Archbishop Tells Africa Homosexuality is a Human Rights Issue, Will American Culture War Exporters Listen?

During a working visit to Zambia on June 29, the head of the Anglican Communion, Justin Welby, showed true global leadership when he reportedly told Zambian journalists and Christians what they may not have wanted to hear. “Homosexuality is a global issue,” the Archbishop said. “We need to treat others with respect and dignity. It is a human rights issue… there is need to treat everyone with respect and dignity.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Image via The Sun

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Image via The Sun

For those who don’t know Archbishop Welby, he belongs to an Evangelical Wing of the Anglican Church, and is a highly respected leader in the evangelical community. In American Culture Warriors in Africa, I explain that unlike his predecessor, Rowan William, Archbishop Welby met with African leaders of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)—founded by American Conservatives opposed to LGBTQ advances in the Episcopal Church—on October 20, 2013,following the Westgate Mall bombing of September 2013, and again just before the official GAFCON (October 21-26) in Nairobi, Kenya. After leaving Kenya, he sent a video message to GAFCON participants explaining his absence at the conference. Part of his message addressed the issue of human sexuality. “We are dealing with very rapid changes of culture in the Global North and the issue of sexuality is a very important one,” he told the participants. “How we respond rightly to that, in a way that is holy, truthful and gracious, is absolutely critical to our proclamation of the gospel.” Anti-LGBTQ Archbishops of Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria and their counterparts in the United States—the very bishops U.S.-based pastor of Saddleback Church, Rick Warren, has long been working with in both African and here in the U.S. to promote and extend the culture wars—misinterpreted the Archbishop Welby’s words as endorsements of their anti-gay position.

This time, however, the Archbishop made it very clear—the issue of human sexuality is a human rights issue. His words attracted the attention of conservative pastors.

Addressing the local media, Rev. Pukuta Mwanza, Executive Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, rebutted the Archbishop’s message and instead of heeding the calls for love and tolerance, encouraged sexual minorities to “cure” their homosexuality through prayers and counseling.

The Archbishop’s courageous words came at the time when Zambians were awaiting the ruling on a same-sex couple James Mwape and Phillip Mubiana, who were pulled from their home and arrested on charges of being homosexual in May, 2013. After spending over a year in jail, subjected to dehumanizing “medical tests” such as forced anal examinations by the state, the court finally ruled on July 3, 2014, that the state did not prove beyond doubt that Mwape and Mubiana had engaged in same-sex sexual relations.

James and Phillip’s acquittal also brought to the foreground what many Africans believe, thanks to the propaganda spread by U.S. conservatives who travel to their countries, that LGBTQ people are foreign to Africa.

“We, the Youths of Zambia Say No to Gay Rights,” and “Abash Homosexuality, —Leave Zambia,” were some of signs seen outside the courtroom the day of the acquittal. At the same time, the presence of family members of the couple—particularly Phillip’s grandmother, who courageously stood by her grandson—proved the Archbishop’s point, that persecution of LGBTQ persons in Africa is not a political issue; it is a moral issue; it is a human rights issue. It is time to stop playing politics with human lives. We all have the moral responsibility to stand up and be counted—gay rights are human rights! The Archbishop’s example is commendable, for religious leaders to hide behind diplomacy when human lives are being destroyed is a betrayal of our sacred calling.

Moreover, the persecution of LGBTQ persons in Africa is defended by the myth that they can somehow be “cured.” Alan Chambers, the American Evangelical leader who made his career claiming he could “cure” homosexuality, was one of the Speakers at the Evangelical Lausanne Conference in Cape Town in 2010, and whose presentation was later deleted from the Lausanne website. Yet although he later retracted his claims, and apologized for ever claiming that sexual orientation could be altered, African politicians and pastors are busy repeating these made-in-the-USA lies.

Let the sacred truth be said, LGBTQ persons are human beings with fundamental human rights to be protected and defended. To deny these rights is to dehumanize and harm ourselves. As the Archbishop said, this is a global issue, and it deserves a global response. As Africa’s problems multiply, LGBTQ persons have become the easiest scapegoat at political gatherings for African politicians eager to turn public attention away from issues of corruption or economic inequality. And some local religious leaders, who receive funding from these American culture warriors, then celebrate such demonization as courageous leadership.

Global religious institution such as the Anglican Communion and the Vatican need to speak out against such atrocities—failure to do so is to sanction the persecution and discrimination our fellow human beings, and a sin.

The Archbishop refused to separate our common humanity into camps—“us” (heterosexuals) and “them” (homosexuals). He did not say one thing in Africa, only to turn around and deny it to a Western audience (as did Saddleback pastor Rick Warren); he did not condemn the decriminalization of African sexual minorities to a Western audience only to allow local African clergy to support anti-LGBTQ legislation in Uganda and Nigeria (as the Vatican has done). He defended our common humanity, calling on all people to respect the dignity of every individual regardless of the person’s sexual orientation.

