Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for September, 2011

Ugandan Presidential Aide Confirms Wikileaks Conversation

Jim Burroway

September 12th, 2011

John Nagenda: "An accurate reflection."

Perhaps that headline should read “Former Ugandan Presidential Aide…”. There now appears to be a falling out between John Nagenda and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The revelation via Wikileaks of Nagenda’s frank accusation that Uganda’s First Lady Janet Museveni is “ultimately behind” the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill would certainly provide sufficient cause for the split, but this article in Uganda’s The Observer points to a more substantial dispute that’s been brewing for some time. Go read the article for more background information, but as far as his comments concerning the First Lady’s support for the bill is concerned, Nagenda confirms the cable’s message:

In an interview with The Observer on Saturday, Nagenda admitted holding the said meeting with US Embassy officials and added that he maintains the views he shared with them.

“Yes; one or two words may be slightly different. I held a conversation with the political officer and it’s an accurate reflection in the sense that I said that the President is very strongly anti-gay, but I doubted that he would support such a bill. I did accurately predict that he wouldn’t support the bill. It was extreme,” Nagenda said.

“On the First Lady – it’s a long time ago – but what I meant is that she holds very strong views where she sees morality.”

Nagenda also said he advised the donors that their threat to cut aid because of the bill was “very stupid” because Ugandans would think they were out to fight the country, “so people would dig in their heels more by supporting the bill”.

He also had critical words concerning former Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo.

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

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

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

Jim Burroway

September 12th, 2011

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

President Yoweri Museveni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo

Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikileaks: Vatican Lobbied Against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

September 11th, 2011

A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable dated December 15, 2009, reveals that the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican lobbied the Catholic church to oppose the proposed Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. According to the cable:

Embassy Vatican has actively lobbied Holy See officials to take a stand against pending legislation in Uganda that would criminalize homosexuality and in extreme cases, even punish it with death (reftel). On December 11, after the Ambassador raised USG (U.S. Government) concerns, Cardinal Antonelli Ennio, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, reaffirmed the Church’s position that legal approaches to homosexuality are inappropriate. Antonelli admitted that he had not followed the Uganda controversy closely, but agreed that Catholic bishops there or anywhere should not/not support the criminalization of homosexuality. The Ambassador urged the Cardinal to make sure bishops in Uganda understood this. Embassy poloff followed up with the Cardinal, providing information about the bill and USG concerns about it

On December 8, DCM met with Monsignor Peter Wells, Assessor in the Vatican Secretariat of State’s Section for General Affairs (NSC equivalent) and raised these issues. Monsignor Wells expressed the Vatican’s view that the Church considers homosexuality sinful but does not believe it should be criminalized. Moreover, the Church is opposed to the death penalty.

…The Vatican likely will not want bishops in Uganda to support the criminalization of homosexuality, so Embassy efforts may well translate into Vatican officials communicating with bishops in Uganda to reaffirm the Church teaching that homosexuality is a personal moral decision, which should not be penalized in any way by judicial authorities. The Vatican, however, likely will shy away from instructing the bishops directly to denounce the bill, as bishops everywhere are given a lot of leeway in deciding how to conduct pastoral work in their own dioceses. Embassy Kampala may want to reach out to the Holy See’s Nuncio and to the President of the Ugandan Conference of Catholic Bishops to further underline USG concerns.

On December 10, 2009, the Vatican released a statement which opposing “all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons,” particularly “the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State.” The statement didn’t reference Uganda by name, but that last statement was taken as an oblique reference to the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Shortly before Christmas Day that year, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Uganda, Cyprian Lwanga, denounced the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in his annual Christmas message from Rubaga Cathedral. That message was broadcast over several Ugandan television channels.

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

More On Ugandan First Lady’s Support For Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

September 11th, 2011

Following our initial report yesterday on the leaked U.S. State Department cables fingering Uganda First Lady Janet Museveni as being “ultimately behind” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a reader left a comment giving a link to the Wikileaks cable in question, and Paul Canning has more about the cable here.  The relevant section begins with a brief description of Paul Nagenda, whose December 12, 2009 column in the pro-government New Vision was seen as an encouraging sign that there were powerful vioces in the government against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  The cable describes Neganda as “one adviser against many“:

The New Vision published a column by senior presidential advisor John Nagenda against the draft anti-homosexuality legislation on December 12. Nagenda is known for challenging prevailing political winds, and has previously advised President Museveni against running for re-election in 2011. His column compared the bill to McCarthyism and the Inquisition, and urged Parliament to vote against it. In a separate discussion with PolOff (political officer), Nagenda said the New Vision – which is edited by a Dutch national – initially refused to run his column, and agreed only after Nagenda threatened to never again write for the newspaper. Nagenda said he felt morally obligated to speak out against the legislation, and accused those behind it of obfuscating differences between homosexuality, rape, incest, and pedophilia.

