Uganda & the Gambia: Anti-Neocolonial Posturing and the People Who Suffer

UPDATE: President Jammeh has signed the new anti-LGBTQ bill into law, including sentences up to life-in-prison for homosexuality. Amnesty International recently reported that Gambian security forces are torturing people arrested in raids, threatening them with rape and pressuring them to confess to homosexual acts. The recent arrests are the first under the new law, Amnesty said Thursday. The group said at least four men, a 17-year-old boy and nine women have reportedly been arrested in recent weeks on suspicion of committing homosexual acts. An earlier statement described how the suspects were detained at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency in Banjul. “They were subjected to torture and ill-treatment to force them to confess their so-called ‘crimes’ and to reveal information about other individuals perceived to be gay or lesbian,” Amnesty said. 

The recent passage of yet another anti-homosexuality bill in Africa—this time in the small West African country of the Gambia—is being condemned by LGBTQ and human rights advocates around the world. The bill, which will likely be signed into law by President Yahya Jammeh, would amend the criminal code to increase the punishment for the charge of “aggravated homosexuality” to life in prison (currently the punishment for those convicted of “homosexual acts” is up to 14 years in prison).

Uganda president Yoweri Museveni (left) and the Gambia president Yahya Jammeh (right)

Uganda president Yoweri Museveni (left) and the Gambia president Yahya Jammeh (right)

Jammeh, who came to power in a 1994 coup, has made no secret of his anti-LGBTQ views. On the occasion of the 49th anniversary of his country’s independence earlier this year, Jammeh took the opportunity to attack his favorite scapegoats: “We will fight these vermins [sic] called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” he 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.”

In 2008, Jammeh said he would “cut off the head” of any gay person caught in the country, though he later retracted this threat, according to Agence France-Presse.

While Christian missionaries from the U.S. and elsewhere are certainly present in the Gambia, it is a predominantly Muslim country, so their influence is limited. Unlike Uganda, the chance of infamous U.S. culture warrior Lou Engle successfully attracting a crowd of thousands for a prayer rally there is pretty slim. Nonetheless, the influence of the American Christian Right is unquestionably at play.

For starters, the text for the Gambia’s new bill contains language identical to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA, formerly known as the “Kill the Gays Bill”), which was signed into law earlier this year (the law was later overturned by the country’s Supreme Court on technical grounds, but it maintains popular support and is expected to return soon). In Uganda’s case, the influence of American culture warriors in the creation and promotion of the AHA is thoroughly documented and crystal clear.

The saga of Uganda’s AHA has also served to influence the foreign relations strategies of numerous African leaders. Increasingly, Western nations are responding to a wider range of human rights abuses, including those that threaten the safety and humanity of LGBTQ people. On International Human Rights Day in 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boldly declared to an audience of U.N. diplomats in Geneva, “[G]ay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”

In its efforts to live up to that proclamation, the U.S.—along with several other Western nations—has begun taking diplomatic actions against countries that fail to protect the human rights of LGBTQ people. After Uganda’s AHA was signed into law, the U.S. was quick to impose visa restrictions and economic sanctions on the country.

With much-relied upon aid being withheld, LGBTQ people and their allies are no longer the only ones suffering as a result of these new laws. Concerned that the burden of these cuts will threaten their political standing, leaders are now seeking ways to defend themselves against Western critiques while maintaining their domestic power and influence. A primary strategy has been to leverage the threat—and historic harm—of Western colonialism, recasting themselves as heroic resisters who are bravely standing up to big, imperial, Western nations seeking to ‘impose their evil immorality.’ (Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni uses the term “social imperialism.”) This David & Goliath rescript gains broad support from constituents, securing—and further entrenching—the long-held positions of these questionably democratic leaders (Jammeh has been in power for 20 years, and Museveni has held the Ugandan presidency for 28 years).

Responding to post-AHA sanctions, Uganda government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said “Uganda is a sovereign country and can never bow to anybody or be blackmailed by anybody on a decision it took in its interests, even if it involves threats to cut off all financial assistance.”