The story of the Good Samaritan is critical here. The Archbishop of Canterbury has done his part. Will Pope Francis, Bill Graham, and Rick Warren follow suit? I hope so!

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PRA Discusses American Culture Warriors in Africa on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

PRA had the opportunity this last week to work with HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, discussing the U.S.-based conservative evangelicals who are responsible for exporting the culture wars to Uganda and other African nations. Watch it below!

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John Oliver

RELEASE: Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma Applauds Obama Admin Sanctions on Anti-LGBTQ Ugandan Leaders

BOSTON, 6/19/14 – After the Obama administration announced new sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Uganda on Thursday, PRA applauds the plan for targeted sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Uganda, including persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
From the administration’s press release:

Today, we are announcing several additional steps. Specifically, the Department of State is taking measures to prevent entry into the United States by certain Ugandan officials involved in serious human rights abuses, including against LGBT individuals. In addition, the United States will take steps, consistent with current authorities, to prevent entry into the United States by Ugandans who are found responsible for significant public corruption.

“This is a wonderful first step,” says Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, whose groundbreaking research first brought global attention to the American right-wing religious groups behind Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act. “While we await the details of the State Department’s plan, we have been a critic of blanket sanctions on Uganda and support approaches that target the leaders most responsible for human rights violations. But this action must  be expanded. Uganda is not the only African nation with life-threatening human rights violations being passed by governments. We hope to continue working with the State Department to create similar sanctions against leaders in Nigeria, Zambia, Rwanda, Cameroon, and other nations.”

“What we need to be careful about,” added Tarso Luís Ramos, executive director of PRA, “is about falling into the trap of thinking this is a problem happening exclusively across the ocean in Africa. The exportation of homophobia and sexism comes from U.S.-based conservatives, and we would like to see the U.S. government take a closer look at American culture warriors like Scott Lively, Rick Warren, Lou Engle, and Sharon Slater, who are just as much responsible for these massive human rights violations against sexual minorities and reproductive autonomy as their African allies are.While one of them, Scott Lively, is going to trial for crimes against humanity, most have not been held accountable.”

It is not yet known which anti-LGBTQ political and religious leaders in Uganda will face the sanctions, but PRA is encouraging the State Department to include:

  • MP David Bahati, author of the Anti-Homosexuality Act
  • Pastor Martin Ssempa, who was instrumental in garnering support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act, including its original form which called for the death penalty for LGBTQ people
  • Stephen Langa, leader of the Family Life Network, who hosted the infamous 2009 anti-homosexuality conference in Kampala which featured U.S. Pastor Scott Lively
  • Gary Skinner, who used his position at Wototo church to host meetings with members of parliament to build support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act
  • Julius Oyet, who served on a 2009 task force to raise funding for anti-LGBTQ programs at the behest of MP David Bahati

Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma is the senior religion and sexuality researcher at Political Research Associates, and the author of Globalizing the Culture Wars, and Colonizing African Values (the primary research reports which exposed U.S. conservative influence and involvement in anti-LGBTQ and anti-reproductive freedom initiatives in Africa). He is also the author of the new book American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism.

Kaoma is also featured in the award-winning documentary, God Loves Uganda.

Relevant Links: 
Globalizing the Culture Wars: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2009/12/01/globalizing-the-culture-wars-u-s-conservatives-african-churches-homophobia/

American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism: http://www.politicalresearch.org/africa/book-american-culture-warriors-in-africa/

Exclusive undercover video of Scott Lively in Uganda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9F9k4guN3M

About PRA:
Political Research Associates is a social justice think tank based in Boston, MA, devoted to supporting movements that build a more just and inclusive democratic society. We expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights.
Media Contact:
Eric Ethington
Communications Director
617-666-5300 ext 19
press@politicalresearch.org

pra press release

Meet Seyoum Antonios, Ethiopia’s Martin Ssempa

In American Culture Warriors in Africa, I argue that the U.S. culture warriors in Africa are a diverse group. At the individual level, they range from Massachusetts’ Scott Lively, a Holocaust revisionist, to mainstream figures like California’s Rick

Seyoum Antonios

Seyoum Antonios

Warren, a megachurch pastor and best-selling author. Some are longtime leaders of the Christian Right, recycling old arguments for a new audience in the Global South, while others are relative newcomers to the national and international arena of culture-war politics. Institutionally, they range from small organizations, like Sharon Slater’s Family Watch International, to large and well-funded organizations with global affiliates, such as Focus on the Family and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Yet the role of parachurch organizations, such as World Vision and Campus Crusade for Christ, is often overlooked, even as these groups are run by individuals who are allies of key culture war-exporters and African preachers of hate.

