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Ssekandi opposes President on gays Bill

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By Yasiin Mugerwa

Posted  Friday, January 15   2010 at  00:00

In Summary

Mr Ssekandi said: “There is no way we can be intimidated by remarks from the President to stop the Bill. This Bill was officially tabled in Parliament and was subsequently committed to a committee for scrutiny. The President has a right to express his views like any other people who have petitioned me.”

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Parliament will go ahead and debate the Anti-Homosexuality Bill irrespective of opposition from donors and President Museveni, Speaker Edward Ssekandi has said.

The Speaker’s position comes days after the US government threatened to expel Uganda from the African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa) arrangement if the Bill tabled by Mr David Bahati (Ndorwa West) is enacted into law.

Mr Ssekandi told journalists at Parliament yesterday that no amount of opposition and threats would stop the ongoing process of seeking views on the Bill—that has also been criticised by human rights activists.

The Bill proposes seven-year jail terms for homosexuals and the death penalty for convicts of aggravated homosexuality.

Mr Ssekandi said: “There is no way we can be intimidated by remarks from the President to stop the Bill. This Bill was officially tabled in Parliament and was subsequently committed to a committee for scrutiny. The President has a right to express his views like any other people who have petitioned me.”

He added: “This was a private members’ Bill and if the Executive wants to bring their views they are free. The Constitution is clear, it doesn’t allow people of the same sex to get married and what we are looking for in the Bill is (basically) the penalty and the process should continue.”

Addressing his ruling NRM party members at State House, Entebbe on Tuesday President Museveni told advocates of the Bill to go slow, saying the matter was a sensitive foreign policy issue.

Agoa warning
Daily Monitor has also seen a letter written by the Unites States Senator Ron Wyden to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on January 12, saying: “I strongly urge you to communicate immediately to the Ugandan government, and President Yoweri Museveni directly, that Uganda’s beneficiary status under Agoa will be revoked should the proposed legislation be enacted.”

The letter adds: “Beneficiaries of Agoa must meet certain eligibility criteria, one of which is to not engage in “gross violations of internationally recognised human rights.”
Under Agoa, signed in 2000, Uganda like several other sub-Saharan African states, got leeway to export products, duty-free, to the US market.

Mr Museveni told the NRM NEC meeting that several foreign leaders had called him over the Bill. He said he had spoken to Ms Clinton for about 45 minutes over the matter.

DC Agenda, an American newspaper, reported on Dec. 19 that Mr Museveni had assured the US State Department of his willingness to veto the Bill, in case Parliament passed it. State House has not denied these reports.

But with gay sympathisers reading victory in President Museveni’s words, Mr Ssekandi insisted the matter was yet to rest.

“As black people, the way we understand this issue (of homosexuality) is not the same way the whites understand and we should be able to decide on our own without being influenced,” he told journalists.