International condemnation of Uganda over a domestic anti-homosexuality effort has sparked a nationalist backlash that could make the lives of gays even more precarious.
President Museveni’s opposition to the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, expressed last week in a speech in which he noted that Uganda’s foreign policy was being undermined by anti-gay efforts at home, poured cold water on Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s work, but it may have energised some activists who want gays punished severely. They see gaps in Mr Museveni’s reason for distancing himself from Mr Bahati.
Pastor Martin Ssempa, who supports the death penalty for gay sex, announced that he would mobilise at least a million Ugandans for a demonstration, scheduled for February 17 in Kampala, to emphasise the strength of the anti-homosexuality wave. Multah Bukenya, a Tabliq cleric, has also renewed his threat to form squads that would hunt gays.
The efforts of such activists, along with the agitation of lawmakers who are outraged that Mr Museveni backed down under pressure, are geared towards making the Ugandan leader understand that he made the wrong call.
“Uganda is a sovereign country, and we don’t need any lectures from the US,” said Buliisa MP Steven Mukitale, who chairs the Committee on National Economy.
Ms Val Kalende, the lesbian woman who recently gave Saturday Monitor a personal account of her predicament, said she was being forced to find another house. “I see anger, mob action along the way,” Ms Kalende said yesterday. Navi Pillay, the UN’s top human rights official, last week condemned the proposed legislation, adding her voice to a group that includes the US, Britain, Canada and Sweden.
But the growing international criticism seems to have been matched by a nationalist upsurge at home, with some groups saying they would punish the government, perhaps by refusing to re-elect some officials, for succumbing to international pressure. “The government is caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Mr Livingstone Sewanyana, who heads the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, a rights watchdog. “The (proposed) law itself is draconian.”