that after the Bill is hopefully completed by next Tuesday, MPs can expect to debate and probably pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

On Monday, Kadaga called for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which still includes a death penalty for gay people under certain circumstances, to be brought to a vote and passed within two weeks.

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.

Report: Uganda’s Speaker Promises To Pass Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Two Weeks (UPDATED)

Jim Burroway

November 12th, 2012

Warren Throckmortin found this report, which suggests that Uganda’s Parliament may pass proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill sometime in the next two weeks. According to the report:

Speaker (Rebecca) Kadaga committed herself during a meeting with a coalition of religious, political, cultural leaders held at parliament where she said that Uganda is an independent country which operates under its constitution. We should stop dancing on the tune of western countries. We have the right to reject any things which is against our culture.

“Am going to allow Hon Bahati to proceed with his bill and make sure that it is passed within the period of two weeks. As leaders we should listen to the voice of our people. It is our responsibility to protect our country against homosexuality ,our value, culture and character” Speaker Kadaga noted

Elsewhere religious, cultural and political leader said that all homosexual practitioners in Uganda should be killed because homosexual is not allowed in Uganda.

“It is an abomination in Uganda for a man to marry a fellow man and a woman to get married to her fellow woman. We strongly condemn and oppose the devil called homosexuality on our soil. As religious, cultural leaders we urge the Uganda’s brave (Kadaga) to be strong, farm and courageous while fighting Homosexual in Uganda. The Western world should take their moral behaviors away from Africa Uganda in particular” Religious leaders noted.

I am not familiar with Uganda Picks, so I can’t comment on the report’s veracity. Warren Throckmorton writes, “the basic news that the Parliament is set to act on the bill is consistent with what I am hearing from sources in Uganda.” It also confirms a report made earlier this month by  Daily Monitor, a much more reputable independent newspaper, which quoted the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chair Steven Tashobya as saying that his committee will be ready to report the bill back to the House floor before Parliament breaks for Christmas.

[Update: The Associated Press is now picking up on the story:

Ugandans "are demanding it," (Kadaga) said, reiterating a promise she made before a meeting on Friday of anti-gay activists who spoke of "the serious threat" posed by homosexuals to Uganda's children. Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as "a Christmas gift."

..."Who are we not to do what they have told us? These people should not be begging us," Kadaga said of activists who want the bill to become law.]

M.P. David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor, now chairs the ruling party’s caucus in Parliament. But unlike in previous periods of intense discussions about the bill, his present media silence has been conspicuous. Kadaga, a long-time supporter of the bill, appears to have taken the public role of pushing for the bill’s passage.  In early 2009, she advocated for for increased criminal penalties for homosexuality. She presided over Parliament in April 2009 in her role as Deputy Speaker when MP David Bahati sought approval to submit an Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a private member’s bill, and she was an early supporter after it was first introduced into Parliament in October. After the previous parliament expired before it could bring the bill up for a vote, Kadega helped to engineer the bill’s reintroduction, with the death penalty intact, in the current Parliament.

If the bill does come back up for a vote, past experience suggests that there will be a great deal of misinformation about what the bill would do. I would suggest you keep these links handy:

Clause By Clause With Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
Clauses 1 and 2: Anybody Can Be Gay.
Clause 3: Anyone Can Be “Liable To Suffer Death”
Clause 4: Anyone Can “Attempt to Commit Homosexuality”
Clauses 5 and 6: Anyone Can Be A Victim (And Get Out Of Jail Free If You Act Fast)
Clauses 7 and 14: Anyone Can “Aid And Abet”
Clauses 8 to 10: A Handy Menu For “Victims” To Choose From
Clauses 11, 14, 16 and 17: Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide
Clause 12: Till Life Imprisonment Do You Part
Clause 13: The Silencing of the Lambs
Clause 14: The Requirement Isn’t Only To Report Gay People To Police. It’s To Report Everyone.
Clauses 15 and 19: The Establishment Clauses For The Ugandan Inquisition

Uganda Parliament May Vote On Anti-Homosexuality Bill By Christmas

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2012

According to this morning’s Daily Monitor:

Parliament yesterday passed a resolution in recognition of Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s stand on homosexuality. The House also urged the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee to immediately table its report on the Bill for general debate.

The committee’s chairperson Steven Tashobya yesterday said their report is almost done and will be brought to Parliament before it breaks off for Christmas recess. MPs across the political divide in a plenary session chaired by Ms Kadaga denounced homosexuality and said the country’s moral values are threatened by cultural inventions from the western world.

…The MP for Kinkiizi West, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, moved the motion that was overwhelmingly supported by legislators who committed themselves to passing the anti-homosexuality Bill.

“I rise to add my voice to state clearly that you represented Uganda effectively in Canada. You represented our right to do what we want to do as a country. We have made a point very clearly that we abide by the country’s Constitution which guarantees the right of members and back benchers to move private members Bills and MP Bahati exercised that right,” said Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

This latest push to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill comes as part of a broader backlash against remarks by Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird, who condemned Uganda’s proposed legislation to impose the death penalty for gay people. The bill would also impose criminal penalties for all advocacy on behalf of gay people, providing lodging and services to gay people, and even knowing someone who is gay and failing to report it to police. The last time the Anti-Homosexuality Bill made it through the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, it emerged with only a few minor tweaks while adding a new crime of “conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex,” punishable by three years in prison.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga was an early supporter for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and before that, for increased penalties for homosexuality.  She presided over Parliament in April 2009 in her role as Deputy Speaker when MP David Bahati sought approval to submit an Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a private member’s bill. She helped to engineer the bill’s reintroduction in the current parliament after the previous parliament expired before it could be brought to a vote.