In January 2013, Campus Crusade for Christ sponsored the “Pamoja III” conference in Lagos, Nigeria, which drew thousands of attendees. There, Dr. Seyoum Antonios was introduced by Bekele Shanko of the Campus Crusade for Christ, and he gave a presentation on the international “gay agenda.” As has become a standard for these persecutors of sexual minorities and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), Antonios criticized and blamed Western influence (for the existence of sexual minorities in Africa), while hiding the fact that his entire presentation was based on U.S. conservatives’ talking points.

Halfway through Antonios’ presentation, he shared a video clip promoting a meeting he had previously organized in Ethiopia, which he claimed was attended by over 2,000 people. According to Antonios, the audience included government officials and religious leaders from the Evangelical Fellowship, the Ethiopia Orthodox Church, the Islamic Affairs Council, and the Roman Catholic Church—among other organizations. In the video clip, Antonios could be seen telling the audience that homosexuality is the “pinnacle of immorality” and claims that the international “gay agenda”—which Antonios declares has taken over the whole world—is now attempting to claim Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa. He then told his audience in Nigeria that they should stand firm against this agenda:

“Ethiopia shall be the graveyard for homosexuality, not its bleeding ground. Ethiopia shall be the place where people from all other nations will be coming to—seeking healing from their homosexual life styles. Ethiopia shall present itself again as the beacon of hope and an emblem of freedom, by leading the fight against homosexuality in the continent of Africa—making Africa also the graveyard of homosexuality.”

Antonios’ presentation rejected LGBTQ rights as human rights—just as Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Baptist Church did in 2008, while visiting Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya. Like notoriously anti-gay Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, as well as U.S. conservatives like Lively, Antonios warned his audience that gays were planning to take over Africa through the promotion of sexual immorality. Antonios may not be as charismatic as Ssempa or Scott Lively, but his Powerpoint presentation—filled with pornographic photos of gay sex and claims that “gays put on diapers for life” and “enjoy eating feces”—are almost identical to the ways Ssempa manipulates his audiences into a dangerous frenzy.

Also like Ssempa, Antonios presented LGBTQ persons in Africa as Western infiltrators who are working with foreign governments to impose homosexuality on Africa. He does not shy away from calling for the destruction of gays, while also promoting the myth that homosexuality can be “cured.”

But the persecution of African sexual minorities was not the only set of talking points Antonios borrowed from U.S. conservatives and Ssempa. He concluded his presentation by discussing women’s reproductive rights and abortion—again parroting U.S. Christian Right talking points. Mirroring language of the U.S. personhood movement, Antonios claimed that life begins on conception and showed graphic pictures of fetuses to further inflame his audience. Like his American right-wing counterparts, his message was simple: women’s reproductive and bodily autonomy is not a human right.

Many evangelical leaders seek to paint Antonios as a fringe element or outcast within the evangelical leadership, but that is not the case. Antonios was among those who gathered for the 2010 Lausanne Conference—the gathering of world evangelical religious leaders in Cape Town, South Africa—where American conservatives associated with the Exodus Global Alliance and the now-defunct Exodus International presented papers on homosexuality. He was even quoted by The Guardian newspaper in their coverage of the conference.

The partnership between Campus Crusade for Christ, Advocate International, and Alliance Defending Freedom in African sexual politics is just one among many networks of U.S. conservatives using their power to police sexuality around the globe. U.S. evangelical leaders’ claims that they do not share the views of these dangerous opponents sexual minorities and women should translate into official denouncements, but just as World Vision has found it hard to reject religiously based homophobia both at home and in Africa, well-meaning evangelical leaders have failed to officially condemn people like Antonios.

As my friend and Political Research Associate fellow Victor Mukasa has been known to say, “Homophobia kills, but so does silence.”

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HISTORIC: African Commission Acknowledges Need to Protect LGBTI People

The African Commission on People's Rights

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights meets in Nigeria. Image via fiacat.org

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has taken a major step toward protecting the rights of LGBTI people by adopting a resolution condemning violence against individuals based on their “real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Established by the African Charter in 1987, the Commission consists of 11 members elected by the AU Assembly, and is officially charged with three major functions:

  • the protection of human and peoples’ rights
  • the promotion of human and peoples’ rights
  • the interpretation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

In keeping with these commitments, during its 55th session held in Angola earlier this month, the ACHPR acknowledged the need to respond to the ongoing human-rights violations experienced by LGBTI people (documented and explained thoroughly in Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma’s new book, American Culture Warriors in Africa)  through the adoption of this historic resolution.

It’s impossible to stop that which is unseen. When we fail to acknowledge the existence of sexual minorities, transgender people, and intersex people, their oppression, too, remains invisible. By recognizing that the violence experienced by LGBTI people is real and distinct, the ACHPR has taken a major step forward in the fight for LGBTI safety, respect, and justice in Africa.

