Speaker Rebecca Kadaga caused a diplomatic stir on Monday on her official trip to Canada, getting involved in a spat with the host Foreign Minister, Mr John Baird, whom she accused of attacking Uganda’s human rights record in respect to sexual minorities.
In a stinging retort to Mr Baird’s statement at the ongoing 127th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly in Quebec, Ms Kadaga told off Mr Baird and reminded him that Uganda was neither a colony nor protectorate of Canada and as such her sovereignty, societal and cultural norms were to be respected.
She told IPU organisers that she was not aware that the assembly had been summoned to promote gay rights.
Earlier, at the inaugural plenary on Monday, Mr Baird had demonised Uganda on allegations of persecuting sexual minorities. The Foreign Minister referred to the specific incident of gay-rights activist David Kato, who was bludgeoned to death in January 2011.
Responding to the unprovoked Baird attack, Ms Kadaga said: “When we came for this Assembly, to which we were invited, we expected respect for our sovereignty, our values and our country … “I, therefore, on behalf of the Ugandan delegation, and, indeed, the people of Uganda, protest in the strongest terms the arrogance exhibited by the Foreign Minister of Canada, who spent most of his time attacking Uganda and promoting homosexuality.”
In reference to Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s anti-homosexuality Bill, which is in Parliament, Ms Kadaga said, “as a Speaker of Parliament, it is my responsibility to protect the rights of Members of Parliament; hence I cannot deny them the right to move private members’ Bills. The debate on homosexuality is not a settled matter.”
Ms Kadaga told the assembly that Kato’s death resulted from a crime of passion. That he had contracted to pay some money to his lover in order to have sex with him. That, when he failed to pay, he was beaten to death; the case was taken to court; the assailant was jailed and is now serving his sentence.
She reminded the Canadian minister and other gay rights sympathisers that the gay rights debate began in the US in 1967. “To-date 39 states in the USA prohibit same-sex marriages,” she said, adding: “In the Anglican Church the matter is not yet settled. Indeed in the Anglican Church of the USA, some provinces pay allegiance to the Church of Uganda because they do not believe in homosexuality.”
For that matter, Ms Kadaga said: “If homosexuality is a value for the people of Canada they should not seek to force Uganda to embrace it. We are not a colony or a protectorate of Canada. The subject under discussion is ‘Citizenship, Identity and Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in a Globalised World’, please stick to it.”
Mr Bahati’s Bill has received support from religious groups but has been condemned by human rights defenders. In October 2009, the Ndorwa West lawmaker proposed that a new offence be created named “aggravated homosexuality” which would be punishable by death.