National

Museveni warns Obama on gays

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By TABU BUTAGIRA

Posted  Saturday, February 25  2012 at  00:00

In Summary

Western governments have recently made the rights of homosexuals a political and economic issue, cutting it as a condition for accessing aid. The President says Uganda does not persecute gays, but resents promotion of gay activities.

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Kampala

President Museveni has warned US President Barack Obama and other Western officials against seeking to impose western culture, particularly homosexuality, on Africa.

Appearing on the BBC’s Hard Talk programme hosted by Stephen Sackur on Thursday, Mr 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 pegged to respect of gay rights.

“That would be their biggest mistake. They should be very careful about black Africa,” the President said when talk-show host, Sackur, sought his views on President Obama and other Western leaders’ asking countries receiving their development assistance to uphold sexual orientations as part of human rights package.

“Black Africans are very humble people; we never impose our views on anybody else,” Mr Museveni said. “We are not like Europeans and Arabs who want to impose their views [on others].”

He said 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.”

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, Ms Hillary Clinton, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron that their countries would tie aid to respect of rights of sexual minorities.

Political and diplomatic
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.”

Gay rights have lately become a goring political and diplomatic issue and engendered divided opinion between Africa, where they are unpopular, and the West that markets the sexual orientation as a human right.

Parliament is due to consider a Private Member’s Bill re-introduced by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, which among other penalties, seeks to impose life sentence, among others, for aggravated gay-related crimes.

The Bill was initially introduced in 2009, but strong opposition by Western powers - particularly the UK, US and Canada, prompted President Museveni to ask the proposed legislation to be shelved because, according to him, it had “foreign policy implications”.

The original version of the Bill sought to impose death sentence in instances of aggravated homosexuality – such as deliberate infection of a gay partner with HIV or having sex with an underage person in homosexual relationships.

Human rights activists have, however, opposed the Bill, calling on government and the legislators to throw it out of Parliament. Uganda is a staunch ally of the US, receiving military assistance to fight a local rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and has sent troops to Somalia to fight the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group.

tbutagira@ug.nationmedia.com