Similarly, Jammeh has declared, “One thing we will never compromise, for whatever reason, is the integrity of our culture, our dignity and our sovereignty. … Sometimes you hear of a lot of noise about the laws of this country or my pronouncements. Let me make it very clear that, if you want me to offend God for you to give me aid, you are making a great mistake; you will not bribe me to do what is evil and ungodly.”

Further highlighting his bold resistance to historic and present-day colonialism, Jammeh announced in March that English would no longer be the Gambia’s official language. While in some sense, Jammeh’s anti-colonial stance is deserving of praise and support, suggesting that homosexuality is a symptom of colonization is simply wrong. As PRA senior religion and sexuality researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma has observed, “[I]t is not LGBTQ people who are foreign to Africa, but rather the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that is being used against them.”

Kaoma goes on to say, “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 Jammeh, 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.”

The reality, however, is that Jammeh and Museveni are well-positioned to call out any sort of diplomatic bluff. Both Uganda and the Gambia play important roles in regional peacekeeping efforts. The U.S. Embassy in the Gambia notes that the Gambian government “has provided steadfast, tangible support for the war on terrorism,” and in its FY2014 budget justification submitted to Congress, the U.S. State Department called Uganda a “key strategic partner to the United States … instrumental to security efforts throughout the region.”

And even if they were to play their cards wrong and wind up getting cut off from Western aid entirely, Jammeh and Museveni both know that there are other options on the horizon. China is eagerly expanding and strengthening its political and economic ties across the continent, and stipulations regarding human rights tend to not come up in negotiations with Africa’s new favorite investor.

While it’s unlikely that LGBTQ Africans will ever be confronted by a Chinese version of Scott Lively, like the ongoing effects of colonial-era anti-sodomy laws, the impact of neocolonial American culture warriors is unlikely to disappear with any new economic—or political—regime change. The work of opposing and ultimately eliminating these laws and reversing this current trend toward increased persecution of LGBTQ people will require ongoing, dedicated, multifaceted, and necessarily African-led resistance. For those in the West who seek to support and be in solidarity with these courageous activists, there is a critical role for us to play that extends beyond providing financial resources and advocating for diplomatic sanctions: we must hold accountable the ones among us who lit the proverbial match, setting this anti-LGBTQ firestorm in motion.

These culture war culprits are based all across the United States. Learn more about who—and where—they are, and then let’s start talking about how we can effectively confront and contain their influence.

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Uganda President Faces Human Rights Protests During Texas Visit

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni is visiting Texas this weekend to meet with members of the local business community who are interested in investment opportunities and potential business partnerships in Uganda. It appears, however, that local activists have no intention of letting his history of human rights violations go unnoticed.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs the Anti Homosexuality Actl into law  - James Akena/Reuters

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs the Anti Homosexuality Actl into lawJames Akena/Reuters

On Wednesday, the Dallas Voice, a local LGBTQ news outlet, posted a story about the President’s planned visit, noting that several members of the Ugandan immigrant community in Dallas were calling on the LGBTQ community for help in protesting his appearance. As word spread and pressure mounted, the Four Seasons in Irving canceled the President’s stay less than 24 hours later. The Irving Convention Center and the local police department were also beginning to express concern about the controversial head-of-state’s visit.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine was listed as the event’s new host, but according to Martha Neibling. a spokesperson for the Texan, “They did inquire about staying, but we’re not able to accommodate them because of the short-term notice and requirements that they had.”

Earlier this year, Museveni signed the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, making it the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA). The AHA—originally dubbed the “Kill the Gays” Bill before the provision applying the death penalty for acts of “aggravated homosexuality” was dropped in favor a life sentences—was later struck down by Uganda’s Constitutional Court based on a technicality, but the legislation maintains popular support and is expected to return.

Activists in Uganda have been resisting these attacks for years, and have gained international attention and support for their efforts. Their opponents, however, are not limited to political and religious leadership in Uganda. PRA senior religion and sexuality researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma has carefully and thoroughly documented the influence of U.S. culture warriors such as Scott Lively, Rick Warren, Lou Engle, Sharon Slater, and countless others in the creation and promotion of the AHA. Resistance, therefore, must also extend beyond Uganda’s borders.

