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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.

Ugandan Leaders to Strategize Ways to Re-Enact Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

August 11th, 2014

Daily Monitor reports that the Parliamentary caucus of the National Resistance Movement, Uganda’s ruling party, will meet today to discuss the way forward for re-enacting the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was nullified by the Constitutional Court just days before President Yoweri Museveni was to attend a White House dinner in Washington, D.C. Museveni has confirmed that he will attend the meeting, according to MP David Bahati, who sponsored the original bill in 2009. According to Daily Monitor, there is a great deal of impatience among some of the MPs to get the law back on the books:

These MPs want Parliament to put on hold the handling of the ongoing Budget process and first ensure the restoration of the anti-gays law. There is also a request to the Speaker for the suspension of the House rules of procedure to allow the Bill to be passed without going through all the lengthy phases.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kampala Cyprian Kizito Lwanga has reportedly given his support for the act.

Kampala is rife with rumors about how and why the AHA came to be struck down, especially since Ugandan courts are not known for acting with the kind of speed the Constitutional Court acted. The Ugandan magazine The Independent has a lengthy report outlining why they believe the law was nullified and Museveni’s options going forward. It’s hard to know how much stock to place in this report. None of the article’s sources are identified, and the point where the Independent discusses the judiciary’s independence — “No judge who opposes gay rights is ever appointed, according to those familiar with the process” — seems very unlikely. But it does show the kinds of rumors that are floating around Kampala.

Uganda’s Attorney General Files Notice of Appeal to Supreme Court to Reinstate Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

August 8th, 2014

Nicholas Opiyo, one of the attorneys for the ten petitioners who succeeded on convincing Uganda’s Constitutional Court to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act on procedural grounds last Fiday, has tweeteed that the Attorney General of Uganda has made good on his vow to appeal the ruling to the country’s Supreme Court:

Opiyo spoke to TIME magazine about what has and hasn’t changed since the Anti-Homosexuality Act was struck down:

Nothing has changed much. The deep sense of homophobia in Uganda remains unchanged. In any case, it’s only been made worse by this ruling, because the debate has been reopened in a more bitter and fierce manner than we’ve seen before. To be positive, certain incidental things that are good will happen because of the ruling. First, individuals and organizations that have been facing arrest, intimidation or investigation will now have all those cases against them dropped, because the very foundation for these cases has now been declared unlawful. Organizations that have been closed under the [Anti-Homosexuality Act] will now have their operations resume without the fear of the law constricting their work. Even if parliament is resolved, as they are now, to reintroduce the law … they will at least pay attention, some attention to the issues that we have raised in our petition, and perhaps have a somewhat watered down or even—I’m hoping—progressive law in that regard.

This law was one of a couple of instances of morality politics coming into play in Uganda. What do you think the draw is to laws like this in Uganda and across Africa?

There has been a growing influence of American evangelical ideologies in the policies of government in Uganda. The examples are plenty in Uganda—in the HIV/AIDS campaign, Uganda was praised for its response to the HIV/AIDS campaign because it had the message for condom use. When the Christian evangelists got a foothold in influencing government, the policies changed from condom use to abstinence and being faithful. Condoms were “by-the-way;” that was the influence of what we call in Uganda people who are saved. If you look at the laws that have passed since then, whether it is a media law or an NGO law, it has a strong element of public morality. That’s new, what seems to be in my view, a moralization of the legislation process. They have a strong foothold in government mainly because the Pentecostal movement is a big movement. They have numbers, they have young people, and they have a huge following. Politicians like numbers.

