Two Cabinet ministers have disagreed over the proposed softening of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that seeks to punish those involved the act.
Local Government Minister Adolf Mwesige who chaired the Cabinet Committee tasked with finding possible ways of amending MP David Bahati’s Bill and counterpart James Nsaba Buturo of the Ethics docket failed to agree on the recommendations of the committee.
According to correspondences seen by Sunday Monitor, although the Cabinet Committee was supposed to be attended by seven ministers, only three attended the meeting that took place February 22 in Kampala.
Those who attended are Mr Mwesige and State Minister for Foreign Affair Isaac Musumba together with Education Minister Namirembe Bitamazire.
Those who are on the committee but did not attend the meeting are Gabriel Opiyo (Gender Minister), Kabakumba Masiko (Information Minister), Fred Ruhindi (Justice State Minister) and Dr Buturo.
In a letter dated March 11, Dr Buturo wrote to Mr Mwesige complaining: “The report of the Cabinet Committee … is not in the spirit of the said assignment. There are other concerns that I personally have which that report has not captured.” Dr Buturo argued that Mr Bahati, “an important player in the Bill” should also be invited for consultations in another meeting.
But Mr Mwesige, who chaired the meeting, wrote back on March 15: “The report is already scheduled on Agenda of Cabinet. I am therefore not in position to hold another meeting of the committee as your letter suggests.”
In their recommendations, the committee argued that the title of the Bill; Anti-Homosexuality, is stigmatising and appears to be targeting a particular group of people. They therefore want the “useful provisions of the proposed law” incorporated into the Sexual Offences Act.
The Committee, however, agreed that promotion of homosexuality should be criminalised. “The law should provide that all the parties: publishers, printers, distributors of any materials that promote homosexuality should all be liable to have committed an offence,” the minutes read in part.
Although Mr Ruhindi refused to comment on the disagreement between his two colleagues, he said he did not have any sympathy for homosexuals adding: “The Bill can be strengthened as long as it is in harmony with the other existing laws.”
Later Mr Mwesige told Mr Buturo that they could not present amendments to the relevant committee of Parliament “because we have no amendments to make on the Bill. But if Cabinet feels that amendments should be made, the line minister will carry those amendments to the relevant committee.”
When contacted, Mr Bahati said: “Its important that cabinet realises that the matter before them is not a matter to determine the prices of tomatoes but rather the destiny of our children.”
“We have a one life time opportunity to close the door to homosexuality in Uganda and if we don’t use it now it will be impossible in future. We pray that they (ministers) will remain firm and put Ugandans’ interests first not foreign pressure.”
Although the committee says the Bill was not tabled in line with the Parliamentary rules, The Speaker, Mr Edward Ssekandi, had earlier said Mr Bahati followed the right procedure in tabling his Private Member’s Bill.
No minister was willing to disclose when Cabinet would sit to consider the committee’s recommendations.