Uganda has many minority groups; what is unique about homosexuals?

Friday February 28 2014

By Augustine Ruzindana

Uganda, like most African countries, is a country of minorities as every ethnic group is a minority in the total population of the country. Many members of most ethnic groups have emigrated to areas which are homelands of other ethnic groups where they become minorities once again.

Every religious group is a minority as Uganda has no dominant religion. The collective of the many Christian groups comprise a majority but when left to themselves each group casts doubt on the genuineness of the Christianity of other groups.

Every category of persons, students, workers, teenagers, middle-aged, elderly, name it, everyone belongs to some minority group at any one time. The minority which is most prominent in the media are in the political class who lose elections and become an opposition that is deemed to have no rights and every now and then, the election winners in government mount operations – violence, monetary inducements, appointments - designed to weaken or exterminate them. Of late, however, another minority, the homosexuals, has taken more space in the media than that hitherto occupied by the opposition.

The Constitution of Uganda in Article 21 (2) provides that “...a person shall not be discriminated against on the ground of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability”. Article 22 (3) defines discrimination as giving “different treatment to different persons” attributable to the above descriptions. Going by the Constitution no one should suffer any discrimination though the reality is that this is the order of the day.

Take the political opinion category whose rights the recently enacted Public Order Management Act (POMA) was designed to curtail. The international community now issuing threats because of the passing of the anti-homosexuality law did not then raise a finger against the POMA. When the presidential term limits were removed from the Constitution, thus ushering in a life presidency, the same protests as those being made now were totally absent.

We have listened to speeches at official functions applauding the cordial relations based on ‘shared values’ as rampant violations of human and fundamental rights have been routinely taking place. Over time, a repressive security state was established with the connivance of those now loudly protesting against the violation of homosexual rights.


It is, therefore, a glaring contradiction that for some powers to have been tolerant of repression and intimidation of the political opposition, rigging of elections, rampant corruption and then turn round to express outrage when a regime becomes consistent and passes laws unfavourable to a sexual minority?

It is this inconsistency of the international community that the Ugandan, the African public cannot appreciate. If you support protection of rights, then oppose the repression of political opponents which is a more defining regime characteristic. Then opposition to violation of rights to sexual orientation will be placed in a consistent context.

I do not support this anti-homosexual law, which in any case reproduces already existing provisions of the Penal Code and some other laws that are not being enforced. However, while this law will also hardly be enforced for the intended purposes, it may be used against political opponents.

A case in point is Dr Kizza Besigye who was nominated in 2005 when he was a prisoner falsely accused of rape and in Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim’s political career has been ruined with this accusation. There is no worse stigma in Africa for an aspiring leader to be accused of being a homosexual.

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP.