Monday December 28 2009

Speaker Ssekandi gets threats over gay Bill

Protesters against a planned anti-homosexuality

Protesters against a planned anti-homosexuality bill in front of the Ugandan Mission to the U.N. in New York on November 19. 

By Mercy Nalugo

Kampala

The Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi has said he has recently been under intense pressure over the anti-homosexuality Bill that proposes severe punishments for same sex relationships.

While speaking to hundreds of Christians on Christmas Day at Lubaga Cathedral, where he represented the government, Mr Sekandi said: “I have received so many communications from abroad threatening and stressing that they shall not give us money if we support the anti-homosexuality Bill.”

THREATENED: Speaker Ssekandi

THREATENED: Speaker Ssekandi

But the Speaker called for calm, saying the matter was being handled judiciously. Mr Ssekandi’s remarks came shortly after the author of the gay Bill, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, reported to the Ministry of Internal Affairs that his life was in danger.

Mr Bahati says he now fears for his life following the disappearance of his cousin Emmanuel Mabonga. He said ever since he moved the Private Member’s Bill against homosexuality, he has been receiving death threats. It was not possible to verify his claims.

Mr Bahati’s law, tabled in Parliament on October 14, proposes death or life imprisonment for homosexuals, but it also proposes punishments for those who fail to report homosexuals to the authorities. The Bill is currently before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, which is yet to start public hearings.

President Museveni was recently reported to have told US authorities that he would veto the Bill, although his precise stance on the proposed law remains unclear. Several countries like the US, Britain, Canada and international human-rights organisations have described the proposed law as discriminatory, some threatening to withhold development assistance to Uganda if the Bill is passed. President Obama, in a recent statement to a gay publication, said the Bill moves “against the tide of history”.

But Mr Ssekandi, in his Christmas Day speech, explained that MP Bahati’s proposed Bill was not out of order. “In Parliament, any member is free to move a Private Member’s Bill. Since Bahati’s Bill is before the Parliamentary committee, it is going to gather people’s views and report back to the House,” he said.

The Archbishop, Dr Cyprian Lwanga Kizito, had earlier said the Bill was not necessary since there are already other existing laws against homosexuality. But Mr Ssekandi insisted that the committee shall weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the Bill and advise Parliament.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Lwanga advised all Christians to come out and stand for elective positions. “Since next year is one full of campaigns, I call upon all the capable Christians to come out and stand in elective offices. It is your right,” he said as the congregation cheered him.

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