MP Fox Odoi Oywelowo, one of the ten named petitioners to Uganda’s Constitutional Court, has criticized AHA supporters for petitioning Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to circumvent Parliament’s rules again and call for a snap vote on the law without formally reintroducing it in Parliament and following the normal procedures for passing a bill:

A day earlier, well-respected journalist Andrew Mwenda, who was also one of the petitioners, appeared on an NTV Uganda talk show to talk about the Anti-Homosexuality Act in a global context:

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, reports that the Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom and the U.S. are resuming foreign aid to Uganda. And just four days after the court nullified the law, President Barack Obama and the First Lady welcomed Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for a White House dinner during a three-day summit of 50 African heads of state in Washington, D.C. The photo of the three, which was released by the State Department, drew criticisms from human rights advocates:

“Rolling out the literal red carpet for some of Africa’s longest serving dictators that clearly do not respect the fundamental human rights of their citizens will always paint an unfortunate picture of the U.S. and our relationship with the continent,” Jeffrey Smith of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights told the Washington Blade on Thursday. “It provides easy ammunition to critics who claim the U.S. is only interested in working with those who lend a hand in the fight against terrorism, like Uganda, or those who sit on vast oil reserves, as in Nigeria.”

Nikki Mawanda, a transgender advocate from Uganda who is currently seeking asylum in the U.S., also questioned Obama’s decision to invite Museveni to the White House. “It’s basically beyond proper,” Mawanda told the Blade on Thursday. “It shows us the president is very comfortable with what Museveni is doing and basically they can sit and mingle.”

Also attending the White House dinner were:

  • Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who signed a similarly draconian anti-gay law last January.
  • Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who once threatened to “cut off the head” of any LGBT person he found in his country.
  • Cameroonian President Paul Biya and his wife. Cameroon has conducted several roundups of LGBT people over the past several years. Eric Ohena Lembemb, an LGBT rights advocate, was found tortured and murdered in his home in 2013.
  • Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Maurtiania imposes the death penalty for those convicted of consensual same-sex relationships.

Ugandan MPs Petition To Swiftly Re-Approve Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

August 7th, 2014

Daily Monitor is reporting that more than 150 members of Parliament have signed their names to a petition demanding that Parliament re-approve the Anti-Homosexuality Act after a Constitutional Court nullified the law last week:

By yesterday evening, the drive had garnered the support of 158 MPs.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Mr (David) Bahati (the bill’s original sponsor) said he would again take the lead in presenting the Bill, reiterating that it is the shield for the Ugandan society from practices that are a threat to children, family values and posterity.

“We want to rectify the procedural issue that court pointed out. MPs are making a statement that the when the foundation of this nation is destroyed, the representatives of the people cannot stand by and look on. What happened on Friday was an empty victory .We are going to rectify what the court decided,” Mr Bahati said.

Kawempe North MP Latif Sebaggala, the brainchild of the drive to collect signatures, yesterday indicated that a committee will be formed next Tuesday to chart a way forward on how the Bill will be re-introduced.

Ordinarily, a bill would have to be introduced in Parliament and follow the original route of three readings, a committee report, and a statement of financial impact from the government. Pink News reports that MP’s are planning to short-circuit that process:

MP David Bahati, who tabled the original bill, previously said that rules could be flouted in an emergency.

He said: “We can suspend any of the rules if we think it is important.

“Whether it’s tomorrow or a week or a month, we will take whatever time is required to make sure that the future of our children is protected, the family is protected, and the sovereignty nation of the protected.

“The issues of technicalities is not a big deal to anybody. But the big deal… is that homosexuality is not a human right here in Uganda.”

Malevolence Personified

Jim Burroway

August 4th, 2014

livelyScott Lively is “not unhappy” — that’s the closest semblance to humanity that he can muster — that Uganda’s Constitutional Court voided the Anti-Homosexuality Act last Friday. His mitigated joy is not because the law was unjust, but because he thinks this latest development can provide him with some kind of vindication:

Now that the Ugandan government has shown itself capable of self-governance, I’m waiting for calls of apology from media outlets around the world who for years have insinuated (or outright insisted) that the Ugandans were merely my puppets in a nefarious scheme to persecute homosexuals there. That lie is also, of course, the premise of the “Crimes Against Humanity” lawsuit filed against me here in U.S. Federal Court by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and their Marxist New York attorneys of the ironically named Center for Constitutional Rights.

