My Response to the Ugandan President’s London Interview as noted in Ugandan Daily Monitor.
By Melanie Nathan, 02/26/2012
The President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni says Uganda “does not persecute gays, but resents promotion of gay activities.” According to the Uganda Monitor, this is the first time the President, who was in London for a one-day conference on Somalia, is publicly responding to recent separate announcements by the US Secretary of State, Sec. Hillary Clinton, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron that their countries would tie aid to the respect of the human rights of sexual minorities.
President Museveni now warns the US President Barack Obama and other Western officials against seeking to “impose western culture, particularly homosexuality, on Africa.”
Although Museveni himself admitted that homosexuality has always existed in Uganda, his remarks indicate that he does not comprehend that homosexuality cannot be imposed upon any culture and that sexuality is determined on a spectrum that exists in every single culture, regardless of creed or race, and without exclusion.
It is how the country treats its homosexual and lesbian citizens that has become questionable in Uganda; and Uganda has become the subject of international criticism because of harsh laws it seeks to impose on the sexual minorities who have the sexual orientation, homosexuality, the propensity for same-sex attraction.
Currently a bill is pending the Ugandan Parliament, known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, (AHB) authored by a vehement anti-gay fundamentalist, David Bahati, who has gone on the record touting his extreme Christian religious beliefs as the basis for the Bill.
The Bill, which has become known as the Kill-The-Gays-Bill, is what sparked off the vocal concern of Western governments including the US and the UK.
Appearing on the BBC’s Hard Talk program Museveni said Uganda does not persecute gays and lesbians as alleged by the Western media and governments. He warned against recent pronouncements by Washington and London that their future aid, including to Uganda, would be withheld because of infringement of LGBT human rights in the Country.
What Museveni does not understand is that the mere criminalization of homosexuality is indeed persecution, that it institutionalizes discrimination, by his government.
Museveni said further regarding the question of aid being cut, “That would be their biggest mistake. They should be very careful about black Africa. Black Africans are very humble people; we never impose our views on anybody else. We are not like Europeans and Arabs who want to impose their views [on others].”
He then made this admission, stating “homosexuals – in small numbers – existed in Africa long before the continent came in contact with Europe and they were either tolerated or ignored. The difference between Africa and Western Europe is the promotion of homosexuality, as if it is something good.”
Museveni fails to note the fact that that it was indeed the Western interference that Uganda seems to find acceptable that caused this horrific state of affairs in the first place. It was the Evangelicals from the West who interfered in Uganda when it came to the idea of homosexuality as an issue at all.
Notwithstanding the existing “laws against the order of nature” homosexuals for the most part were not mistreated and Ugandans did allow homosexuals a measure of peace of privacy until the US evangelical clergy showed up on its doorstep.
Perhaps Ugandan politicians would never have heard nor touted the the concept of “promotion,” a made up myth, but for US Evangelicals, who lit the issue ablaze when Scott Lively appeared at a conference in Kampala. Having befriended Ugandan MP, David Bahati, spinning a yarn for a group of church goers and parliamentarians, Lively blamed homosexuality for almost all evils in the world, citing the American evangelical anti-homosexuality agenda. There is video to prove this event.
It was then upon this particular “western influence” that Uganda took up the anti-gay cause of the American evangelicals and introduced the AHB.
Bahati met Lively and others, and then and later visited America, staying at the home of evangelicals Jack Klenk and his wife, as their guests. The Klenks, amongst others, are members of the breakaway Truro Church and recently visited Uganda, meeting Bahati and funding Ugandan projects such as libraries’ and clinics in the name of monies raised by the Truro Church. Yes indeed that is precisely the fact of the western influence, that Museveni is willing to accept and enjoy – “we will buy you libraries as long as you indulge our anti-gay agenda.”
It seems that if Museveni wants to accuse the West of any undue influence, he is looking in the wrong direction.
It is a complete falsehood to accuse America and the UK (The West) of “promoting homosexuality” and exporting the idea of promotion to Uganda, when all that has happened is a vocal objection to the anti-gay Bill and threats to cut aid if it persists. In fact as in the words of Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, the only thing America has exported to Uganda on this issue is “hate! “(see article and video below)
Bahati bought into the Westerner Evangelical terminology – and we can assume that Museveni did too. Surely the fact that extreme Christian dominance in Uganda on this issue is indeed the import! Museveni begs the question “is it un-African to be a Christian? Was Christianity not a Western import?
The usurping of fundamental Christian ideals is what is un-African and not the idea of natural born sexual orientation, which has been part of Ugandan culture for centuries. Now to throw the idea of promotion into the mix when the West speaks vocally against discrimination and a bill that institutionalizes persecution is simply a misguided deflection of reality and perhaps a mechanism to continue to scapegoat the issue to distract from Museveni’s a 25 year reign as a despot.
To put it bluntly there is no such thing as the “ promotion of homosexuality.” A person is either homosexual or not. What Museveni, in his ignorance is referring to, is the West seeking to educate Ugandans away from religious bigotry which they have bought into, and advancing the protection of human rights that have been trampled upon by religious zealots such as Lively, Klenk and Bahati. So perhaps an astute argument could portray this as West vs. West and not West vs. Africa!
Bahati has been on the record, acknowledging that it was indeed the influence of the Evangelicals that set the AHB in motion. In my many personal conversations with Bahati, he has made it clear to me that his idea for the anti- homosexuality Bill emanates from his religious belief that the Bible says same-sex attraction is a sin. Surely Museveni realizes that the Bible is a Western import to Uganda?
Museveni cannot seem to separate the idea that homosexuality is as African as it is Western and that coupled with the fact that promotion is simply not a possibility, renders his motions to the West meaningless.
The West, and The UN have made it clear, that apartheid against homosexuals will not be tolerated. As much as many of us activists fear backlash against the LGBT populations in countries in Africa where the threat of withholding aid can be counterproductive, we realize speaking out against the Bill is absolutely imperative. What Museveni ought to understand is that once the AHB is enacted certain Western interests will not be legitimately able to function in Uganda.
Barclays Bank, Starbucks, Citibank, hotel chains, etc will not want to risk employing gays while at the same time have undertaken international diversity acceptance programs. Imagine Barclays Bank will be seen as operating criminally in Uganda for “promoting” homosexuality”, simply because it offers worldwide employees same-sex benefits?
And yet in his misconception about the realities of this so called interference by the West Museveni goes on to say:-
“Such a move would be unpopular with most African countries, Mr Museveni said in the Thursday interview. “The issue [of homosexuality] is mishandled by Western countries and their activist groups, said Mr Museveni, “I don’t support promotion of homosexuality, but I do not support persecution or discrimination of homosexuals.”
Nowhere in the Bill or in any conversation has anyone in Uganda explained precisely what is meant by “promotion.” The danger of the term is insurmountable. even a lawyer defending a client on charges of homosexuality could feasibly be accused of promoting homosexuality via the exercise of his oath and legal duty.
If Museveni hasd any sense, instead of blabbering off on London TV at Obama and, Clinton and Cameron, he would spearhead the decriminalization of homosexuality and speak out against the AHB, finding some way to put it to rest before it goes too far.
President Museveni ought to understand that people are gay or not gay and to call advocacy for a minority “promotion” is a cop out; he ought to face the reality – that his country is currently seeking to pass legislation that will in effect persecute its homosexual and lesbian citizens. If it does then the Western response is fair game!