Posts Tagged As: Uganda

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

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2W41pvvZs0#t=325[/youtube]

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.

Uganda Police Raid Another HIV Service Provider

Jim Burroway

April 9th, 2014

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJdFHnG_UuI[/youtube]

Last week, police in Kampala raided and shut down an HIV/AIDS Service provider funded by the U.S. military’s Walter Reed Project. This morning, NTV Uganda reports on another raid taking place in the Nakasero district in downtown Kampala where most of the government and diplomatic buildings are located.

Kampala police yesterday released this statement concerning the raid at the Walter Reed Project. It appears that they had been sending undercover officers to the project. Note the depiction of materials describing safe sex practices as a “same-sex pornographic film.”
Police received a report that an NGO based in Nakasero area of Kampala was carrying out recruitment and training of young males in unnatural sexual acts.

Police deployed crime intelligence officers to verify the claims, by infiltrating the project. Two officers undertook the assignment.

The officers were registered for training by the NGO, and given identification numbers. The training targeted youth between the ages of 18 and 25.The trainees were shown videos of men engaging in homosexual activity, and they were encouraged to bring along their sexual partners.

The trainees were further given literature describing safe sexual practice between males, as well as condoms and lubricant. They were each paid between UGX. 10,000 to UGX. 100,000, as transport refund, at the end of each training session. On 4th of April, 2014, crime intelligence officers observed a large number of participants being shown a same-sex pornographic film. The officers identified themselves to the facilitators, and asked for an explanation on what was happening.

On learning of the presence of the Police, the participants fled. One of the facilitators accompanied the officers to Jinja Road Police Station to assist in investigation, and was later released.

The NGO later complained to the Inspector-General of Police of harassment and unprofessional conduct by the officers involved, and the IGP has directed the Professional Standards Unit to investigate.

In the meantime, we appeal to all persons who may have participated in this training, or have information that could assist the Police in the investigation, to volunteer such information to the Police.

Fred Enanga

Police Spokesman
Uganda Police Force

U.S. Suspends Ugandan HIV Research Project

Jim Burroway

April 8th, 2014

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1HufVWyrnw[/youtube]

Last week, we briefly mentioned reports coming out of Uganda that police had raided the Makerere University Walter Reed Project, a U.S.-funded joint project with the university and the U.S. military’s HIV research program. NTVUganda reports more on the raid above, which comes as a direct consequence of the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. One of the provisions of the act criminalizes “promotion” of homosexuality and another provision criminalizes “aiding and abetting” homosexuality. The U.S. State Department has responded by suspending the program:

We are deeply concerned that a U.S.-funded health clinic and medical research facility, the Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP), was raided by Ugandan authorities on April 3, leading to the arrest of one of the facility’s employees, allegedly for conducting “unethical research” and “recruiting homosexuals.” While that individual was subsequently released, this incident significantly heightens our concerns about respect for civil society and the rule of law in Uganda, and for the safety of LGBT individuals.

The MUWRP is engaged in efforts to improve public health and save lives. The Ugandan government is responsible for protecting all of its people, and attacks and intimidation of health care workers are unacceptable. The safety of health workers must be respected. We have temporarily suspended the operations of MUWRP to ensure the safety of staff and beneficiaries, and the integrity of the program.

This suspension comes just three weeks after the Obama Administration announced an increase in military advisers, special forces and aircraft to Uganda to aid in its battle against the insurgency led by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Liberation Army.

EU Downplays Ugandan Sanctions Over Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

April 3rd, 2014

LGBT advocates in Uganda are split over the question of foreign aid cuts in response to the country’s adoption of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act. Many have argued that any actions taken against Uganda should be aimed at addressing the much larger human rights problems in what is increasingly becoming a one-party kleptocracy. Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank Mugisha and others have cautioned against aid cuts:

“We can’t afford to create new victims,” (Mugisha) said on Twitter this week. “We should go after the crazy politicians! Not innocent Ugandans.”

…Edwin Sesange, director of the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, said in a Gay Star News comment piece: ‘Aid in various forms helps all ordinary Ugandans, including LGBTI people who we are campaigning for. “Therefore the consequences of not being able to access those services financed by foreign aid will directly impact gay, lesbian, trans and bi Ugandans wellbeing. Our parents, sisters, brothers, friends and other relatives will also become victims. By contrast, most proponents of homophobia in Uganda can afford luxurious lives without depending on some foreign aid funded projects.”

