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Obama warns Museveni on anti-gays Bill

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Anti-gay activists demonstrate in Kampala

Anti-gay activists demonstrate in Kampala last year. FILE PHOTO 

By SOLOMON ARINAITWE & EMMANUEL MULONDO

Posted  Tuesday, February 18  2014 at  02:00

In Summary

Warning comes after President Museveni promised to sign the Bill into law.

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KAMPALA- American President Barack Obama has warned that his country and Uganda’s relationship would be “complicated” if President Museveni assents to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

A statement from the White House in Washington quoted Mr Obama as saying that the bill will “complicate our valued relationship with Uganda”, adding: “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.”

Mr Obama’s Sunday warning came a day after President Museveni announced at the NRM party’s parliamentary retreat in Kyankwanzi that he would assent to the Bill after a presentation by Ugandan scientists concluded that homosexuality is not natural.

“It is on the strength (that people are not homosexuals by genetics) that I am going to sign the bill,” President Museveni told the MPs. “I know we are going to have a big battle with the outside groups about this but I will tell them what our scientists have to say.”

Whereas Parliament had passed the Bill in December, President Museveni was hesitant to assent to it, first citing the lack of quorum on the day it was passed but later indicating that he needed a scientific explanation on whether homosexuality was a natural condition.

Barely 24 hours after his Kyankwanzi pronouncement, the President was already facing the “battle” with the American National Security Adviser, Ms Susan Rice, calling Mr Museveni to express her government’s and Mr Obama’s reservations on the matter.

According to the Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Ambassador James Mugume, the Americans had called to offer “further evidence” that homosexuality is a natural behaviour in contradiction with what the local scientists had presented.

“We are discussing with the US government. We are waiting to see what they have [to present]. I am told that the Americans have some materials and evidence that they feel were left out by our scientists,” Mr Mugume said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Asked when the US was scheduled to table the said evidence, Ambassador Mugume could not give a clear time-line, only saying: “It will not take a lot of time. It will be soon.”
Weighing in, the President’s Press Secretary, Mr Tamale Mirundi, said: “Uganda’s relationship with the US has not been based on homosexuality. We have had a long relationship with the US even before the word homosexuality was invented. Museveni will not allow them (homosexuals) to be persecuted but they also cannot be allowed to exhibit themselves.”

While Ambassador Mugume did not offer details of Ms Rice’s call, the American top official posted on her Twitter account that “she had spoken at length” with Mr Museveni.

Thereafter, the US White House posted Obama’s official statement on their website, in which he warned of the “complication” of relationships if Uganda went ahead and passed the law.

“As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love,” the statement said in part.

A post on the US embassy in Kampala official Facebook page yesterday, quoted Ambassador Scott H. DeLisi, saying: “This is not a debate about homosexuality, it is about fundamental rights for all citizens regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or community.”

Ms Erin Truhler, an information officer with the embassy, insisted she had “no specifics apart from what is in the statement.”

The statement did not delve into the specifics of the US-Uganda relations that are likely to be strained by the Bill, but the former supports local efforts in the social, economic, political and security spheres.

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