Many conservative lawmakers and faith leaders in Africa—urged on by their U.S.-based conservative benefactors—will undoubtedly argue that this resolution is part of some imagined international “gay agenda” to create new, special rights for LGBTI people. But the ACHPR has simply affirmed that the application of existing human rights standards should also apply to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex. The work of ensuring the protection of human rights for all people is not a zero-sum game—addressing human-rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity takes nothing away from the ongoing efforts to combat discrimination based on race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, and other grounds. In a 2012 report, ARC International observed, “There can be no hierarchies of rights, and it is our common duty to ensure that no person faces violations of their human rights on any grounds, including because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated on the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “It is not called the ‘Partial’ Declaration of Human Rights. It is not the ‘Sometimes’ Declaration of Human Rights. It is the Universal Declaration, guaranteeing all human beings their basic human rights, without exception.”

See the entire text of this historic document below:

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ACHPR Resolution on LGBTI People


Related:

American Culture Warriors Book CoverAmerican Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism is a new, popular-format guidebook designed to educate U.S. audiences and motivate all people of conscience to take action that interrupts the persecution of women and sexual minorities overseas.

Details Here

Homosexuality is Not Un-African

It is legalized homophobia, not same-sex relations, that is alien to Africa

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law  - James Akena/Reuters

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law – James Akena/Reuters

Guest post by Sylvia Tamale, professor of law at Makerere University in Uganda:

During a prime time interview with BBC’s “Hard Talk” show in March 2012, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni noted, “Homosexuals in small numbers have always existed in our part of black Africa …They were never prosecuted. They were never discriminated.”

Earlier this year, confronted by internal and external pressure, Museveni reversed himself and signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the full glare of the media — declaring that homosexuality was Western-imposed. Before signing the law, Museveni asked a team of top-notch Ugandan scientists to help him make an educated decision. The panel’sreport did not mince words: “In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexual tendencies.”

Museveni’s bizarre actions can only be interpreted as a political ploy ahead of presidential elections scheduled for early 2016. Having been at the helm since 1986, Museveni faces serious competition both within and outside his party, not to mention a restless population afflicted by a high cost of living, unemployment and a general disgust with rampant corruption. By the stroke of a pen, Museveni succumbed to populist pressures and condemned an otherwise law-abiding sexual minority to maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

Uganda is not alone in its anti-gay crusade. Nigeria recently passed a law criminalizing homosexuality. Several other African countries — including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon and Sierra Leone — have all expressed the desire to emulate Uganda and Nigeria. At least 38 African countries already proscribe consensual same-sex behavior.

The sad, tired but widely accepted myth that homosexuality is un-African has been valorized and erected on the altar of falsehood time after time. It is a myth that has been played out in numerous contexts, most recently over the debate on Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. However, historical facts demand that this fable be debunked once and for all.

African sexualities

The ‘homosexuality is un-African’ myth is anchored on an old practice of selectively invoking African culture by those in power. African women are familiar with the mantra. “It is un-African” whenever they assert their rights, particularly those rights that involve reproductive autonomy and sexual sovereignty.

The mistaken claim that anything is un-African is based on the essentialist assumption that Africa is a homogeneous entity. In reality, however, Africa is made up of thousands of ethnic groups with rich and diverse cultures and sexualities. As appealing as the notion of African culture may be to some people, no such thing exists. Moreover, even if we wanted to imagine an authentic African culture, like all others, it would not be static.

African history is replete with examples of both erotic and nonerotic same-sex relationships. For example, the ancient cave paintings of the San people near Guruve in Zimbabwe depict two men engaged in some form of ritual sex. During precolonial times, the “mudoko dako,” or effeminate males among the Langi of northern Uganda were treated as women and could marry men. In Buganda, one of the largest traditional kingdoms in Uganda, it was an open secret that Kabaka (king) Mwanga II, who ruled in the latter half of the 19th century, was gay.

The vocabulary used to describe same-sex relations in traditional languages, predating colonialism, is further proof of the existence of such relations in precolonial Africa. To name but a few, the Shangaan of southern Africa referred to same-sex relations as “inkotshane” (male-wife); Basotho women in present-day Lesotho engage in socially sanctioned erotic relationships called “motsoalle” (special friend) and in the Wolof language, spoken in Senegal, homosexual men are known as “gor-digen” (men-women). But to be sure, the context and experiences of such relationships did not necessarily mirror homosexual relations as understood in the West, nor were they necessarily consistent with what we now describe as a gay or queer identity.

Same-sex relationships in Africa were far more complex than what the champions of the “un-African” myth would have us believe. Apart from erotic same-sex desire, in precolonial Africa, several other activities were involved in same-sex (or what the colonialists branded “unnatural”) sexuality. For example, the Ndebele and Shona in Zimbabwe, the Azande in Sudan and Congo, the Nupe in Nigeria and the Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi all engaged in same-sex acts for spiritual rearmament — i.e., as a source of fresh power for their territories. It was also used for ritual purposes. Among various communities in South Africa, sex education among adolescent peers allowed them to experiment through acts such as “thigh sex” (“hlobonga” among the Zulu, “ukumetsha” among the Xhosa and “gangisa” among the Shangaan).