The work of opposing and ultimately eliminating these laws and reversing this current trend toward increased persecution of LGBTQ people requires dedicated, ongoing, multifaceted, and necessarily African-led resistance. But Americans, too, have a role to play.

These culture war culprits are based all across the United States. David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church, for example, lives in Tyler, Texas. In 2012, Dykes traveled to Uganda as part of a missionary venture, and proclaimed his support for the country’s anti-LGBTQ stance on Uganda’s largest independent television station, NTV:

“I’m extremely upset that our state department is putting pressure on Uganda to recognize homosexual behavior. And I’m praying that Uganda will say, ‘We don’t want your money, America. It is blood money. It is sin money.’ I hope that you will continue to stand strong on what the Bible defines as the definition of a real marriage.”

Museveni will only be in Texas for a short period of time, but those who have helped choreograph the surge in anti-LGBTQ attacks that we’re seeing in Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and elsewhere… they’ll still be here long after he leaves. Learn more about who—and where—they are, and then let’s start talking about how we can effectively confront and contain their influence.

UPDATE:

Diana Pfaff of the Irving Convention Center notified the Dallas Voice that the Ugandan Embassy had until the close of business on Thursday, Sept. 18, to get all paperwork back to them. Because embassy officials did not meet that deadline, it’s unlikely that the event will take place in Irving as originally planned.

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RELEASE: Uganda President Signs Anti-Homosexuality Bill

pra press releaseDespite promises not to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill until he had heard from U.S. scientists, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has broken that promise and put the lives of every LGBTQ Ugandan in jeopardy.

The now-signed law carries a penalty of 14 years in prison for first-time convictions of homosexuality, life-in-prison sentences for “aggravated homosexuality,” and, like Russia, criminalizes “advocacy” for LGBTQ issues. International outcry over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill since it was introduced in 2009 succeeded in removing the death penalty.

“Museveni has kept his promise to ‘declare war’ on LGBTQ persons,” says Political Research Associates’ senior religion and sexuality researcher, Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma. “By signing the law, Museveni has given in to the whispers and urges he has been getting from U.S. evangelicals for decades. It is no accident that nearly identical laws and talking points have surfaced in Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and other countries. The work of Americans like Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren advocating for these laws in these countries has been consistent, strong, and effective, and the blood of LGBTQ persons in Africa, Russia, and Eastern Europe is on their hands.”

Kaoma was the first researcher to expose the strong ties behind U.S.-based conservatives and the anti-LGBTQ movement in African countries. His work is documented in two comprehensive reports, Colonizing African Values and Globalizing the Culture Wars, which have become foundational primers on the exportation of U.S. attacks on LGBTQ and reproductive justice abroad. His work is also featured in the award-winning documentary, God Loves Uganda.

“Listening to President Museveni, MP David Bahati, and Ugandan religious leaders like Pastor Martin Ssempa, you would think you were listening to American religious conservatives with a Ugandan accent,” says Tarso Luís Ramos, executive director of Political Research Associates. “These are the very same talking points used by Scott Lively, who has been charged with ‘crimes against humanity’ here in the U.S. for conspiring with Ugandan pastors and members of Parliament to violate the human rights of that country’s LGBTQ community. When Museveni calls for ‘a scientifically correct’ position on homosexuality, he is echoing the pseudo-psychiatry of discredited American figures like former Exodus International official Don Schmierer. I am disappointed but not surprised.”

“There is no longer any excuse for Americans or any other people of integrity to sit back and passively watch the systematic destruction of their brothers and sisters in Africa,” added Victor Mukasa, co-founder of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and an associate fellow at Political Research Associates. “Now is the time to step forward and work with the LGBTQ activists on the ground to demand fair human rights for all.”

Background on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and how U.S. evangelicals came to be involved, can be found at www.politicalresearch.org/Africa

Press Contact: Eric Ethington, Communications Director, 617-666-5300, press@politicalresearch.org

WARNING: U.S. LGBTQ Organizations Falling Into Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Trap

museveni - bbc

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. photo credit: BBC

This morning, I woke up to the news that various human rights organizations in both the U.S. and Uganda are demanding a recall of the U.S. Ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria.  I first thought it was a joke—but then I read more press releases and saw petitions on Facebook and Twitter. These organizations are falling right into the well-organized trap set by U.S. conservatives.