…The evolutionist hero Charles Darwin taught that Blacks were an intermediary step in the evolutionary progression of apes into human beings… Darwin’s intellectual descendants dominate western civilization today, including the so-called mainstream media. Individual politicians and journalists may not personally express such blatantly offensive beliefs, but their Neo-Colonial attitude toward the Africans in the matter of African countries legislating their own moral values is grossly paternalistic at best — and inescapably implicitly racist.

In contrast, I, and my fellow Christians who have served as missionaries to Africa for generations have always treated the Africans as equals, created in the image of God just as we are. Every Christian who has ever visited Uganda knows that the typical Ugandans are a warm and lovely people: intelligent, caring and capable. Though they are very poor, their culture (outside of some areas which still embrace paganism) is highly civilized and its leaders are well educated and quite competent.

That is rich. Lively, who last I checked was still white, describes himself as the “Father of the Ugandan Pro-Family Movement.” You literally cannot get any more paternalistic than that. Those titular caps are all his, which he bestowed upon himself when he listed his qualifications to run for Massachusetts governor in 2012. He’s long had a paternal view of his Ugandan partners. In 2010, he told reporter Mariana van Zeller:

I was actually one of the people that helped to start the pro-family movement there. …they were finding people there, primarily homosexual men from Europe and the United States coming into the country and working to try to change the social values. And they didn’t know what to do. They had never had a pro-family movement. This was all new to them. So they wanted to draft some kind of law. And it wasn’t written at that point. It was just sort of the idea that they wanted to do something. So they invited me to come and speak along with a couple of other people from the U.S., and I did.

"Can anyone say AIDS?" Scott Lively calling AIDS a just punishment from God at an anti-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda, March 7, 2009.

“Can anyone say AIDS?” Scott Lively calling AIDS a just punishment from God at an anti-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda, March 7, 2009.

That talk he gave, he bragged, was his “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.” Those weren’t my words, that was his boast just a week after he dropped that bomb:

On the positive side, my host and ministry partner in Kampala, Stephen Langa, was overjoyed with the results of our efforts and predicted confidently that the coming weeks would see significant improvement in the moral climate of the nation, and a massive increase in pro-family activism in every social sphere. He said that a respected observer of society in Kampala had told him that our campaign was like a nuclear bomb against the “gay” agenda in Uganda. I pray that this, and the predictions, are true. [Emphasis mine]

Don’t you see? He started the so-called “pro-family” movement there. He spoke on the radio and in churches, instruct them in dealing with all those homosexuals. He, who knew they were thinking about writing a new law, spent the morning of March 5, 2009 meeting with members of Uganda’s Parliament at the Parliament Conference Hall. He went on television to “expose[] a book distributed to schools by UNICEF that normalizes homosexuality to teenagers.” He expected a massive protest in response to his work (which he got over the next several weeks.) He proudly dropped that “nuclear bomb” on Uganda. And after all of those boasts, he accuses his critics of being “grossly paternalistic at best — and inescapably implicitly racist.” But not him, the great “Father of the Ugandan Pro-Family Movement.”

Even his “nuclear bomb” analogy is megalomaniacal. It’s also somewhat problematic. It implies that, much like the unsuspecting residents of Hiroshima on a quiet and sunny August morning, we were all just going about our business when suddenly – Boom! — out of nowhere, Lively came along and laid waste to the landscape. I’m sure he takes a great deal of satisfaction with that image, but it’s inaccurate, just as inaccurate as the charge that holds him responsible for “exporting” homophobia to Uganda — as though they didn’t already have a vast supplies of it before he got there. Whenever I’ve been invited to speak on these events, I’ve used a different analogy. I would characterize the already-existing homophobia in Uganda as a ranging bonfire, and what Lively did was fly by and dump a jetload of napalm on it. Lively didn’t create the homophobic conditions, but he unquestionably added more than enough fuel to propel events forward in a direct line to where we are today.

