The Fellowship is best known for its annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., which is traditionally attended by foreign dignitaries and prominent U.S. politicians, including the president. But its real power lies in the relationships it has forged with business, political, and religious leaders around the globe.
The Fellowship largely avoided public scrutiny until 2009, when its involvement in Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill became public. Uganda has been the object of special attention within the organization since 1986, when President Yoweri Museveni came to power and quickly became one of The Fellowship’s most-prized recruits.
For years, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe from Oklahoma, the organization’s point person for Africa, has cultivated personal friendships with rising Fellowship members and with the political elite in Uganda. According to Jeff Sharlet, author of a best-selling book about The Fellowship, Inhofe was “designated as partner for 11 African leaders, including the presidents of Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, relationships supported by funds raised by teams of American businessmen and religious activists.”
Inhofe has gone on more than 137 African visits and has an especially close relationship with Rwandan President Kagame, who has been accused of human rights violations by numerous watchdog groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Global Witness. In 2014, Inhofe led a special delegation of U.S. Congresspeople to meet with Kagame and praised him for transforming Rwanda. “The country has progressed so much and you don’t see this in many countries – and we credit President Kagame for this transformation,” Inhofe said.
Former U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (now the governor of Kansas) is another prominent and influential Fellowship member who maintained close ties to President Museveni, and who helped shape U.S. policy toward the nation. “As we give foreign aid to Uganda,” Sharlet said of Inhofe and Brownback, “these are the people who are in a position to steer that money.”
For more details, see American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism.