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MP denied award over anti-gays law

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According to Ms Abia, the reason for cancellation of the award ceremony is not convincing.

According to Ms Abia, the reason for cancellation of the award ceremony is not convincing. PHOTO BY Goefrey Sseruyange. 

By TABU BUTAGIRA

Posted  Tuesday, March 4  2014 at  02:00

In Summary

American group cancels prize, citing scheduling conflict, days after awardee and Arua Woman MP, told them she is fine with the anti-gay law.

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KAMPALA

A US group has cancelled an award to MP Christian Bako Abia, over concerns on Uganda’s new stringent Anti-homosexuality law.

The MP was due to receive in the award in Washington on Friday,
Ms Erika Veberyte, the director of the Women’s Democracy Network (WDN), wrote to the Arua District Woman MP mid last month, informing her that she had been nominated as the 2014 Jeane J. Kirkpatrick awardee alongside an American Congresswoman.

The International Republican Institute, a non-profit and non-partisan organisation for advancing freedom and democracy worldwide, established the award in 2008 to honour the exceptional works of Dr Kirkpatrick, the first female US permanent representative to the United Nations.

After President Museveni last week assented to the anti-gay law, Ms Veberyte inquired MP Abia’s views and how she voted in Parliament on the legislation, slammed by Western governments and human rights groups as discriminatory.

The director even suggested for the lawmaker a draft standard response, if asked about the Anti-Homosexuality law on the US trip, that: “The issue you are talking about is very important, but I am here to promote and celebrate women’s empowerment. I believe women across the world must exercise their right to equal representation in the decision-making for their communities.”

The MP said she told Ms Veberyte she was upcountry when the House passed the Bill in December, last year, but would have voted for it had she attended the session.
“This is a law popular with majority Ugandans and culture, and democracy necessitates that I listen to the views of the people I represent, and who in this case support the legislation,” she told this newspaper in a separate interview on Sunday, the initially-planned day of her travel.

Following the response, Ms Abia was informed on February 27: “WDN is cancelling [the] 2014 Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Awards luncheon”.

Officials said they were unable to reconcile conflicting schedules with the award co-recipient, an unnamed US Congresswoman, and that “the awards luncheon [scheduled for March 7] was approaching so quickly…”

“I sincerely apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause, and please know that we are deeply saddened that this has happened,” Ms Veberyte wrote. “We value your work empowering women immensely and will continue to seek opportunities to recognise you and all that you do to strengthen and empower women in your country and worldwide.”

In an email reply, Ms Abia said the reason for the award cancellation was unconvincing.
“It is not true that this is because of the absence of the Congress lady. No. It is because of Uganda’s legislation on LGBT and the fact that I am a legislator in this house,” the MP noted in her correspondence with Ms Veberyte. “I definitely understand WDN and IRI’s failure to reconcile your country’s position and that of Uganda.”

tbutagira@ug.nationmedia.com