It is ironic that an African dictator wearing a three-piece suit, caressing an iPhone, speaking in English and liberally quoting the Bible can dare indict anything for being un-African.

In many African societies, same-sex sexuality was also believed to be a source of magical powers to guarantee bountiful crop yields and abundant hunting, good health and to ward off evil spirits. In Angola and Namibia, for instance, a caste of male diviners — known as “zvibanda,” “chibados,” “quimbanda,” gangas” and “kibambaa” — were believed to carry powerful female spirits that they would pass on to fellow men through anal sex.

Even today, marriages between women for reproductive, economic and diplomatic reasons still exist among the Nandi and Kisii of Kenya, the Igbo of Nigeria, the Nuer of Sudan and the Kuria of Tanzania. Like elsewhere around the world, anal intercourse between married opposite-sex partners to avoid pregnancy was historically practiced by many Africans before the invention of modern contraceptive methods.

Clearly, it is not homosexuality that is un-African but the laws that criminalized such relations. In other words, what is alien to the continent is legalized homophobia, exported to Africa by the imperialists where there had been indifference to and even tolerance of same-sex relations. In Uganda such laws were introduced by the British and have been part of our penal law since the late 19th century. The current wave of anti-homosexuality laws sweeping across the continent is therefore part of a thinly veiled and wider political attempt to entrench repressive and undemocratic regimes.

Alien to Africa

Equally alien to the continent are the Abrahamic religions (particularly Christianity and Islam) that often accompany and augment the “un-African” arguments against homosexuality. African traditional religions were (and still are) integrated into the people’s holistic and everyday existence. It was intricately tied to their culture, including sexuality.

With the new religions, many sexual practices that were acceptable in precolonial, pre-Islamic and pre-Christian Africa were encoded with tags of “deviant,” “illegitimate” and “criminal” through the process of proselytization and acculturation. It is ironic that an African dictator wearing a three-piece suit, caressing an iPhone, speaking in English and liberally quoting the Bible can dare indict anything for being un-African.

The struggle to win full citizenship for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex groups is global. Even in countries where homosexuality has been decriminalized, the consciousness of the majority has yet to catch up with reformed laws. In order to completely dispel homophobia from Africa, we may have to employ radically new methods of advocacy that resonate with African philosophies such as Ubuntu. This concept encompasses many values — humaneness, solidarity, interdependence, compassion, respect and dignity. It rejects selfish, paternalistic and restrictive regulations issued by rulers riding high moral horses in complete disregard of the interests of their neighbors, their community and their fellow human beings.

The late Nelson Mandela described this philosophy as “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others, that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.”

The homosexuality-is-un-African mantra negates everything that African history and tradition has transmitted to posterity. A tenet of African philosophy holds that “I am because you are.” In short, it matters little about the differences that each one of us displays but much about the essence of humanity that binds us together. What really matters is the respect for human dignity and diversity.

**Originally published on Al Jazeera America. Republished with the author’s permission. Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of PRA**

LGBTQ Rights – African Politicians’ Biggest Scapegoat

President Robert Mugabe (left) and President Yahya Jammeh (right)

President Robert Mugabe (left) and President Yahya Jammeh (right)

On April 18th, as the Christian world gathered to mark Good Friday, Zimbabweans also celebrated the 34th anniversary of their independence from British colonial rule. President Robert Mugabe, the longest serving dictator in Southern Africa, used the opportunity to attack LGBTQ Zimbabweans.

“We did not fight for this Zimbabwe so it can be a homosexual territory,” he exclaimed, building upon the narrative (introduced by U.S. culture warriors in Africa) that LGBTQ Westerners are invading African countries to recruit children. He then threatened to expel foreign diplomats—including, presumably, the U.S. ambassador—who are sympathetic to the plight of sexual minorities: “If there are any diplomats who will talk of any homosexuality, just tell me. We will kick them out of the country without any excuse.”

Mugabe’s words came exactly two months after Gambian President Yahya Jammeh made similar commentsduring his country’s 49th independence anniversary. “We will fight these vermins [sic] called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” Jammeh declared. “We will therefore not accept any friendship, aid or any other gesture that is conditional on accepting homosexuals or LGBT as they are now baptized by the powers that promote them. … As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhea, Bacteria and Tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence.”

The dangerous rhetoric from Jammeh and Mugabe isn’t new to the continent. Mugabe has previously referred to gay people as “worse than pigs and dogs,” a sentiment echoed by the late president of Malawi, Bingu Wa Mutharika, and many other African political and religious leaders.

Many people ask why these leaders and presidents are making such horrific statements about their own LGBTQ/I populations when many African sexual minorities are already living in hiding and fear for their lives. What needs to be understood is that these words are almost always used in the context of attacking the West or Western culture. By adopting the claim that homosexuality is foreign to Africa and only exists because of the West, their denouncement of homosexuality is seen as fighting back against historic neo-colonialism or imperialism—which, in turn, gains broad praise from their constituents.

