Tuesday February 25 2014

Joy, anger as Museveni signs law against gays

Pastor Martin Ssempa celebrates the signing of

Pastor Martin Ssempa celebrates the signing of the Bill at the National Theatre in Kampala yesterday. Photo by Micheal Kakumirizi 

By Risdel Kasasira

Entebbe- President Museveni yesterday signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, eliciting joy and condemnation across the world.

A tough-talking President told a fully-packed room at State House, Entebbe that western powers that have been pressuring him against signing the bill are social imperialists who want to impose their culture on Africans.

The President said supporters and promoters of homosexuality had “lost the argument” and warned development partners that Uganda was ready to live without aid.
“The outsiders cannot dictate to us. It’s our future and let them take their aid. In fact, it has been a problem,” he said.

A greater part of President Museveni’s speech dwelt on the scientific study done by 10 Ugandan scientists that concluded that homosexuals are “nurtured” and not “natural”.

“We reject the notion that homosexuality can be by choice. When I was fighting after the bill was passed, I didn’t’ know I was fighting a wrong war. I cannot understand why a person cannot be attracted to the beauties of women and go for men,” he said.

Mr Museveni said it was after getting this advice that he realised he was fighting a “wrong war”, adding that the practice was being fuelled by poverty.

“Many of our homosexuals are prostitutes,” said the President. “They are recruited because of money. There are no single nature-driven homosexuals. Nature without nurture, you cannot get homosexuals. Why don’t you remove this nurture and we rehabilitate them?”

Whereas Parliament passed the bill in December last year, the President initially hesitated to assent to it, at first citing the lack of quorum but later indicating he would seek expert scientific opinion.

At the just-concluded NRM party retreat at Kyankwanzi, the President announced he would sign the bill after scientists told him the practice is largely nurtured and not natural.
Offering more advice yesterday, the President warned against oral sex, which he said exposes those involved to health risks.

“I hear some of them do oral sex. The mouth is for eating, not for sex. You can get gonorrhea of the mouth on account of oral sex. Why should you get diseases because of going to a wrong address?” he asked.

Mr Museveni said Africans survived slave trade, colonialists and would also “win the war” against homosexuality.

Moments after news spread that the President had assented to the bill, there were pockets of celebration in parts of downtown Kampala, with traders saying the law will protect their families.

At Omega Healing Centre children carried placards as they praised Museveni, Cabinet and Parliament for enacting the law.

The Church’s pastor, Michael Kyazze, told a congregation of mainly primary and secondary students: “President Museveni has saved you, the future generation.”

Renowned anti-homosexuality crusader Pastor Martin Ssempa, who led a group of followers in celebration at the National Theatre, said he would help rehabilitate homosexuals.
“As Kayihura (police chief) will be playing his part (of arresting), we shall also be playing our part of rehabilitating our brothers and sisters,” he said.

Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, who sponsored the bill, said: “The signing of the bill is a victory for the people of Uganda and triumph of the sovereignty of our country.”

However, the tone was different from the West, with UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague, saying he was “saddened”.

“I am deeply saddened and disappointed that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda has been signed into law. The UK strongly opposes all discrimination on any grounds. We question the Bill’s compatibility with Uganda’s Constitution and international treaty obligations,” he said.

The US Mission in Uganda said President Obama’s earlier statement, where he warned of a “complicated” relationship if President Museveni assented to the bill, still stands. Washington was expected to issue an official statement later.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned that the law would institutionalise discrimination and is likely to encourage harassment of homosexuals.
Maria Burnett of Human Rights Watch, said: “President Museveni has dealt a dramatic blow to freedom expression and association in Uganda by signing the Anti-Homosexuality bill,” said, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Attacking basic rights and criminalizing the expression of divergent views doesn’t bode well for anyone. This is yet another troubling sign of disregard for fundamental human rights in Uganda.”

WILLIAM HAGUE, UK FOREIGN SECRETARY: “I am deeply saddened and disappointed that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda has been signed into law. The UK strongly opposes all discrimination on any grounds. We question the Bill’s compatibility with Uganda’s constitution and international treaty obligations. There can be no doubt that this Bill will increase persecution and discrimination of Ugandans, as well as damage Uganda’s reputation internationally.”

US MISSION IN UGANDA: “The President’s statement still stands,” Public Affairs Officer, Daniel Travis said, ahead of an expected official response from Washington. President Barack Obama earlier warned that President Museveni’s assent to the legislation would “complicate the valued relationship” between the US and Uganda,”

NAVI PILLAY, UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: “Disapproval of homosexuality by some can never justify violating the fundamental human rights of others. This law will institutionalise discrimination and is likely to encourage harassment and violence against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. It is formulated so broadly that it may lead to abuse of power and accusations against anyone, not just LGBT people.”

MARIA BURNETT, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: “President Museveni has dealt a dramatic blow to freedom expression and association in Uganda by signing the Anti-Homosexuality bill,” said, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Attacking basic rights and criminalizing the expression of divergent views doesn’t bode well for anyone. This is yet another troubling sign of disregard for fundamental human rights in Uganda.”

rkasasira@ug.naionmedia.com

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