LivelyInUganda

“The gay movement is an evil institution.” Kampala, March 7, 2009.

Lively was joined by two other Americans at his now-infamous 2009 talk in Kampala: Exodus International board member Don Schmierer and Caleb Lee Brundidge,  a so-called “life coach” for Richard Cohen’s ex-gay outfit, the International Healing Foundation. (Brundidge also went around Phoenix’s mortuaries praying to raise the dead, undoubtedly with a similar success rate.) The talks by Schmierer and Brundidge were mild-mannered by American standards, but they prepared the ground for Lively by building up his credibility as a political and legal expert. Lively ran with it. He described the gay movement as an “evil institution.” They’re after your children, he warned. AIDS,  was just “the penalty of your error which is appropriate,” he said. “Super-macho” gay men were responsible for the Nazi gas chambers, he declared. “The Rwandan stuff probably involved these guys,” he added, referring to the 1994 massacre that took place just across Uganda’s southern border, only seven hours away by car. He took the many myths and fears about gay people that were already circulating there and amplified it with his own self-aggrandizement: “I know more about this than almost anyone in the world.”

April 19, 2009 edition of Uganda’s Red Pepper.

The Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper, April 19, 2009.

This was his message, at that conference (and on the DVD taped there to be distributed later), in churches, on radio and television, and in meetings with political leaders. His campaign was highly effective, perhaps even beyond his fondest dreams. It’s no wonder Lively prefers to glory in the power of his nuclear bomb. And while the analogy is problematic in the details, I’ll go with it. But I have to ask: who drops a nuclear bomb and then turns around and scoffs at the suggestion that it created a toxic rain of radioactive fallout?

Well, Scott Lively does. Soon after he left Uganda, its LGBT citizens found themselves engulfed in a nationwide vigilante campaign cheered on by the tabloids and FM radio. (How’s that for a Rwanda echo?) There were marches on Parliament while ordinary LGBT people found themselves besieged by mobs, kicked out of their homes, abandoned by their families and fired from their jobs. But Lively countered that it wasn’t his fault; it was all the homosexuals’ fault“:

It is as if the militant ranks of “Code Pink” were transported back to 1890s America to agitate for “sexual freedom.” Our great grandparents would not have countenanced this. There would have been violence, as there has now been in Uganda.

That is, of course, the strategy: Agents provocateur goad unsophisticated natives into over-reacting, while the “gay” media lie in wait to catch the images and spin the propaganda that is even now poisoning the gullible against the Ugandans.

“Unsophisticated natives” — who’s being paternalistic and implicitly racist now?

The Anti-Homosexualty Bill that emerged from his nuclear fallout would have mandated lifetime imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality, and the death penalty for, among others, those who were HIV-positive or were “serial offenders” of any part of that bill. Other parts of the bill imposed lengthy prison sentences for anyone who provided services or rented homes to LGBT people, or who advocated on their behalf, or who failed to report them to police.

I have no evidence to tie Lively’s handiwork to any particular clauses in that draconian bill, but Lively’s interview with van Zeller is revealing. When asked if he supported the bill, his only objection was to the death penalty. She asked about the other clauses. “I would not have written the bill this way,” he replied, but declined to say which other clauses should be eliminated or modified. His only complaint was that the bill missed an opportunity to make Uganda “the first country in the world to have a government-sponsored ex-gay therapy.” He wanted to give Ugandans the false choice between coerced ex-gay therapy and spending the rest of their lives in the notorious Luzira prison. But then he added:

Like I said, I would not have written the bill this way. But what it comes down to is a question of lesser of two evils, you know like many of the political choices that we have. What is the lesser of two evils here? To allow the American and European gay activists to continue to do to that country what they’ve done here? Or to have a law that may be overly harsh in some regards for people who are indulging in voluntary sexual conduct? I think the lesser of two evils is for the bill to go through.

Mariana van Zeller quickly followed up:

Hmmm... Let's see...