It is true that Western nations have not always acted in the interest of Africa (to put it mildly), but to use the West as an excuse to persecute and imprison innocent persons is appalling. Politicians like Mugabe and Jammey, who have robbed their respective nations of billions of dollars, are also responsible for their countries’ dire economic states. These African leaders condemn the West and scapegoat gays to distract from real issues facing their nations and to hide their own incompetence, corruption, and despotism.

But this raises another question: Do we, as Africans, have moral standards for our own speech to which we hold ourselves accountable? Are we so blinded by hate for gays that we don’t see their humanity? Even those who may not agree that LGBTQ/I persons should have full equality under the law should, at the very least, all agree that it is immoral for the head of State to rob citizens of their humanity? Is it not immoral that our religious leaders sit back in silence as politicians compare our fellow human beings to dogs, vermin, leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis?

It is ironic that both Mugabe and Jammeh spoke their words during their countries’ independence celebrations, which recognized that they were once considered less than fully human by colonial governments. These leaders have forgotten that it is not long ago that it was we who were dehumanized—a time when murdering an African was viewed as lesser evil. Do none of my fellow countrymen see anything wrong with using the same words against our own people?

As Africans, we need no reminder that the first step on the path towards genocide is to erase your opponents’ humanity. In Rwanda, the Tutsi were dehumanized as cockroaches—helping thereby to justify their slaughter. Another historical parallel can be made to the Jews (and the gays) in Nazi Germany when their lives were reduced to reviled caricatures.

Of course, the ultimate irony of this sad tale is that it is not LGBTQ people who are foreign to Africa, but rather the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that is being used against them. Jammeh’s and Mugabe’s words were so heavily influenced by U.S.-based conservatives—people like Sharon Slater, Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren, and U.S.-based organizations like the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). They are all among hundreds of other U.S. culture warriors, who deny that LGBTQ rights are human rights, and work to spread their beliefs in Africa where there are already few legal, religious, or police protections for African sexual minorities.

It is time for all nations of the world, alongside religious leaders, churches, and organizations, to defend the humanity of sexual minorities on the African continent. LGBTQ individuals are human beings with human rights to be protected and defended, and to sanction their destruction is a crime against humanity. The global community must openly demand human rights for all humans regardless of their sexual orientation.

If we do not, then leaders like Presidents Jammeh and Mugabe will continue to use American conservatives’ words to incite the slaughter of their own citizens. Africa has entered a phase in which the genocide against sexual minorities is in sight.

Beyond Lively & Warren: U.S. Conservative Legal Groups Changing African Law to Persecute Sexual Minorities & Women

ACLJ ADF

While the exposure of the direct involvement of U.S. conservative culture warriors like Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren in draconian anti-gay laws in Russia, Uganda and Nigeria has put many in the Religious Right on the defensive, there are many other leaders in the movement to export the U.S. culture wars who have largely remained incognito. As more African nations move to pass anti-gay laws, there is a need to reflect on the role U.S. conservative legal groups have played on the continent.

In September 2009, for example, leaders from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as Alliance Defense Fund), and Advocate International—the conservative legal group that claims to “protect religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family”—presented seminars at “Be Transformed: Steering the African Continent to Righteousness, Justice and Peace by Renewing our Minds,” a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sam Casey, ADF’s founder and General Counsel for U.S. Right Wing Advocates International, and Jeffery Ventrella, Senior Vice-President of Strategic of Training at ADF were plenary speakers. Ventrella spoke about “Religious Freedom, the Homosexual Agenda and Advocacy,” capitalizing on the popular attack on LGBTQ people that the secret overarching agenda of the push for equality for sexual minorities is to “recruit” young children.

What makes the involvement of these well-funded American organizations worrisome is their focus on the legal aspect of the persecution and imprisonment of LGBTQ people, and their well-orchestrated collaboration with other foes of LGBTQ justice. The Alliance Defending Freedom’s involvement in Africa immediately follows that of American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ – founded by Pat Robertson), which helped draft the successfully-passed 1996Defense of the Marriage Act (DOMA)—which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “unconstitutional” in June, 2013.

The ACLJ has setup offices around the world, and in Africa operates under the name “East African Center for Law and Justice” in Kenya, and the “Africa Center for Law and Justice” in Zimbabwe. Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ’s Executive Director, asserted that his organization assists Africans to “uphold pro-life and pro-family values.” ACLJ, he continued, “has partnered with Africans in Zimbabwe and Kenya, and has been doing great work in Africa now for years.” Behind these U.S. conservative groups’ agenda—ACLJ, ADF, and Advocates International—is an attempt to export U.S. culture wars to Africa, falsely claiming that they are authentic and original African values.