Nagenda said President Museveni is “quite intemperate” when it comes to homosexuality, but that the President will likely recognize the dangers of passing the anti-homosexuality legislation. He said First Lady Janet Museveni, who he described as a “very extreme woman”, is ultimately behind the bill. He added that the bill’s most vociferous public supporter, Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo, is a “very bad guy” responsible for a campaign of mass arrests – known by the Swahili term ‘panda gari’ – during the early 1980s under the Obote II regime while serving as Kampala’s District Commissioner. Nagenda said Buturo is using the anti-homosexuality legislation to redefine himself and “will do anything in his power to be a populist.” He advised the U.S. and other donors to refrain from publicly condemning the bill as this fuels the anti-homosexual and anti-western rhetoric of the bill’s proponents.

The fear about outside pressure having a negative effect on efforts to block the bill were echoed by a human rights lawyer, described as the “only human rights lawyer working to defend Ugandan homosexuals against charges under pre-existing anti-homosexuality laws.” The lawyer urged the international community to publicly oppose the bill, but said that threats to cut assistance as Sweden had already done “is counter productive and emboldens those pushing the legislation.”

The cable also reveals that members of the local gay community expressed fears over their security in the hostile environment stoked by the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Members of the community were also very nervous over a very high-profile interview of LGBT advocate Valery Kalende that appeared on the front page of the main opposition newspaper, Daily MonitorAccording to the cable:

Local gay and lesbian activists pleaded with one member, Val Kalende, to reconsider a feature interview with the opposition newspaper the Daily Monitor. The Monitor ran the interview as the front page story, along with several photographs of Kalende, on December 12. Published under an anonymous byline, the article provides a striking and remarkably well-written portrait of Kalende’s struggle against rising discrimination and hatred. After describing her initial reaction to (M.P. David) Bahati’s anti-homosexuality bill, Kalende said: “for the first time, I am very scared.” Bahati’s bill, said Kalende, “is not about homosexuality. It effects everyone; my pastor, my friends. It is not about us gays. Homosexuality is not about sodomizing young boys. What about relationships among people who are not hurting anyone?” The Monitor interview included a sidebar that dispassionately provided the facts about human homosexuality – its history and universality – and thus implicitly debunked many of the most absurd claims made by the bill’s proponents.

The first lady’s strident support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill goes directly against President Yoweri Museveni’s attempts to sideline the bill, pointing to a political division within the Museveni family. Another cable dated September 23, 2009, reveals, amid corruption allegations against the First Lady, that Janet Museveni has no ambitions to be President, preferring to remain “the power behind the throne,” and that the president is grooming his son to eventually take power:

(Ruling party insider Mike) Mukula said Museveni was increasingly patterning himself after Robert Mugabe and wants to position his son, Lieutenant Colonel Muhoozi Kainerugaba Museveni, as his eventual successor. Muhoozi returned from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in mid-2008 to assume command of the new Special Forces, a still-murky component – or potentially entirely separate unit – of the praetorian Presidential Guard Brigade comprised of all the PGB’s elite, technical, and specialized non-infantry capabilities.

However, Paul Canning points to an op-ed appearing in this morning’s Sunday Monitor questioning whether the first lady has truly given up presidential ambitions herself.

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

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

Jim Burroway

September 10th, 2011

Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Wikileaks Cables on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 17th, 2011

I’ve had to correct my earlier report on the Wikileaks dump of cables from the U.S. Embassy in Uganda concerning the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The original dump was not by The Guardian (UK) as I originally wrote, but by Spain’s El Pais nearly two weeks ago. The trove from El País provides more information than the two cables posted by the Guardian. It may be illuminating to consult our own extensive timeline and compare what we were reporting at the time with the contents of these cables.

For example, there’s this cable from December 21, which focused on the security and safety of local human rights advocates. Among their worries was an upcoming article which appeared in that country’s largest independent newspaper, Daily Monitor. That article featured a brave Val Kalinde, who went public with her difficulties in living in such a repressive atmosphere.

Local gay and lesbian activists pleaded with one member, Val Kalende, to reconsider a feature interview with the opposition newspaper the Daily Monitor. The Monitor ran the interview as the front page story, along with several photographs of Kalende, on December 12. Published under an anonymous byline, the article provides a striking and remarkably well-written portrait of Kalende’s struggle against rising discrimination and hatred. After describing her initial reaction to Bahati’s anti-homosexuality bill, Kalende said: “for the first time, I am very scared.” Bahati’s bill, said Kalende, “is not about homosexuality. It effects everyone; my pastor, my friends. It is not about us gays. Homosexuality is not about sodomizing young boys. What about relationships among people who are not hurting anyone?” The Monitor interview included a sidebar that dispassionately provided the facts about human homosexuality – its history and universality – and thus implicitly debunked many of the most absurd claims made by the bill’s proponents.

