People & Power

What next for Bahati?

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By Angelo Izama

Posted  Sunday, January 17  2010 at  00:00

In Summary

Mr Museveni called it a foreign policy matter - elevating the Bill to the status of other concerns for the government like its engagement in the African Union and the United Nations Security Council.

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In February, David Bahati, the mover of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to attend a prayer breakfast in the American capital of Washington DC.

Mr Bahati, according to reports, may speak at the event where President Barack Obama – a gays-tolerant liberal president, is also expected to attend. On Friday, Mr Bahati said he would attend. The event is organised by The Fellowship- a conservative Christian organisation, which has deep political connections and counts several high-ranking conservative politicians in its membership.

“I intend to attend the prayer breakfast,” said Mr Bahati - himself a part organiser of the Ugandan equivalent of the national prayer breakfast. This week, citing international pressure, President Yoweri Museveni advised his party’s National Executive Committee, his cabinet and the NRM parliamentary caucus to “go slow” on the Bill.

Mr Bahati told Inside Politics he is set to meet a special cabinet session to discuss the Bill tomorrow.

“The nature of legislation is such that one cannot have a final version. There are bound to be amendments but the process will go on,” he said. The entire affair has given the Museveni administration its worst spate of bad publicity in recent times.

Mr Museveni called it a foreign policy matter - elevating the Bill to the status of other concerns for the government like its engagement in the African Union and the United Nations Security Council.

Indeed, while Uganda passed several key resolutions at the UNSC in the new year - the Bahati Bill generally dominated the news and the items, including a resolution on sanctions on Somalia as well as an extension of the tenure of the UN mission in Congo, went largely unnoticed.

Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the former minister of internal affairs, who is now Uganda’s representative at the UNSC was expected to arrive in Uganda on Friday. It’s unclear what his schedule will be or if a briefing to President Yoweri Museveni on the impact of the proposed Bill on his work in New York is in the works.

Mr Museveni also revealed that he had received several phone calls from world leaders, including from US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. His reaction, say observers, shows that the Uganda government is taking the issue seriously enough.

Mr Bahati said he would see the Bill through the legislative process before turning his attention to local politics in this election year. He expects competitors for his Ndorwa West seat and NRM primaries are just nine weeks away.

It’s unclear how his national and international profile brought on by the gays Bill will affect his fortunes.

“ We need to protect our children and stop recruitment,” he says.
In the interview with Inside Politics Mr Bahati blames American author Jeff Sharlet who writes about the intersection between religion and politics.

“Sharlet is a liar and is responsible for generating the interest in this Bill abroad. He just wants to sell his book,” Mr Bahati says referring to the author’s new book “The Family. The Secret Fundamentalism at the heart of American power.” The book profiles The Fellowship, the organisation that has invited Mr Bahati to the prayer breakfast next month.

In interviews, Mr Sharlett has said Mr Bahati and the Ethics Minister Dr Nsaba Buturo, earlier a vocal supporter of the Bill, are part of the Christain organisation and claims The Fellowship has recently directed money to Uganda and considers President Museveni an ally.

When asked if there can be any future evidence that he may have received money in compensation from radical Christian groups, Mr Bahati says: “not a penny.”