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.

TODAY: Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Being Re-Introduced In Parliament

Jim Burroway

February 7th, 2012

Uganda Parliament’s Order Paper for February 7. (Click to enlarge.)

It is now early evening in Kampala, and in an apparent sign of the Parliament’s lack of transparency, today’s Order Paper is still not posted on the Parliament’s web site. However, a copy has been making the rounds on the Internet, showing that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, is scheduled for its first reading today. Warren Throckmorton has info on the bill’s path going forward:

According to a person in the plenary session of Parliament, Speaker Kadaga said the bills renewed from the 8th Parliament will be read for the first time today but reports on the bills from the 8th Parliament will be used as a basis for moving toward a 2nd reading and debate. If true, this means that the time from first reading to second reading, debate and possible passage will be much shorter than would be true if a new bill was introduced.

Based on reports from Parliament in October, 2011, it was anticipated that the anti-gay measure would be considered by the new Parliament without repeating the first reading. During the October 2011 session, the Parliament voted to return unfinished business from the 8th Parliament to the current session. At that time, Kawesa said that Speaker of the House Rebecca Kadaga’s Business committee could recommend that the anti-gay bill go back to committee or it could recommend that the former committee report become the basis for debate in the Parliament. Based on the Kawesa’s statement today, the bill is starting over in committee.

The bill’s original text, combined with the recommendations of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, would look something like this:

  • Clause 1: Expand the definitions for homosexual acts, making conviction easier. Current law requires evidence of penetration. The new law would expand the definition of homosexual activity to”touch(ing) another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” Touching itself is defined as “touching—(a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything; and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ. anus or mouth.”
  • Clause 2: Affirm Uganda’s lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality.
  • Clause 3: Define a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is death by hanging. It also requires anyone arrested on suspicion of homosexuality to undergo HIV testing to determine the individual’s qualification for prosecution of “aggravated homosexuality.” NOTE: The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended changing the wording on this bill to obfuscate the provision’s penalty by referring simply to the penalty provided by an unrelated law. However, the penalty for that law is death. In other words, despite numerous false reports to the contrary, the death penalty remains in place.
  • Clause 4: Criminalize “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment for seven years. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
  • Clause 5: Provide for compensation to the “victim” of homosexuality, which would provide incentives for even a consensual partner in a relationship to later claim “victim” status in order to save his or her own life and freedom by pressing charges against the other partner.
  • Clause 6: Guarantee anonymity to people making accusations.
  • Clause 7: Criminalize “aiding and abetting homosexuality” with seven years imprisonment. This provision could be used against anyone extending counseling, medical care, or otherwise providing aide gay people. Criminalize “promoting” homosexuality with fines and imprisonment for between five and seven years. This overly-broad provision would criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda . It would also criminalize any attempt to repeal or modify the law in the future, as those moves could also be seen as “promoting” homosexuality. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
  • Clause 8: Criminalize the conspiracy to commit homosexuality “by any means of false pretence or other fraudulent means with seven years imprisonment. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
  • Clause 9: Criminalize “procuring homosexuality by threats” (No penalty specified).
  • Clause 10: Criminalize “detention with intent to commit homosexuality” with seven years imprisonment.
  • Clause 11: Penalize people who run “brothels” with five to seven years imprisonment for renting to LGBT people. However, it defines a brothel as “a house, room, set of rooms or place of any kind for the purposes of homosexuality” instead of the more normal definition of a place where commercial sex work takes place. Anyone’s bedroom would be a “brothel” under this definition, placing landlords and hotel owners in jeopardy for renting to LGBT people.
  • Clause 12: Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • Clause 13: Criminalize “promoting” homosexuality with fines and imprisonment for between five and seven years. This overly-broad provision would criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda . It would also criminalize any attempt to repeal or modify the law in the future, as those moves could also be seen as “promoting” homosexuality. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee found this clause would “create problems,” although it is unclear whether the committee recommended its removal.
  • Clause 14: Require friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment for up to three years.
  • Clause 15: Reserve trials for Aggravated homosexuality” for Uganda’s High Court. All other can be tried by magistrates.
  • Clause 16: Make the law applicable to all Ugandans living or visiting abroad via an extra-territorial clause. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
  • Clause 17: Subject persons living abroad to extradition. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
  • Clause 18: Void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill. The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended eliminating this clause.
  • POTENTIALLY NEW CLAUSE: The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended the creation of an additional crime, “conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex,” punishable by three years in prison, which was not in the original draft.

I am attempting to find a copy of the bill as it currently exists. According to procedure, if a bill is being introduced in Parliament for its first reading, then it is supposed to be published in the Uganda Gazette.

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

Jim Burroway

February 3rd, 2012

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

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

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

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

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