Another cable, dated January 28, 2010, describes a meeting between the newly-credentialed U.S. Ambassador Jerry P. Lanier and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. According to the cable, Ambassador Lanier received “an earful” from the Ugandan leader:

Museveni made it clear that Uganda will not further criminalize homosexual sex between consenting adults and that the provision on reporting homosexuals to authorities would also not go through. He suggested the entire bill could be dropped, and twice asked the Ambassador to remind Washington that “someone in Uganda”, meaning himself, is handling the matter and knows what he is doing. He also emphasized that Uganda’s main concern is alleged advocacy and recruitment of homosexuals, and that homosexuality between consenting adults has previously been quietly tolerated in Uganda.

The President twice referred to a recent local political cartoon depicting him on this issue as a puppet of Secretary Clinton, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Stephen Harper, and asked international donors to stand down to give him room to deal with the anti-homosexuality legislation in his own way. On the way out of the meeting, and in the presence of the Ambassador and Foreign Minster Kutesa only, Museveni directed Kutesa to arrange a private meeting with the Ambassador in February to further discuss the anti-homosexuality bill.

In another cable from February 11, 2010, Museveni met with a delegation of American diplomats at an African Union summit, and asked the Americans to back off a bit in their criticism:

Carson expressed gratitude that Museveni had tamped down the tensions surrounding Uganda’s draft  anti-homosexuality bill. Both Carson and Otero encouraged Museveni to pursue decriminalization and destigmatization of  homosexuality. Museveni warned outsiders of pushing Africa too hard on this issue, lest it create another hurricane, and lectured on African family values. He assured the USG delegation that nobody in Uganda would be executed for homosexual behavior, but explained that in the African context homosexuality is a disorder and not something to be promoted or celebrated. Don’t push it, warned Museveni, “I’ll handle it.”

In fact, Museveni had already worked to put the brakes on the bill’s passage, directing that it be studied by a subcabinet committee. The committee’s recommendations weren’t promising. Meanwhile, the bill itself was sent to two Parliamentary committees for further study. The bill is still in committee today, although there is talk that it may be brought to a vote sometime following tomorrow’s national elections during a lame-duck session of Parliament.

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

Wikileaks Posts Cables from US Embassy in Uganda Concerning Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 17th, 2011

[Update: As Paul Canning points out, these cables were originally released more than a week ago on the Spanish daily El Pais.]

The Guardian (UK) today posted cables provided by Wikileaks from the U.S. embassy in Uganda concerning that nation’s consideration of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In an accompanying article, The Guardian highlighted murdered LGBT rights advocate David Kato’s reluctant participation in a UN-sponsored debate in December, 2009, in which he was mocked during his speech. According to the cables,

(Kato) delivered a well-written speech against the bill, but his words were almost inaudible due to “his evident nervousness”. Throughout his talk a member of the Ugandan Human Rights Commission “openly joked and snickered” with supporters of the bill, the diplomat claimed in the cable.

The Christmas Eve, 2009 cable provide more context:

Bahati’s late arrival delayed the event for more than an hour, and the UHRC failed to seat any representative of those opposed to the legislation at the head table, despite seating Bahati and – for unexplained reasons – Uganda’s most outspoken anti-gay activist Martin Ssempa. A comment by an audience member later prompted the UHRC to correct this imbalance by inviting a clearly hesitant and nervous SMUG leader, David Kato, to sit beside Ssempa on the dais. Ssempa proceeded to shake Kato’s hand while striking absurd poses for the assembled press corps.

Bahati’s remarks mirrored his private statements to PolOffs. Bahati also attacked the White House statement opposing the bill, saying that he admires President Obama, that President Obama ran on a platform of change, and that Uganda’s message to him is that “homosexuality is not a change but rather an evil that we must fight.” At this point the room erupted in loud applause, led by Ssempa pounding his hand on the head table, and Bahati observed that oil revenues will free Uganda of foreign entanglements. At other points in Bahati’s tirade against homosexuality, Ssempa registered his support by issuing audible sounds of disgust.

U.S. diplomat wrote of Bahati’s “isolation” following Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren’s condemnation of the bill. The diplomat wrote:

Recent condemnations by Warren and other U.S. based individuals have further isolated Bahati. His homophobia, however, is blinding and incurable. Bahati, Buturo, and particularly Ssempa’s ability to channel popular anger over Uganda’s socio-political failings into violent hatred of a previously unpopular but tolerated minority is chilling. XXXXXXXXXXXX described Ssempa as an anti-homosexuality “extremist.” XXXXXXXXXXXX said he opposes the legislation not because he favors homosexuality, but because legalizing persecution of homosexuals is the first step toward state sponsored persecution of other minority groups.