He added: Politicians and the anti-gay vigilantes are using this threat from developed countries as a way of convincing people the west is using foreign aid and its influence to spread homosexuality to Uganda. We need to change this argument such people can understand the role of the western countries has is fighting homophobia, not making people gay. Western leaders need to assess the risks of their strategies before LGBTI people pay the consequences.”

Meanwhile, Ugandan critics question why the West is ignoring the protracted government-sponsored violence against opposition leaders and their supporters and focusing all of their attention on the LGBT population.  This is the best way to understand the situation on the ground that the European Union Ambassador to Uganda Kristian Schmidt is trying to address in this interview with NTV Uganda yesterday.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZXrtqmbZ1Q[/youtube]

Europe is not here to exchange money for African values. This is not the nature of our partnership. Our partnership is one of equal partners where what we do in the area of development cooperation is discussed and agreed with our Ugandan partners.

The discussion that we have on human rights are not conditional, and that’s why it’s important to note that we are not threatening. We didn’t threaten with aid cuts during the process of legislative adoption of the bill. This is not how Europe operates.

J. Lester Feder at Buzzfeed has more on the assurances Ambassador Schmidt says that he is seeking from the Uganda Government:

During an interview in his office in the Ugandan capital on Wednesday, Schmidt would not specify what assurances the E.U. sought from the five cabinet officials he met with behind closed doors last week. But, he said, he was “very” satisfied with the conversation and expected to resume the discussion after Ugandan officials returned from a summit between E.U. leaders and African leaders being held this week in Brussels.

“I am satisfied with the fact that … there were five ministers [in the meeting] … ready to give us assurances, that the law wouldn’t mean violations of privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, [and] the way medical care will be extended in facilities that are already caring for men who have sex with men,” Schmidt said. And while the E.U. believes the “law is discriminatory from A to Z and it has to be repealed,” he said, “there are ways to limit the damage. I want to keep working on that [through dialogue].”

…”We do not try to buy African acceptance for European or universal values through our development cooperation,” he said. “Because what happens when you try to do that, you get the [backlash] that we’re seeing…. It’s not productive to present it as a trade off.”

It’s hard to see what meaningful assurances government could offer when arrests like these are continuing across Uganda and suspects are being paraded before TV cameras:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Za7QBJKV1g[/youtube]

Two men suspected of engaging in homosexuality acts have been arrested in Oyam. Oyam District Police Commander, Najibu Waiswa says 22-year-old Maurice Okello and his alleged partner, 18-year-old Anthony Oluku were caught red handed. Police claims the two admitted to having been involved in acts of homosexuality.

Meanwhile, Frank Mugisha is tweeting this morning that police have raided an NGO at Makarere University which receives PEPFAR funds from the US over services it provides to LGBT people:

Ugandans Celebrate Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2014

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHR8vBnstlA[/youtube]

Uganda’s Inter-Religious Council, a coalition of religious denominations, organized a ceremony of prayer and thanksgiving yesterday at the Kololo Independence Grounds, the nationally-revered site where Uganda’s independence was declared in 1962. Religious and political leaders gathered to honor President Yoweri Museveni for signing the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law despite widespread international condemnation. Buzzfeed’s J. Lester Feder was there and described the carnival atmosphere at Kololo:

Fire jugglers, acrobats, and schoolchildren performed at a five-hour ceremony in the Ugandan capital on Monday called to celebrate the country’s new Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Speakers paid tribute to President Yoweri Museveni, the official guest of honor, and linked Uganda’s fight against homosexuality with shedding its colonial past in an event that had the feeling of a campaign rally.

“Today, we come here again [to celebrate] sovereignty and freedom … [and] to take charge of our destiny,” said David Bahati, the lawmaker who sponsored the bill, noting that the event was taking place at the Kololo Independence Grounds, the parade grounds where Ugandan independence was granted in 1962. “The citizens of Uganda are with you, Mr. President. The religious and cultural leaders are with you, Mr. President. The members of parliament and the nation is behind you.”