Wherever these groups work, their impact is the same: increased persecution of LGBTQ persons and the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Just as European missionaries transformed African culture and values on the premise of religion, these organizations are doing the same. For example, during the 2009 Advocates International conference, Sam Casey, addressed the issue of reproductive health in a speech entitled “Protecting Life: An International Status Report.” Three years later, just after the Rwandan government ratified Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa,  in which African governments committed themselves to ensure women’s health and reproductive rights (including safe abortions), Casey traveled to Rwanda to urge Rwandans to “join together to form a nationwide pro-life movement built around the San Jose Articles. … In consultation with Heartbeat International, Human Life International or Life International,” Casey wrote, Rwandans must introduce a “pregnancy resource center” to provide conservative counseling, and pregnancy diagnosis, which would inform “women about the health risks of all their options, including the induced abortions.”

Like the American Center for Law and Justice, the U.S.-based Human Life International operates in Africa. Where no African had yet signed onto the San Jose Articles, these groups aimed to turn Africa into a U.S. conservative-modeled continent by recasting the Maputo Protocol as un-African.

But while they find it easy to win over Africans on homosexuality, generally, African nations tend to be more open to women’s health and reproductive rights. In his Mission Report to Namibia in 2010, Human Life International’s Brian Clowes complained that:

“[M]any Namibians have fallen victim to anti-life thinking, simply because they haven’t heard the other side of the story. They did not comprehend why explicit sex education and contraception are intrinsically evil, and they found it very difficult to understand the scientific evidence and Church teachings on these issues.” [emphasis his]

Both Clowes’ and Casey’s claims are not just insulting to Africa, but imperialistic. Why should U.S. groups export their ideologies to Africa—why should they believe they know better than Africans? Unlike many leaders of the U.S. conservative ideology, most Africans understand that sex education, abortion and contraception save lives. But thanks to the intense pressure of these right-wing actors, the once-rational thinking among African nations is being corrupted in order to deny women of their rights—frequently through legislation such as constitutional amendments (which the American groups help to draft) which define life as beginning at conception. Even in a country like Rwanda, for example, disinformation campaigns from these U.S. organizations has pushed the general public to actually believe that abortion is a crime.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, Advocates International, and the American Center for Law and Justice are three of the leading U.S. conservative legal organizations involved in exporting the U.S. culture wars to Africa. But unlike Americans like Lively, Engle, and Warren who came into the spotlight after giving public speeches to sway the local populaces, these secretive conservative legal organizations have been able to avoid negative press by working directly with lawmakers to draft and impose draconian laws, creating the false impression that they’re coming solely from these countries’ representatives.

Last week, the Ethiopian government cancelled the anti-gay rally and dropped the proposed anti-gay bill, but the LGBTQ community continues to be under surveillance and under attack. At this moment, LGBTQ persons “are very scared even to socialize,” a prominent human rights activist recently told me.

U.S. conservatives claim innocence when it comes to the exportation of homophobia—especially when called to account. But the truth is that intense persecution and violence against LGBTQ people is what follows these “innocent” visits from the American Right.

Sex, Love, and Aid

rainbow money pig

Guest Post by Kerry Williams

Uganda’s policies regarding LGBTQ people—and the implications for the future of foreign aid to the country—have become a controversial transnational political issue. The passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalizes not only gays and lesbians but also anyone who doesn’t report them, prompted Obama and Kerry to announce a review of U.S. assistance programs to Uganda.  Similarly, President Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank postponed a $90 million loan to Uganda and said the Bank needed to review the law for adverse effects on its development objectives.  Uganda seemed unmoved and retorted by saying it would not be blackmailed by Western powers.

The drama of love, sex, and the complicated nature of international aid and involvement is playing out not only on the cross-continental political stage but also in two recent film and theatre productions.  In fact, God Loves Uganda (2013) and Witness Uganda (2014), arguably reveal much more about the potential hazards of aid—and withdrawing it—than current statements made by the U.S. administration and the World Bank.  And whereas much of the recent discussion has centered on state-based foreign aid, God Loves Uganda and Witness Uganda raise up critical issues about the flow of money from individuals, religious networks, and NGOs.

God Loves Uganda (soon to be released on DVD) exposes how American money is being funneled to certain Ugandan churches, which vociferously preach the so-called evils of homosexuality. It is directed by Roger Ross Williams, was nominated for an Academy Award and has been screening across America since late last year. His incredibly brave film shows how certain U.S. evangelicals move both their money and dogma from the U.S. to Uganda: He shows footage of Scott Lively lecturing Ugandan Parliamentarians on how to counter the so-called “Homosexual Agenda.” (Lively, well known for suggesting gays were responsible for the Holocaust, is currently running for governor of Massachusetts while also facing a lawsuit for crimes against humanity due to his involvement in the persecution of LGBTQ people in Africa.)  Williams documents naïve, white, 20-year-old American men instructing wizened, black, 80-year-old Ugandan grandmothers how to live their lives in accordance with the Lord’s word.  He follows the flow of money from the International House of Prayer in Missouri to churches in Kampala, where Ugandan pastors mimic the words of U.S. evangelicals condemning homosexuality in God’s name.  Tragically these Uganda pastors are also building on U.S. evangelical discourse to incite their congregations to perpetrate and justify violence.  A Ugandan pastor stands on a stage in a field before a congregation and as part of the sermon condemning the sexual perversion of homosexuals shouts through a loudhailer, “Those who are ready to kill those who are homosexual, hands up!” Everyone’s hand shoots up to volunteer.

