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Issue #234
24 September
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Wikileaks and the truth of Uganda’s anti-gay law

Posted on November 15, 2011  /  Comments Off on Wikileaks and the truth of Uganda’s anti-gay law  /  Show post tags

After all the uproar and howls of international outrage, what exactly happened to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that catapulted Uganda into the international spotlight? Did it die a silent death? Or was it shelved, to wait for another opportune time? Joseph Opio reports from Uganda

Just over two years ago, on October 14, 2009, the tiny landlocked East African country of Uganda sprung to global notoriety when its parliament tabled a Bill that sought to criminalize same sex relationships.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was brought before Uganda’s parliament by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati as a private Members Bill and it drew howls of protests from local human rights activists and the international community.

These howls grew even louder when in January 2011, David Kato Kisule, a prominent local gay rights activist, was found bludgeoned to death in what activists labelled a hate-crime, as his photograph had been published in local tabloid that encouraged the outing of gay and lesbian people within the country.

However, surprisingly for many people in Uganda, Kato’s death was the last time the Anti-Homosexuality Bill made headlines.

And more than two years since it was tabled, the Bill has not only failed to get passed but it has fallen off the radar and drifted out of the national conscious.

So, what exactly happened to the infamous Bill?

It’s a known fact that Uganda’s cabinet early this year threw out the Bill on the advice of its legal minds, who argued that it was unnecessary since government had a number of laws criminalizing homosexuality anyway. Yet, according to recently leaked diplomatic cables from the whistleblower website, Wikileaks, that seems to be only part of the whole story.

Wikileaks’ suggests that the Bill might have suffered a stillbirth due to severe international pressure. In leaked cables, the website reveals that Museveni, while in a meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs, Johnnie Carson, on October 24, 2009, said Uganda is not interested in a “war with homosexuals” and agreed that the proposed legislation went “too far.”

In yet another meeting between Ugandan Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa and US Embassy officials, the minister said the Bill would die a natural death, while Nsaba Buturo, the Bill’s most vocal advocate within the cabinet, appeared to have succumbed to pressure when he began campaigning for a watered-down version.

One of the biggest revelations of the Wikileaks documents is that, while Bahati was the face of the Bill, its real architect was actually the First Lady, Janet Museveni.

No time for complacence

Meanwhile, Val Kalende, a vocal gay rights activist who heads the Board at Freedom and Roam Uganda, is adamant that unless international human rights watchdogs sustain the pressure on the Ugandan government, the Bill might actually make a return in an even more vicious form.

“The people who were behind this Bill are very radical and extreme,” she says. “You don’t expect such people to simply take the silent death of the Bill lying down. These are people, who inspired by US evangelicals, have sowed seeds of hatred towards minorities.”

She continues: “The Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Community is depicted as a bunch of subhuman entities that are unworthy of life. And these messages of hate are actually propagated by important and influential members of the government plus opinion leaders from across the religious spectrum. So, while we applaud the pressure the international community brought to bear when this atrocious Bill was tabled, we also urge this pressure to be kept up if our rights are to be won and protected eventually.” © Inter Press Service /


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