Gays Bill: Uganda is being judged too harshly

Monday January 11 2010

By Pamela Ankunda

The backlash that Uganda has received over the Anti-homosexuality Bill can only confirm our fears. Ugandans (read Africans) have no right to discuss and no right to sovereignty. Uganda has no mandate to make choices for its people and no role in shaping its destiny.

However, it is too soon to lose hope. The wellbeing of a community depends on the choices made by people and what the government can do is enable an environment where citizens are all actors in exercising these ideals. It must continue with mass education as a way of preparing citizens to participate in public discussions, and to work together across traditional boundaries.
The challenge is that most civil societies see themselves as alternatives to the government, instead of partners in exercising people-centred mandates.Yet, the government can’t ignore the fact that it has created an environment where the demand for governance and human rights has grown tremendously. This is where homosexuality and the mentality of neo-colonialism must be defeated; in defining what is good for Uganda and Africa.

Unfortunately, we are still faced with a situation where government is expected to import wholesale ‘values’. The argument should be shifted to the ideals of making principles of good governance and human rights a “lived” experience rather than a “received” experience, a process that must be owned by Ugandans.
The issue of human rights remains a lacking experience on who must guard these rights. In as much as the government maintains the sole responsibility, social community must be assertively stressed for these particular communities to be compatible with, and reinforce government efforts in realigning these rights. Other agencies can help Ugandans realise them.

However, Ugandans still have every right to contest standards of governance that are inclined to “western democracy” as the ideal of “common good”. It is unfortunate that Uganda is now being judged on the actions of opportunists whose ideas are based on violence and blackmail and even worse, on the actions of aid attached strings. (Homosexuality). It is regrettable that government is pretentiously expected to observe their ‘human rights’, yet, by their own actions, they have surrendered their right to human rights.
When the state reacts to such extremism, donor agencies and civil societies turn the arm of government into a human rights violation issue. In no way, can the government be judged on such underhand methods.
Unfortunately, a situation has been created where the government’s duty to maintain law and order is viewed as “abuse of freedom and human rights”. If those who propelled such an argument looked at themselves, not as competitors of government but as partners, there would be a larger breeding ground for human rights and freedom to be expressed and exercised.
Africans must bear the responsibility for action, including the tailoring of our own approaches to our problems. Threats to good governance and human rights are hidden in the self given right for countries and different organisations to make judgment and pass laws for Uganda while asking Ugandans to remain silent about issues that affect them. It wouldn’t get worse.

Ms Ankunda works with the Media Centre