Hmmm… Let’s see…

van Zeller: Even with the death penalty attached to it?

Lively: Even with the death penalty… well… if it’s clearly restricted to pedophiles… I still don’t… No, I’ve told them I won’t support it if it has the death penalty in it. So even with that, I think that would do more harm… It’s… it’s… it’s just that’s the sort of vice that you’re sort of trapped in here. It’s two very extreme positions, and they’re… The Ugandans could have gone the middle course, and they didn’t have to go this far. So you’re sort of… people like myself are sort of stuck. Am I going to endorse something that goes too far to protect the whole society? You know, and I guess I have to say just on my principles I don’t believe that it’s… that I could support it that way.

You can see his internal conflict here. He considers the question, and actually spends a good fifteen seconds — I timed it on the video — hemming and hawing as he turns it over in his mind before he finally says “I’ve told them I won’t support it if it has the death penalty in it.” But that’s still not the end of his answer. He complains that he has to make a choice — that “people like myself are sort of stuck” — between whether people should live or die. I mean seriously, who responds to a question about whether gay people should be put to death by having to mull it over in his mind?

RedPepper2014.02.27

Red Pepper, February 27, 2014.

Scott Lively does, and Parliament went on to pass the bill into law. Just before it did so in a rushed session in December 2013, it approved a few minor modifications. It dropped the death penalty and replaced it with lifetime prison sentence — as if that were an improvement, and after rejecting a proposal to reduce the penalty for plain-old-homosexuality to fourteen years. It dropped the clause requiring family members to report their loved ones to police, but it added a provision mandating life in prison for those who enter into a same-sex marriage — even if they did so while abroad. After President Yoweri Museveni signed that bill into law, Lively’s only response was to chastise Obama for calling it “a step backwards for Ugandans.” Meanwhile, Uganda’s leading tabloid launched yet another multi-day vigilante campaign featuring hundreds of names, addresses, places of employment and even photos, driving LGBT people underground and fleeing for their lives. Who looks at of this and merely shrugs his shoulders and says not to worry, it won’t be so bad?

Of course you know the answer. Scott Lively does, and he did it in his second response/excuse for the law. This one was particularly condescending to Uganda: “Poor countries with limited criminal justice systems tend to rely on the harshness of the letter of the law to be a deterrent to offenders. In practice, the sentencing is usually pretty lenient and I expect that will be the case under this new law as well.” As if the Ugandan people didn’t deserve better and its government couldn’t possibly be expected to meet the usual standards we expect from nations who style themselves democracies.

Love the sinner, hate the sin, right? We’ve all heard that before. Lively himself instructed a Latvian audience in 2007 to use that phrase as an inoculation against charges of hating gay people. But more recently he admitted that the empty incantation was just that: nothing more than “a disclaimer to prove (Christians) aren’t haters.”He then lamented that this magical spell didn’t “mitigate their hostility toward me for saying it anyhow. Trust me.” Lively complains to anyone who will listen about the Southern Poverty Law Center’s labeling his Abiding Truth Ministries a hate group. But if his own sinister actions and cynical statements aren’t the very textbook definition of hatred, then there’s no such thing as hate anywhere.

But once again, we see his unconcealable  hatred in his latest statement on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act: “I am not unhappy that the Ugandan law as written has been nullified. I have always said it was too harsh and did not emphasize prevention and therapy for homosexual disorder.” (Emphasis mine.) He saves that gossamer-thin sentiment for his very last paragraph, and I suppose we’re supposed to feel lucky he conceded that much.

Westboro Baptist is typically held up as the go-to example for the most extreme brand of anti-gay hatred  imaginable, but I must strongly disagree. Westboro is a circus side show, a bunch of clowns with a talent for tweaking their targets, but with no results to show for it. Lively’s evil has had real-world consequences. And by his boasts, we can see how much satisfaction he derives from his malevolence.

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

Jim Burroway

August 2nd, 2014

The first video is an excellent report from NTV Uganda.