Sheik Shaban Mubajje, Mufti of Uganda, spoke on behalf of the Inter-Religious Council in offering prayers of thanksgiving for the Anti-Homosexuality Act, while complaining that foreign donors have cut US$3.5 million in aid to the group that had been earmarked its HIV/AIDS programs. HIV/AIDS providers and legal experts have warned that the overly broad wording of the Anti-Homosexuality Act’s “aiding and abetting” clause would, at best, have a chilling effect on the delivery HIV/AIDS services to LGBT people, and, at worst, could be interpreted as criminalizing it. Other religious leaders offering thanksgiving prayers included Roman Catholic Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, and evangelical pastor Simon Peter Emiau. Ahead of the celebration, Pastor Martin Ssempa, of “eat-da-poo-poo” fame and staunch supporter of the new law, led a march of supporters from Makarere University to Kololo.

Museveni charged that Western countries were “attacking our culture, which is the bedrock of our survival,” and promised to support a domestic fund to replace lost foreign dollars for HIV/AIDS.

U.S. To Announce Sanctions Against Uganda

Jim Burroway

March 24th, 2014

Key members of Congress were reportedly briefed yesterday on the Obama Administrations plans to curtail or redirect U.S. aid to Uganda in response to Yoweri Museveni’s signing the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law. According to Buzzfeed, the Administration has settled on four specific steps:

Money will be shifted away from the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, a group that has publicly come out in support of the anti-gay law and has received millions of dollars in grants from the United States to help fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Some $2.3 million will continue to go to the IRCU to continue treatment for some 50,000 current patients, but an additional $6.4 million intended for the IRCU will go to other organizations.

The Inter-Religious Council is a coalition of Ugandan Roman Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Christian Orthodox and Seventh-Day Adventist faith leaders. When the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first proposed in Parliament in 2009, the Inter-Religious Council debated the bill and many of its members gave it their full backing, although many questioned the death penalty provision in the original bill. But by the following spring, the Inter-Religious Council softened its support somewhat. Two weeks ago, the Inter-Religious Council defended the aims of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, while also calling on the government to revisit the legislation and asked that for a dialogue “with the donor community on the looming suspension of aid to our country.”

The remaining three steps the Obama Administration will take include:

Second, because the law makes “promoting homosexuality” illegal, a U.S. funded study to help identify populations at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS has been suspended. The study, which was going to be conducted by a Ugandan university and the Center for Disease Control, has been suspended out of fear that both staff and survey respondents could be put in danger.

Third, because any LGBT person or LGBT ally who now enters Uganda is at risk, money intended for tourism programs will be redirected. “Therefore, approximately $3 million in funding designated for tourism and biodiversity promotion will be redirected to NGOs working on biodiversity protection,” (National Security Council spokesman Jonathan) Lalley said.

And finally, the Department of Defense had several events scheduled in the country later this spring and those will be moved to other locations. “Certain near-term invitational travel” for Ugandan military and police personnel has also been suspended or canceled.

Norway, Demark, the Netherlands, which collectively had provided $27 million in aid to Uganda, have already announced their aid cuts aid to the Ugandan government. Sweden has cut just a little over $1 million in direct government-to-government aid, but was continuing to provide aid to non-governmental programs. Last month, the World Bank said it was delaying a $90 million loan to Uganda’s health service.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act provides for a lifetime sentence for those who are convicted of homosexuality. It also imposes a lifetime sentence for those who are 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 provides for the extradition of any “person charged with an offence under this Act.”

A coalition of Ugandan human rights activists are currently challenging the Anti-Homosexuality Act before the country’s Constitutional Court.

Uganda’s Inter-Religious Council Calls On Government to Revisit Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

March 14th, 2014

While the rest is outraged over Uganda’s passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act which imposes lifetime imprisonment for LGBT people and lengthy prison sentences for their supporters, the controversy inside Uganda is being augmented over a recently passed Anti-Pornography Act, which, according to reports (caveat: I haven’t seen the text of the Act itself), allegedly bans women from wearing miniskirts. This has led to a number of mob assaults on women throughout the country who are seen wearing clothing that others perceive to be in violation of the law. In many of these cases, the women have been forcibly stripped of their clothing in public.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHuNcpXeKGE[/youtube]

This is just part of the background behind a letter from the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda that appeared in yesterday’s Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper. The letter from the Council’s General Secretary calls on the government to revisit the Anti-Pornography Act somewhat in passing while arguing for major changes to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Inter-religious Council of Uganda would like to comment on the homosexuality and pornography debate particularly the anti-homosexuality and anti-pornography laws.

Having studied the two laws in detail, we have come to the conclusion that the laws actually seek to protect the moral fibre of our society by stopping recruitment and promotion of homosexual acts, and indecent behaviour.