Williams argues through the film that Americans, particularly those involved in religious organizations and charitable giving abroad, need to think about the unintended consequences of their words and their aid.  Reverend Kapya Kaoma, the film’s protagonist and a senior researcher at PRA, explains: “Usually when people are putting their money in the collection plate at church, they don’t know where this money is going.  They see this poor face of an African child—the same money which a person would have given in good faith to help is used to destroy people’s lives in various parts of Africa”. Williams rightly draws an analogy with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, where the white man journeys to Africa filled with the imagined darkness and evils of black Africa only to find the real darkness and evils are within himself.  Or in Williams’s case, as he puts it: “I, a black man, made that journey to Africa and found—America”.

Witness Uganda adopts a somewhat different angle, portraying the existential angst of a young gay African-American who haphazardly takes himself, and eventually his charity, to Uganda.  A colorful musical created by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews—partners in life and work—the play tells Griffin’s semi-autobiographical story of going to Uganda in his 20s only to find nothing as he expected.  There are few surprises, and the musical ends with everyone living happily-ever-after.  Gould and Matthews now fund the education of orphans on a more permanent basis. Whereas Williams critiques the flow of money and influence from America to Uganda, Gould and Matthews suggest, more mildly, that “giving is complicated”.

I attended question-and-answer sessions for both productions; as a South African lawyer working on sexuality, law, and governance in Africa, I was interested in the audiences’ responses. In both sessions, attendees reflected critically on issues of American involvement in Africa.  After God Loves Uganda, for example, a middle-aged white American woman asked how she could help. Rev. Kaoma, one of the panelists, deftly answered the question, suggesting that the woman turn her attentions home and to do whatever she could to hold U.S.-based religious leaders and organizations accountable for their actions abroad.  His response suggested that in many cases, it is more effective for Americans to work at a local level rather than abroad.

At the Q&A for Witness Uganda, a Ugandan man asked Gould and Matthews if they had thought about the “unintended consequences” of their giving. While most questions affirmed that the show reflected a common experience of traveling to Africa to work and volunteer, this question seemed to suggest that Griffin’s haphazard attempts to help may harm.  The show had suggested that nothing but good comes from giving, so why else ask about unintended consequences? Gould and Matthews, unfortunately, could not provide the Ugandan with an answer.

Having lived and worked in South and Southern Africa my whole life, I know that aid can, at the very least, be disruptive. Although Witness Uganda is entertaining, it never really moves past “giving is complicated.”  In contrast, God Loves Uganda thoughtfully takes audiences on a global political journey, highlighting the real risks associated with international giving and aid work.  It sends a message that giving and getting involved in African politics and society—whether through individual or institutional channels—needs to be done carefully, and sometimes, maybe not done at all.

Certainly, not giving is also complicated. If national governments, churches, religious organizations, NGOs, or individuals choose to withdraw aid, they must do so strategically and responsibly.  When the U.S. and the World Bank say they are reviewing their assistance programs because of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, they need to be sure they can justify withdrawing specific types of aid and that they are not merely perpetuating patterns of Western neo-colonialism and oppression.  Perhaps it does make sense, for example, to withdraw money that might otherwise be used to deny gays and lesbians access to health care services or funneled to organizations that vocally support the Anti-Homosexuality Act.  The Dutch government has adopted this approach, withdrawing its aid to the Ugandan justice sector rather than be considered complicit with Uganda’s jailing of gays and lesbians. Over the next weeks and months, we will see whether Obama and Kim follow this example.  The U.S. and the World Bank have an opportunity to send a clear, value-driven message that those who are complicit with the Ugandan government in its needless persecution of LGBTQ people will not benefit from American aid.

Kerry Williams is currently a candidate for a Masters in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she is both an Edward S. Mason Fellow and a Harvard South African Fellow. The views expressed in this article are hers alone and not necessarily endorsed by Political Research Associates. The full text of her article can be read on the Citizen website. 

ITN News’ Channel 4 and PRA’s Kapya Kaoma Take Down Scott Lively

Channel 4

PRA’s senior researcher Kapya Kaoma joined ITN News’ Channel 4 (England) in a spotlight feature about Scott Lively’s involvement in the creation of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The piece includes PRA’s exclusive video of Lively’s presentation at a Uganda anti-gay conference in 2009.

Watch the embedded video below, or on Channel 4′s website.