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

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

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

Uganda’s Government to Appeal Court Decision Nullifying Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2014

Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, quotes MP David Bahati as saying that the government will appeal the Constitutional Court’s decision striking down the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to the nation’s Supreme Court:

Ndorwa West MP, David Bahati on Friday said that the Attorney General will petition the Supreme Court over the Constitutional Court ruling on the Act; just hours after court nullified it (Anti-Homosexuality law) which was approved by President Yoweri Museveni in February 2014.

“I want to thank the speaker, MPs who stood for what is right. The lawyer that represented government said she was not given chance to prove that there was quorum in parliament.

The court case ruling is no victory at all, the morals of the people of Uganda will prevail,” Mr Bahati said in a press briefing before adding, “The Attorney General who is very competent will petition the constitutional court over the constitutional court ruling. Our competent legal team will continue to petition the Supreme Court and I believe we will win.”

Bahati was the sponsor of the Private Member’s Bill. There has been no confirmation from the Attorney General’s office. The Constitutional Court is made up of five members of Uganda’s Court of Appeals and is subordinate to the nation’s Supreme Court.

Constitutional Court Strikes Down Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Uganda’s Constitutional Court Strike Down the Anti-Homosexuality Act Tomorrow?

Jim Burroway

July 31st, 2014

The highly unusual speed with which Uganda’s Constitutional Court is responding to the petition filed by several human rights activists is being seen by many as a good omen for a possible declaration striking down the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act which was signed into law last February. Human rights activists filed their challenge in March,  but seeing cases dragging on with almost no action for more than a year is the norm in Uganda’s judicial system. Ugandan’s often talk of things happening in “African Time.” So the Constitutional Court’ts snap call for parties to be ready to present their cases on Wednesday caught a lot of people off guard, including State Attorney Patricia Mutesi who complained that she wasn’t prepared to proceed with her arguments and asked for a delay. That request was rejected. That leaves a lot of folks wondering why the Court is in such an uncharacteristic rush:

Rumors are flying around Kampala in an effort to make sense of the court’s sudden haste in this case. There is speculation that it was ordered to strike down the law by President Yoweri Museveni in order to please the World Bank — which is holding up a $90 million loan over the bill — or to satisfy the United States in advance of next week’s Summit of African Leaders in Washington. Others suggest the court is trying to bolster Prime Minister Mbabazi by validating his call for a quorum; Museveni moved aggressively shortly after the vote to isolate Mbabazi to prevent him from mounting a leadership challenge.

LGBT acticist Frank Mugisha is optimistic, while Pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa is glum:

“I think that we could have a very good judgment tomorrow, and if we get that judgment then it’s over – and we just have to celebrate,” said Mugisha, who heads the Sexual Minorities Uganda group.

Anti-gay preacher Martin Ssempa, who was also in court, said he feared the “judicial abortion of our bill” due to international pressure.

“This case is moving at lightning speed,” he said, claiming the petition was being pushed to polish Uganda’s international reputation before Museveni travels to Washington next week to meet President Barack Obama at a landmark US-Africa summit.

The Constitutional Court focused its attention this week on the question of whether Parliament acted with the constitutionally-required quorum when it passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act in December. The expected ruling tomorrow will be on that question. If the court rules agaisnt the petitioners on the quorum issue, then proceedings will continue on whether the AHA’s provisions violate Uganda’s constitutional guarantees to a number of rights, including the right to privacy, freedom from discrimination, and freedoms of assembly and speech.

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

Jim Burroway

July 31st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

88. Quorum of Parliament.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Lively Upset That John Oliver Quoted Him

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2014
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John Oliver did a major segment Sunday night on HBO’s Last Week Tonight focusing on the influence of people like Scott Lively on Uganda’s rising homophobia which culminated in the passage of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act last February. Lively took umbrage over Oliver’s playing back some of the crazy things Lively has said over the past several years:

I find it funny that lefties like John Oliver who pose as humanitarians are the masters at dehumanizing other people through ridicule and never give the subjects of their smears a fair chance to respond.

