Wednesday December 16 2009

Obama, Clinton reject Uganda’s gay Bill

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By Rodney Muhumuza

International opposition against Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s proposed anti-gay law continued to grow steadily, drawing support from such unlikely quarters as the White House.

The growing list now includes US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Anglican leader Rowan Williams, some US senators, and several newspapers.

Buturo’s U-turn
The pressure from these and other sources was being felt in Kampala, with Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo now saying he would remain silent about the proposed law until it has been passed or defeated.

“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of

Canterbury, was quoted as saying in a recent edition of the Daily Telegraph. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.”

In the US, senators Russ Feingold and John Kerry spoke out against the law, saying it had the potential to hurt Uganda-US relations, while Secretary of State Clinton said in a recent speech that she opposed it. “Law should not become an instrument of oppression,” the top US diplomat said in a speech at Georgetown University on Monday.

The White House had released a statement in which it was noted that Mr Obama “strongly opposes efforts, such as the draft law pending in Uganda, that would criminalise homosexuality and move against the tide of history”. The Canadian and British governments have also condemned the proposed law, while Sweden has threatened to cut assistance.

The Sunday Times, of South Africa, says in a current editorial that the proposed law would “legalise the murder of citizens merely for being who they are. It will encourage hatred and intolerance. It will drive wedges through families by inducing members to spy on each other”. The proposed law, the editorial says, could drag Uganda “back to the dark and evil days of Idi Amin”.

Punish the suffering
The Guardian, a British newspaper, expressed similar views in a Dec. 5 editorial, noting that Mr Bahati’s work “was a wretched piece of legislation intended to rile the West and torment an already suffering part of [Uganda’s] population”.

Mr Bahati denies the accusation that he is in a hate campaign, saying his goal is “to protect the heterosexual family. It is under threat. Anybody who says it is minor underestimates the damage being done”.

In the weeks after Mr Bahati tabled the Anti-homosexuality Bill (2009), Dr Buturo sought to own it, telling multiple press conferences that it had the government’s support. “Homosexuals can forget about human rights,” Dr Buturo told reporters on October 29, just over two weeks after the proposed law was tabled in Parliament.

By yesterday, however, the official stance was that the government had not yet reached a position on the proposed law.