It’s not just other minority groups which were concerned, but the political opposition to President Yoweri Museveni’s 25-year rule as well:

In September, Otunnu accused state security services of running a smear campaign about his sexual orientation and HIV status to discredit a potential presidential bid (ref. D). XXXXXXXXXXXX speculated that Uganda could run a similar smear campaign against Besigye, forcing him to curtail presidential campaign activities.

XXXXXXXXXXXX said the opposition FDC fears Uganda will use the anti-homosexuality legislation against Besigye, and recalled government efforts to hobble Besigye’s 2006 presidential campaign by arresting him on spurious charges of rape, terrorism, and treason. XXXXXXXXXXXX speculated that Uganda could disrupt Besigye’s 2011 campaign with phony homosexuality allegations.

In a second cable dated February 10 and released by The Guardian, the U.S. diplomats in Uganda describe a meeting with local human rights activists whose names are redacted. The White House and the State Department had already by then condemned the bill. Activists expressed concerns that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was part of a larger effort to tilt tomorrow’s elections in favor of the entrenched ruling party:

XXXXXXXXXXXX placed the anti-homosexuality bill in the context of a general trend toward restricted human rights and democratic freedoms in Uganda. He said the anti-homosexuality bill is one of many regressive legislative initiatives that are not in the interests of all Ugandans and are intended to tilt the February 2011 presidential elections in the government’s favor. XXXXXXXXXXXX cited draft legislation to expand the Security Ministry’s monitoring of electronic communications, expanded and perhaps politically motivated enforcement of the 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act, the recently passed Land Amendment Act (ref. A), reduced press freedoms, and the slow pace of electoral reform as pressing human rights concerns. He encouraged the U.S. to treat these issues in the same manner as the anti-homosexuality bill, and said the anti-homosexuality issue is a government “gimmick” to divert attention away from other assaults on human rights and democratic freedoms that will ultimately undermine the integrity of the 2011 elections.

Uganda’s elections will be held tomorrow.

The cables go on to describe some of the fear and intimidation that the proposed legislation aroused in Uganda. The fear and intimidation extends beyond the beleaguered gay community, but goes into the political class as well:

XXXXXXXXXXXX said Members of Parliament who privately oppose the bill fear losing their seats if they speak out against the legislation, and therefore support the bill in public and will vote for it should it ever reach the parliamentary floor. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Bahati is blaming homosexuals for the spread HIV/AIDS, pornography, and increasing incidents of rape and defilement, and that the legislation is a diversionary ploy intended to steer attention away from real issues like corruption and the 2011 elections.

…Both XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX said local XXXXXXXXXXXX activists are using cellphones, blogs, and the internet to the extent possible, but stressed concerns about government monitoring of electronic communications. XXXXXXXXXXXX said one local human rights NGO had to switch its domain name after someone hacked its email address, and XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX said they and other activists have been forced to switch telephones and restrict electronic communications to avoid harassment and eavesdropping.

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

Pro-Prop 8 LDS Leaders: “The Work Depends On Us”

Jim Burroway

September 25th, 2008

Amid continuing reports of heavy Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ involvement in anti-marriage campaigns in California, and Arizona, a Wiki website has released a document which provides further evidence that the nuts and bolts of the Prop 8 campaign in California is almost exclusively an LDS-driven effort.

The brief document, which was on document posted on Wikileaks earlier this week, appears to be brief notes for a meeting of LDS officials working to defeat California’s Prop 8. According to the document:

The brethren emphasized that there wasn’t much participation from non-LDS people. The work depends on us.

The document goes on to describe their strategy for placing yard signs — a strategy which experienced a serious hickup when LDS campaign leaders decided to outsource their signs to China. Those signs were due last Monday, but now won’t be expected for another couple of weeks.

According to the leaked document, the next phase in the campaign is the “Persuasion Phase”, which appears to include phone-banking:

We need about 20 people per zip code to call the “mushy middle” people. That will take about 5 hours per person. There will be two surges, one the end of Sept. or early Oct. and the other at the end of Oct. to the first of Nov.

The plan also describes poll monitoring to ensure their members show up to vote, and a voter registration drive using ward lists maintained by individual LDS churches.

The poster at Wikileaks describes the document as a handout to a small group of local LDS church leaders. It was emailed to at least two other people that the poster was aware of. The poster also notes that “producing the document publicly online could result in ecclesiastical punishment for the publisher.”

When marriage amendment battles started appearing in California and Arizona, it was assumed that evangelical churches would be carrying the load. While many of those churches continue to support these so-called “marriage amendments,” the real surprise has been the extent to which one single denomination has placed so much of its resources and financial muscle — as well as the direct involvement of that denomination’s leadership and organizational structure —  to impose its theological positions on the state.

As I said before, this should concern everyone who cherishes religious liberty in this country.