In our earlier statements on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, we demonstrated availability of evidence to prove that recruitment into and promotion of homosexuality was indeed taking place in some of our schools and society as a whole, and this was targeting mainly young people.

However, we discovered that a number of clauses in the laws could be subject of abuse. For example: Section 2 of the Anti-Homosexuality Act is too broad as it talks about incriminating someone on the basis of “touching a person of the same sex with the motive of having sex with them”. The interpretation of “touch” is subjective, and may imply that anyone can be accused of homosexuality and fail to defend himself.

Section 13 of the same Act stipulates that it is an offence for “any person to use electronic devices (internet, films and mobile phones) for purposes of abetting or promoting homosexuality. The problem here is that if a person/media house writes an article trying to show homosexuality as ‘natural’ then he/she commits an offence earning a stiff penalty to either the individual or the media house.

In light of the above, we propose the following:

Parliament revisits certain provisions in the Act, especially those relating to punishment of offenders. Our view, which is informed by pastoral considerations and our earlier position in which we advised government to drop certain provisions in the then Bill, is that the sentences prescribed for homosexual acts must be proportional to the gravity of such acts.

Government stops the media from publishing names of persons it purports to be homosexuals, or promoting homosexuality in Uganda. Politicians and sections of religious leaders also stop using inflammatory language in the debate on homosexuality. Government also revisits the Anti-Pornography law in light of recent attacks of women.

Government provides clear frameworks for implementation of both laws.

Government dialogues with the donor community on the looming suspension of aid to our country.

We condemn any unlawful acts of mob justice against perceived offenders, and appeal to you to embrace such persons with love and compassion as we search together answers to the issues at hand.

The Inter-Religious Council is a coalition of Ugandan Roman Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Christian Orthodox and Seventh-Day Adventist faith leaders. It’s unclear how much influence the Council wields in government or in society however. When the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first proposed in Parliament in 2009, the Inter-Religious Council debated the bill and many of its members gave it their full backing, although many questioned the death penalty provision in the original bill. But by the following spring, the Inter-Religious Council softened its support for the bill.

Norway, Demark, the Netherlands, which collectively had provided $27 million in aid to Uganda, announced that they are cutting aid to the Ugandan government. Sweden announced that they were cutting just a little over $1 million in direct government-to-goverment aid, but was continuing to provide aid to non-govermental programs. Two weeks ago, the World Bank said it was delaying a $90 million loan to Uganda’s health service. And yesterday, unconfirmed reports emerged that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was delaying an unspecified portion of an estimated $2.3 million grant to Uganda’s Ministry of Health.

The interruption in foreign aid appears to have gotten the Council’s attention. While much of the suspension has been focused on direct aid to the Ugandan Government, it’s almost certain that many of the faith-based charities in Uganda are also beginning to feel the pinch.

Report: U.S. Suspends Portion of Governmental Aid to Uganda

Jim Burroway

March 13th, 2014

Reuters, which is the only outlet so far reporting the story, quotes ” a senior U.S. government official”:

“As a result of this review process, a portion of the U.S. Centre for Disease Control’s (CDC) cooperative agreement with the Ministry of Health has been put on hold pending this review,” a senior U.S. government official told Reuters on Thursday.

The U.S. official did not say how much aid was withheld but added the CDC had spent $3.9 million on a ministry of health program last year.

Uganda’s health ministry said it had been told it would no longer be able to access money from a fund used to buy antiretroviral drugs and HIV testing kits.

There has been a great deal of concern that with the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, LGBT people in Uganda would either face discrimination when trying to access health care or would fear their exposure and arrest if they were to try to go to a government-run health care clinic or health care facility. Given that the Anti-Homosexuality Act threatens imprisonment to anyone who “aids, abets, (or) counsels …another to engage in acts of homosexuality ” — which can easily be interpreted as banning safer-sex counseling, or providing information or health care related to the sexual health to gay people — these are not unreasonable fears.

Total U.S. aid to Uganda is estimated at $723 million for 2013. As far as I can tell, this figure includes aid to the Ugandan government as well as non-governmental grants.

Norway, Demark and the Netherlands, which collectively had provided $27 million in aid to Uganda, announced that they are cutting aid to the Ugandan government. Two weeks ago, the World Bank announced that it was putting on hold a $90 million loan to Uganda’s health service. Last week, Sweden announced that they were cutting just a little over $1 million in direct government-to-goverment aid, but was continuing to provide aid to non-govermental programs.

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