Last weekend, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni gave a speech “declar[ing] war on the ‘homosexual lobby,’” and called on all Ugandans to stand with him—he was expecting the Western world to react to his declaration. To Museveni and most Ugandans, the ‘homosexual lobby’ includes not only major LGBTQ rights organizations, but the United States and the European Union, which have for many years fought for the rights and dignity of LGBTQ persons on African soil. Western nations and organizations have not fought in the way social justice-minded people have hoped—they have not stopped the arrests, or the beatings—but there is no doubt that their presence and back-room meetings with African politicians has saved LGBTQ lives from systematic persecution, and in some cases, genocides.

It is these nations and organizations that have provided safe spaces for African LGBTQ persons—even in extraordinarily homophobic countries like Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and The Gambia—to share their plight and reorganize after their governments disband them. In Zambia and Uganda, these nations have gone beyond simple meetings with local LGBTQ activists, but are also monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, flooding court rooms when LGBTQ persons appear in court, and have provided safety when African nations declare war on gays. When LGBTQ Africans lives’ are in immediate danger, it is to the U.S. and European embassies they run for safety. These nations’ open protection of sexual minorities in Africa has resulted in charges of “promoting homosexuality in Africa” by both religious and political leaders.

Honestly, had it not been for the presence of the U.S. and European embassies, African gays would have been massacred years ago, without any fear of consequences. For LGBTQ organizations to now demand they pull out of Uganda perilously compromises the lives of LGBTQ persons—who will not have anyone to turn to for safety, and strip our ability to monitor persecution.

I understand that we are all desperate to stop the progression of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. But threatening to leave the country will only boost the political power and credibility of leaders like Museveni, David Bahati, and Martin Ssempa—opening the door for African nations to expand further anti-LGBTQ laws, possibly even including executions and mass slaughter.

Knowing that most people don’t understand the pan-African ethics of solidarity, how African nations perceive the West’s response to Uganda will have effects across the continent, from Kenya to Algeria to Namibia.

We need Western nations’ presence in the fight against the criminalization of LGBTQ persons in Africa more than American human rights activists. Recalling the U.S. ambassador will just confirm the false claim that Western nations are in Uganda for one purpose—to recruit young people into homosexuality. This perception will increase the negative attitudes against LGBTQ persons in Uganda.

It is time to realize that African LGBTQ people are not all activists—most of them exist without public faces.

The withdrawal of the U.S. Ambassador from Uganda and Nigeria would also have some neo-colonial implications, which we should guard against. Uganda is not the first country to pass this Anti-Homosexuality Bill banning advocacy for LGBTQ issues—Russia was first. Nigeria followed, and many more nations are still to follow. How do we explain that no calls have gone out for the U.S. to sever diplomatic relations with Russia, but then call for the cutting of those ties to African nations? Frankly speaking, this move is an invitation for neo-colonial politics—which make even vicious dictators (like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe) heroes in the eyes of African people.

African nations are sensitive to neo-colonial and imperialistic attitudes of the West—hence they are likely to side with Museveni when he is condemned for his handling of homosexuality. The move will only make Museveni a hero not just among Ugandans, but also among his African allies—precisely what he is hoping for after watching his political power fade in recent years. If the West attacks him, and leaves the country, Museveni will have free reign to rule as the dictator he wants to be.

So what is the way forward?

