What you need to know:
- This state of affairs will help Museveni play East off the West. So that when the latter demands political accountability in the shape of human rights observance and economic transparency, Museveni can pull out the gay card and whip up Ugandan homophobia.
US president Joe Biden on Monday called for the “immediate repeal” of Uganda’s tough new anti-gay law and warned he may impose sanctions and other penalties in response.
“This shameful Act is the latest development in an alarming trend of human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda,” Mr Biden commented on the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
According to America’s stated interests in Africa, empowering marginalised groups, in this case homosexuals, is of primary importance.
However, America’s real interest in Africa, particularly Uganda, is strategic and economic. This interest includes countering the influence of the East – China and Russia – on the continent.
But mostly China, which is Africa’s largest two-way trading partner with more than 10,000 Chinese firms currently operating in Africa and, thereby, providing innumerable jobs. As a consequence, the value of China-Africa business is more than $2 trillion, with $300 billion in current investments. China also owns about 20 percent of Uganda’s debt, equivalent to about $1.6 billion.
So US fears of China’s conservative imperialism, as opposed to America’s liberal imperialism, are justifiably existential. They are also historical.
In the past, the rise of China attracted the racist epithet The “Yellow Peril” from the USA.
President Museveni, a keen student of geostrategy and history, recognises all this. So he is using the anti-gay law as a pawn in a cynical chess game which could result in a fool’s mate against the USA.
Yes, Mr Museveni is not anti-gay rights; he is pro-power. Let me explain.
In mid-March, Uganda’s Attorney General and Mr Museveni’s lawyer, Kiryowa Kiwanuka, told the parliamentary committee that this law (when still a Bill) was overkill.
He revealed how pre-existing laws “adequately provided for an offence”. Accordingly, the Bill, which passed into law largely intact, smacked of duplication and redundancy.
This means the law is likely to be contested in court and repealed.
We have seen such draconian laws revisited before. On January 10, Uganda’s Constitutional Court ruled that Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act was inconsistent with the country’s Constitution.
This anti-gay law is likely to suffer a similar fate. So why is Mr Museveni supporting the law then? In a word: politics.
Ugandans largely hate homosexuality and they are even less thrilled about homosexuals.
This hate can be used to mobilise Ugandans towards loving Museveni.
By using the logic, “the enemy (read Museveni) of my enemy (read homosexuality) is my friend”; Museveni wields a galvanising political tool.
Indeed, one that any politician would love to wield. And the icing on this cake is China’s official hostility towards homosexuality.
This state of affairs will help Museveni play East off the West. So that when the latter demands political accountability in the shape of human rights observance and economic transparency, Museveni can pull out the gay card and whip up Ugandan homophobia.
As a corollary, he will divert our attention away from what the West demands.
He will also threaten to truck with China, to the exclusion of the USA, if America does not pipe down on matters of politico-economic transparency and accountability. And America will obligingly back off.
This machtpolitik (power politics) is not new. Joseph-Desiré Mobutu did the same as president of Zaire (DR Congo) for 32 years. He stayed in power by manipulating the East and West divide along ideological lines, communism versus capitalism, to ensure America turned a blind eye to the excesses of his predatory regime.
Mobuto got away with murder by reminding the West that he could turn Zaire into a communist haven if the West did not support his regime.
What worked for Mobuto would work for Museveni.
Mr Matogo is a professional copywriter