Just when one thinks that Uganda is growing up by leaving people who are LGBTI alone, something else emerges that shocks the bold hearted into action.
At the 127th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly held in Quebec recently a fierce show-down on homosexuality erupted. When John Baird, Canada’s Foreign Minister, reprimanded Uganda for violating the human rights of sexual minorities, Ugandan Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga retorted that Uganda was ‘neither a colony nor protectorate of Canada and as such her sovereignty, societal and cultural norms were to be respected’. She told those gathered that she was not aware the assembly had been summoned to promote gay rights.
Kadaga may have been right about Uganda’s sovreignty. But telling people about their human rights violations does not equate to colonising them but rather deals with human rights violations. I am sure that Canada is not really interested in colonising Uganda. This was a digressionary tactic and it worked. It always works when applied to sensitive Western countries.
Having lived and worked with several same-sex loving Ugandans, I do not understand how anyone who knows the diversity of Ugandan realities can claim that homosexuality is foreign to our culture. For instance, does telling Ugandans about their need to respect the rights of gay persons equate to having them colonised? Perhaps the speaker could have made her point without insinuating that Canada wished to colonise Uganda.
She is not alone. Those who oppose homosexual practices make constant reference to LGBTI life and people being a foreign culture imposed on Africans. But in reality there is evidence that homosexuality existed in Africa long before colonialism.
Uganda is now a hotbed for debate on the matter of homosexuality. Everything has not been rosy for the gay rights activists. There was the arrest of David Cecil Edwards, director of The River and the Mountain. The play, written by Beau Hopkins, was banned from showing at Uganda’s National Theater because it tackles the theme of homosexuality. It also tackles religion and politics and the Uganda Communications Commission would have none of it.
The line-up of people welcoming the Ugandan Speaker of Parliament on her return from Canada was not surprising. These were David Bahati, Member of Parliament for Ndorwa West and mover of the anti-homosexuality bill; Nsaba Buturo, former Minister of Ethics and a very strong critic of LGBTI practice; Revivalist church pastors Martin Ssempa and Pastor Solomon Male, who have both served their time for defaming another church pastor after they accused him of homosexual related practices; Pastor Michael Were, a strong anti-homosexual lobby leader, and of course numerous Ugandans carrying posters that read ‘Revive the anti- homosexuality bill’, ‘Ban homosexuals’, ‘Uganda is not a colony of Canada’ and ‘You [Kadaga] are our saviour, we want the bill now’.
Conspicuously absent was the Uganda Minister of Ethics, Father Simon Lokodo, who has had a rough ride with human rights activists and the LGBTI community after being dragged to court for disbanding gay conferences.
The unfortunate thing about the Canada-Uganda homosexual debacle is the anger that has emanated out of the whole saga. The Ugandan Speaker seems to have been so angered that on her arrival at Entebbe Airport she told her admirers, who were congratulating her for bravely facing off a Canadian minister, that she was now going to expedite the anti-homosexuality bill.
Bad enough is also the fact that Jovah Kamateka, another member in the Ugandan parliament, is calling for a referendum to decide the fate of LGBTI people in Uganda. It is not hard to guest how Ugandans would vote in such a matter.
Every top Ugandan politician that supports the anti-homosexuality bill says we do not need donor money (watch the clip below). But of course Uganda needs the money and Uganda will listen to whatever the donors tell it. The money is used by such institutions as parliament, the police, the army, the judiciary and many more. Surely, the speaker and all the other politicians are not speaking for the Uganda treasury when they say ‘to hell with donor money’?
James Kityo is a member of the Key Correspondents team (KCs), a global network of community-based writers from around 50 countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. A large number of KCs are people living with or affected by HIV. All are volunteers and include those working in advocacy, media, health and development.