African homophobia is promoted and propelled by religion. In Uganda, Christian leaders (paid for and encouraged by American evangelicals) have been demanding the bill for years, and pushing their followers to vote for the lawmakers who support it. Politicians will always be politicians—they are always looking for votes. In his attempt to win the Evangelical votes in 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama disagreed with same-sex marriage in a debate moderated by Pastor Rick Warren—one of very same U.S. evangelicals who worked with anti-gay pastors in Uganda. But to think that such dynamics only work in American politics is naïve at best, and dangerous, careless, and deadly at worst. Museveni needs votes to remain in power. So the answer to Uganda’s anti-gay bill lies in the primarily Christian electorate of Uganda. We should be demanding that Pope Francis speak directly to President Museveni and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, and urge Ugandan Roman Catholics to proclaim his already-stated opposition to any law criminalizing LGBTQ persons. U.S. Anglican, and Evangelical/Pentecostal leaders should equally speak to their friends in Uganda about the dignity and fundamental human rights of sexual minorities. And the American people must demand an end to the constant flow of exportation of homophobia from U.S. evangelicals like Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren to Ugandan pastors and politicians.

Open letters, petitions, and press releases will only give Museveni and Uganda lawmakers another reason to sign and enforce the bill.

RELEASE: Uganda President Persecutes LGBTQ People For Political Power

Press Release:

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni is walking a political tightrope on the backs of LGBTQ Ugandans. In declaring that he will sign Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Museveni seeks to solidify his crumbling political power while putting the blame for Uganda’s falling world-standing on President Obama and the United Nations.

After the international community appealed to President Museveni not to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law–a law that will further criminalize homosexuality and outlaw advocacy for LGBTQ rights–Museveni announced on Valentine’s Day that he would indeed sign the bill, despite his earlier promise that he was seeking “scientific guidance” on the issue of homosexuality. The law was passed on December 20, 2013, by the Ugandan Parliament without the required quorum.

“Museveni is fighting to keep his political power,” says Political Research Associates’ senior religion and sexuality researcher, Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, who has researched U.S. conservatives’ influence on African LGBTQ laws since 2008. “By signing the law, Museveni is strengthening his political base in Uganda among evangelical churches, while blaming the international community’s condemnation of the law for cuts to incoming foreign aid. Through this act, Museveni has declared war, and sanctioned the systematic persecution of sexual minorities. It is hell to live in Uganda as a gay person, and one wonders how life will be for LGBTQ persons after this bill becomes law.”

“This law deserves maximum condemnation by all people of goodwill. Our sexual orientation is not a crime. The world should not just stand by watching while more lives are lost because of this draconian law,” added Victor Mukasa, co-founder of Sexual Minorities Uganda and an associate fellow at Political Research Associates.

In his letter to Speaker Kadaga, President Museveni called LGBTQ Ugandans “abnormal,” and claimed that LGBTQ people are “recruited” into homosexuality for “mercenary reasons.” Museveni went on to say that many women are only lesbians because of “sexual starvation” when they fail to get married–a claim that is regularly used to justify the horrific (and well-documented) practice of “corrective rape.”

“Reading President Museveni’s letter was like hearing American religious conservatives with a Ugandan accent,” says Tarso Luís Ramos, executive director of Political Research Associates, the social justice think tank that originally revealed links between U.S. evangelicals and anti-LGBTQ laws in Africa. “These are the very same talking points used by Scott Lively, who is on trial here in the U.S. for conspiring with Ugandan pastors and members of Parliament to violate the human rights of that country’s LGBTQ community. When Museveni calls for ‘a scientifically correct’ position on homosexuality, he is echoing the pseudo-psychiatry of former Exodus International official Don Schmierer, Sharon Slater and Lou Engle, among other discredited American figures. I am not surprised that he sided with discredited positions on this subject.”

The American public and the global community must pay attention as President Museveni moves to sign this bill into law, and as similar legislation makes headway in Nigeria and Russia. “The rapid succession of these legislative attacks on LGBTQ people indicates the brush fire of globalized culture wars is continuing to spread across the world,” Ramos added. “Uganda, Nigeria, and Russia can no longer be seen as exceptional cases-other nations are soon to follow.”

Background on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and how U.S. evangelicals came to be involved, can be found at www.politicalresearch.org/Africa

Press Contact:
Eric Ethington
Communications Director
617-666-5300
press@politicalresearch.org

Uganda President Museveni Will Likely Sign Anti-Homosexuality Law

While international media praises Ugandan President Museveni for “blocking” the Anti-Homosexuality bill—in reality he’s politically weak, trying to appease both sides, and will likely sign the bill.

