Controversial Journalist Andrew Mwenda on educating Ugandans to counter homophobia

Andrew Mwenda is still a great ally and an important voice and I do not purport to understand Ugandans better than he does, however I believe strongly that it is time for people in his capacity to introduce a much more productive and proactive route toward the truth about homosexuality for presentation to Ugandans. View video and read on…

By Melanie Nathan, February 09, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-02-09 at 2.53.46 PMAndrew Mwenda is one of the few straight and reasonable  voices to speak to the issues surrounding the Anti- homosexuality Bill in Uganda. He is an outspoken journalist who provides this video recording below as an explanation, with his reasoning, why the West should not cut AID to Uganda as a solution to the Anti-homosexuality Bill – and he provides a controversial desensitization suggestion.

The otherwise known ” The Kill the Gays Bill,” has been languishing in the political arena in Uganda, with a few Parliamentary introductions since 2009.  It is currently poised for passage at #6 on last Week’s Parliamentary Agenda.

In this video Mwenda notes that 90% of Ugandans are homophobic and so he believes that cutting AID by the West is a counterproductive and antagonist approach which will not serve to educate Ugandans about homosexuality. He believes that a discussion of the issue and engagement over time will help to change attitudes in Uganda. He also suggests that the tabloid red pepper exposure of the gay sex act, could help desensitize Ugandans.

While I applaud Mr. Mwenda’s stance and fully understand his reasoning, especially on the issue of sovereignty, it brings up a few issues for me, some which I think he may have missed.

Firstly he makes the cardinal mistake of equating homosexuality with the act of sex, by suggesting that if people see more images of the actual sex act between two men, they will become desensitized.  I am sorry to inform Mr. Mwenda that such an idea demonstrates that he is falling into the very trap that exacerbates homophobia in the first place.   Homosexuality is not about the act of sex or sodomy. That is how it has been sold as a negative concept in Uganda.  You have people like crazy Rev. Martin Ssemba ranting on and on about the act of sodomy. You have David Bahati the author of the Kill the Gays Bill, justifying death to homosexuals with his interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah.

So all Mwenda is really doing in this video discussion is perpetuating myth. Homosexuality is not about the act of sex. It is about two people of the same gender being attracted to each other and having a loving relationship, in respect of which sex is incidental.  Surely heterosexual people should understand that sex does not define their entire relationship?

Indeed one cannot force cultural change over night. But it is myth and lies that need to be countered and then maybe Ugandans will understand that homosexuality is not a cultural issue. It is a human issue. Sexuality is a human right. Ugandans do not understand this – that all humans – regardless of culture have the same innate sexuality experiences.  Thinking otherwise is like saying your brains and blood is different. It is the lack of understanding that is cultural and that can be remedied with truthful debate and a strategic re-education. The latter needs to be a mission, at the very least,  of the Christian colonialists and Evangelicals who started the lies in the first place.

1.  The issue of Sovereignty: – Indeed all countries must make their own laws unfettred. But now Uganda is seeking to make a law based upn a belief system supported only by myth and lies, as injected by white colonialists and Evangelical zealots.  Surely Mr. Mwenda a much more effective dialogue than one of mere infusion ought to be called for. Surely some worthy leadership from the straight community such as your good self is called for. This would need to be much more proactive before you can expect the world to simply accept that Ugandans can so legislate.

Take South Africa as an example.  How many more years would the South Africans have had to wait for the Afrikaner Government to get the message.,. It was sanctions that brought them to their knees on the issue. And it matters not whether a majority or minority of the population was impacted. it is all the same when you speak about sovereignty.

2. The issue of global participation: I agree, AID ought not be cut for the reason of homophobia.  However if it  is cut it should be because of Uganda’s huge incidence of corruption – and not because of the Anti-homosexuality Bill. The latter will just cause a backlash and further scapegoating gays. So I agree in principle.  However what Mwenda does not seem to realize or simply omits is that some international corporations  have  a presence in Uganda, such as Barclays Bank and Hilton hotels. These companies have all inclusive hiring diversity policies on their website, and purposefully reach out to LGBTI people.  Does Uganda expect these companies to stay in Uganda and conform to their homophobia or do Ugandans respect their independence and right to their views too?

So while different to cutting AID, I have no doubt many businesses will be forced to stop doing business with Uganda and will be forced to stop operating in Uganda, because the new Anti-gay law will make it operationally impossible. Remember the new law requires that an employer turn over a known gay within 24 hours or that employer can face three years in prison. No western business in its right mind will continue to operate under such threat.

Mr. Mwenda you are a great voice for reason- however stop being an apologist and look at more productive ways to have this conversation at this time.  Using the issue of  asking that AID not be cut and the suggestion of more visual gay sex is hardly a strategy.  There is no time to waste for those whose lives will be dramatically impacted by the Bill.  There is no time to spend – for an entire generation to go by before education by infusion works; certainly not in a climate where there has been active promotion of the hate.

Andrew Mwenda is still a great ally and an important voice and I do not purport to understand Ugandans better than he does, however I believe strongly that it is time for people in his capacity to introduce a much more productive and proactive route toward the truth about homosexuality for presentation to Ugandans.

About Andrew Mwenda:

A Ugandan journalist, founder and owner of The Independent, Uganda’s premier current affair’s news magazine, he attended Busoga College Mwiri in eastern Uganda before attending Makerere University. He was arrested and released on bail by the Ugandan government for “being in possession of seditious material and of publishing inflammatory articles”. He earned a master’s degree in Development Studies at the University of London in the UK. He was previously the political editor of The Monitor newspaper and presenter of Andrew Mwenda Live on the KFM radio station. In 2005, he was among sixteen senior journalists invited by the British government to meet prime minister Tony Blair to discuss the forthcoming report of the Commission for Africa.

In August 2005 he was charged with sedition for broadcasting a discussion of the cause of death of Sudanese vice-president John Garang.

In July 2006, Mwenda appeared before the British House of Commons committee on Global Poverty to testify against aid to Africa. He has written widely on the effects of aid on the development process in Africa and been published in such prestigious newspapers as the International Herald Tribune and Der Spiegel and done radio and television documentaries for the BBC on this subject. Mr. Mwenda has also been widely quoted in international media – BBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, The Times, The Economist, and many other newspapers, radio and television networks in Europe and North America.

He has assiduously criticised aid agencies and charities for what he says is their ineffectiveness and collusion with corruption. He believes that western aid has been largely unhelpful for African development, since it encourages dependency, sustains wars and fuels corrupt states. He argues that aid goes to the least deserving states, those that have failed their people, rather than those that have reformed. In June 2007, he gave a speech about these issues at the TED conference in Arusha, Tanzania.

In 2008, he won an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The award is given for journalists who show courage in defending press freedom in the face of attacks, threats or imprisonment.

2 thoughts on “Controversial Journalist Andrew Mwenda on educating Ugandans to counter homophobia

  1. Thanks, Melanie for this article. I had seen reports claiming that the Chris Mubiru expose was accomplishing the opposite of Red Pepper’s intention and found it hard to imagine that much positive coming from the outing of a previously respected coach with the suggestion of under age boys. Photoshop’d or not.

    I have to wonder if the heightened homophobia in Uganda is truly due to “deeply held tradition or prejudices” or the result of persecution and lies told by the likes of Scott Lively, Rick Warren, Lou Engle, etc.

    Also, from what I’ve been told the law is a consequence of a campaign by those zealous Evangelicals in concert with Parliamentarians, not Ugandan hostility towards homosexuals as he says. He appears to have that backwards since the persecution campaign created the hostility where previously the gay community was left alone.

    And I totally hope there is more to understanding and accepting the apparent unknown of loving same gender relationships then being desensitized to tawdry gay male sex acts as depicted in tabloid newspapers! What would be nice to be routine would be positive depictions of loving same gender couples by respectable Ugandan media outlets.

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