I’m calling out John Oliver as a liar and a fraud who couldn’t go ten minutes with me in an unscripted, unedited debate. Without his teleprompter and his cheap-shot, out-of-context video clips he would be exposed as just another left-wing loony.

Oliver is lying through selective editing re Rwanda and several other points. His show was one continuous stream of malicious LGBT propaganda in the guise of comedy.

You can see what Lively said about Rwanda and several other points here, when BTB debuted details of his March 2009 talk for the first time.

U.S. Announces Sanctions Against Uganda As Human Rights Violations Surge

Jim Burroway

June 24th, 2014

After Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands to immediately announce a combined $37 million in aid cuts, and the World Bank announced that it would delay a $90 million loan to Uganda’s health service. Four months later, the Obama Administration finally came forward with a package of sanctions against the Ugandan government:

The United States will halt $2.4 million in funding for a Ugandan community policing programme in light of a police raid on a US-funded health programme at Makerere University and reports of people detained and abused while in police custody.

In addition, Washington will shift some funding for salaries and travel expenses of Ugandan health ministry employees to non-governmental agencies involved in health programmes.

It will also reallocate $3 million in funding for a planned national public health institute in Uganda to another African country, which it did not name. A National Institutes of Health genomics meeting would be moved from Uganda to South Africa, the White House said.

It also cancelled plans for a US-sponsored military exercise in Uganda that was meant to include other East African countries.

The U.S. will also deny visas to a targeted list of Ugandan citizens, including those “involved in serious human rights abuses, including against LGBT individuals.” But it won’t end its humanitarian support for Uganda or its cooperation with the Uganda Military in its fight against the Joseph Kony-led Lord’s Resistance Army. The U.S. total bilateral aid package to Uganda across several U.S. agencies is estimated to be at about $486 million, including about $36 million in military aid to assist in the fight against the LRA and Uganda’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Uganda warns that the latest round of cuts will hurt the nation’s “most vulnerable”:

“Uganda considers this announcement by the US regrettable as some of the halted funding and programmes in Uganda are those that will affect the most vulnerable people that the US government purports to support and aims to protect,” the foreign affairs ministry said in statement.

…Uganda’s foreign ministry insisted relations would not be harmed.

“There are more areas of cooperation between the Uganda and the US, as the two countries continue to share a lot in common on both regional and international issues,” the statement added.

Since the Anti-Homosexuality Act became law, international observers have reported a “surge” in human rights violations in the country, including forced closures of NGO’s, raids, arrests and at least one murder of a transgender person. Immediately after the bill was signed, it unleashed another wave of anti-gay vigilantism in the Uganda media. Last month, Sexual Minorities Uganda issued a report (PDF: 1.1MB/28 pages) cataloguing “162 reported incidences of persecution perpetrated against Ugandan LGBTI people,” including violence, kidnapping, torture, arrests, blackmail, evictions, firings from jobs, being disowned by families, and suicide. Seventeen people were arrested between February 25 and May 1, compared to just one in all of 2013 and none in 2012.

Meanwhile, the combined weight of previously announced AID cuts is starting to take its toll on the Uganda economy. The Uganda Shilling has fallen nearly 6% since the law was signed in February:

Foreign aid makes up about 4% of Uganda’s gross national income, and is equal to more than a third of government revenues. If its volume continues to decrease significantly, that’s going to be noticeable—already, local traders are predicting dollar shortages.

Uganda’s opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), which has long suffered brutal repression by Museveni’s government, sees a small silver lining in the aid cuts:

During the FDC weekly press conference at the party headquarters in Najjanankumbi, the FDC spokesperson, Mr John Kikonyogo said the negative implications of the sanctions will call for financial discipline and morality among government institutions.

He also said the travel bans will reduce government expenditure on meaningless travel by officials thus ensuring transparency and accountability in government expenditure.

Ugandan LGBT Activist Seeks Asylum in U.S.

Jim Burroway

May 7th, 2014

John Abdallah Wambere, who goes by the nickname “Long Jones,” filed for asylum in the U.S. yesterday, saying that if he were to return to Uganda, he would face persecution and potential prosecution under the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act which President Yoweri Museveni signed into law in February. He is a longtime gay activist who cof-founded Spectrum Uganda fourteen years ago. He appeared at a press conference in Boston with attorneys from Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) to discuss his decision:

“This has been a very, very difficult decision for me,” said Wambere in a statement to the media. “I have devoted my life to working for LGBTI people in Uganda, and it gives me great pain not to be with my community, allies, and friends while they are under increasing attack. But in my heart, I know it is my only option, and that I would be of no use to my community in jail.”

Inside spread of Red Pepper, dated Saturday, March 1. Wambere’s photo appeared at top left. (Click to enlarge.)

Just a week after the Anti-Homosexuality Act was signed into law, the Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper launched yet another anti-gay vigilante campaign. Wambere’s photo appeared in the tabloid’s March 1 edition under a headline touting “Ugandan Homos Cabinet List Leaks.” GLAD explains what has happened to him since February:

As a co-founder of the LGBTI rights group Spectrum Uganda Initiatives, John knew he was in danger. His photo and name had been plastered on the front page of Ugandan newspapers, outing him as gay under headlines like “Men of Shame Exposed”. Clients had been fleeing his travel agency till his business dropped off to nothing.  He had been questioned by relatives and shunned by neighbors.  He endured the murder of his friend David Kato.  He had been evicted, repeatedly arrested, harassed on the street by strangers, and received threatening anonymous phone calls.

Wambere appeared in the documentary Call Me Kuchu, which portrays the hardships experienced by LGBT Ugandans, including the brutal murder of LGBT activist David Kato in January 2011. He also appeared in the 2010 Current TV documentary Missionaries of Hate.

Uganda Considers Another Round of Anti-Gay/Human Rights Laws Targeting NGOs

Jim Burroway

April 30th, 2014

It’s hard to fathom that a country that enacted one of the world’s more restrictive anti-gay laws just a little over two months ago, and with it earned international condemnation, would go back to that well again. But it looks like that is exactly what they are about to do:

Uganda has drafted a new law that would bar non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from promoting homosexuality, tightening rules further after anti-gay legislation in February was widely condemned as draconian.

The draft, now being studied by the cabinet before being introduced in parliament, would also ban foreign NGOs from meddling in the east African country’s politics, junior internal affairs minister James Baba told Reuters on Monday.

The government has already raided at least one HIV/AIDS research and service NGO, this one operated by the U.S. military, over allegations that it has violated the Anti-Homosexualty Act’s clauses against “aiding and abetting” and “promoting” homosexuality. The U.S. responded by suspending that project, but it has been reluctant to suspend major portions of the U.S.’s estimated $723 million aid package while Ugandan troops continue peacekeeping operations in Somalia while also battling insurgents from the Lord’s Resistance Army. Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark and Britain have already announced direct aid suspensions to the Ugandan government, but the European Union ambassador to Uganda has downplayed talk of wider aid cuts.

The draft NGO law appears to be much broader than the reported sexuality aspects. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, will stand again for yet another five year term in the 2016 elections. His government has come under increasing fire over rampant corruption, the government’s repression of press freedoms and its harassment and detention of opposition figures:

Local and international rights groups have been especially vocal in highlighting mounting violence against members of opposition and the impunity enjoyed by corrupt officials loyal to Museveni, who they say is eager to close all key platforms that give a voice to civil society.

Last year parliament, which is heavily dominated by the ruling party, passed a public order management law that requires any group of more than three people meeting to discuss politics to first seek permission from the police chief.

A Kampala-based human rights lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, said the law was aimed at blunting NGOs’ criticism of government corruption.

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