***

 

My tweet was a response to news stories claiming that Uganda President Yoweri Museveni had blocked the “anti-gay bill,” which was passed in Parliament on December 20, 2013 despite objections by Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi over the lack of a quorum. Previously known as “Kill the Gays” bill, the version passed in December had eliminated the death penalty but maintained a punishment of life imprisonment for “aggravated” homosexuality—namely, having sex with a person who is under 18 years old or disabled, or instances in which the “offender” is HIV positive. The penalty also holds for “serial offenders”— people who have been previously convicted for the crime of homosexuality. As noted by the Uganda Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the bill targets the promotion of homosexual acts “in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any other non-governmental organization inside or outside the country.”

As international leaders called on Museveni to veto the legislation, Yasiin Mugerwa of Uganda’s Daily Monitor reported on January 17 that Museveni had blocked the bill.  Mugerwa cited a letter written by Museveni to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and other MPs from December 28: “How can you pass law without the quorum of Parliament after it has been pointed out? What sort of Parliament is this? How can Parliament be the one to break the Constitution and the Law repeatedly?” (see the full letter below)

International media outlets immediately echoed the Monitor article, asserting that President Museveni had blocked or even vetoed the bill—which was far from the truth—even after Pepe Julian Onziema, Director of Programs at leading Ugandan LGBTQ advocacy organization Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) tweeted that the Monitor article was misleading.

Museveni didn’t even officially receive the anti-gay bill until January 23, 2014, and has 30 days from then to respond. Museveni did not say that he won’t sign the bill into law.  Rather, he promised to take the issue to his party’s caucus, which met on January 24, 2014. At the meeting, the caucus wanted Museveni to sign the bill. But, according to the Daily Monitor, Museveni pushed back by demanding “scientific evidence” to establish whether or not gays are abnormal.

While some might consider this a promising development, there is still much reason for worry. I have met many scientists across the world who are homophobic and who would be likely to side with anti-gay activists if consulted (or paid). Moreover, the quorum issue has been overblown: Anti-LGBT MPs have many votes in Parliament, and the bill would still pass if re-introduced. In this regard, the quorum question is a dead end.

Like others concerned about human rights for all people, I read Museveni’s letter with interest. But after reading it, I realized that Museveni is hedging, clearly playing to both sides. As such, people can interpret the letter according to their own views—as we are now clearly seeing.

For example, Museveni’s letter advocated the criminalization of advocacy (including organizations and individuals supportive of LGBT persons) even as it sought to connect Uganda’s contemporary politics around LGBT rights to traditional African culture. Museveni’s letter characterized gays as abnormal and lesbians as sexually starved individuals (a statement that could all too easy be manipulated to promote corrective rape), yet he also pushed back against certain Christian conservative arguments, which claim the Bible condemns same-sex relationships (i.e. “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”).  Museveni called such arguments a “fallacy.” Moreover, he cited African names for gays, transgender, and intersex persons as proof of the existence of sexual minorities in Uganda long before colonialism.

Ultimately, Museveni’s letter sought to portray the President as defending the traditional values of Uganda. In making this argument, he accepted the existence of gays on African soil … with some major qualifications—they are abnormal persons who should be treated accordingly.

At least superficially, Museveni may appear more supportive of LGBT persons.  Yet his true position has changed little. He made a similar argument during the installation of the new Archbishop of Anglican Church of Uganda, Most. Rev. Stanley Ntagali, in Kampala, on December 17, 2012. Before Europeans reached Uganda, Museveni told the audience, “I knew of two kings and one chief who practiced homosexuality. They were not persecuted, discriminated or killed. The chief actually did very good work but homosexuality was not promoted. People would whisper and ignore, the issue now is promotion as if it’s good, that we can’t accept.” Museveni echoed this claim in his letter but added that Uganda should stop those who “lure” young people into homosexual acts: “We should legislate harshly against these people with money, from within and without, who take advantage of the desperation of our youth to lure them into these abnormal and deviant behaviors.” Museveni went so far as to support a life sentence for those who “[lure] normal youth” into homosexual acts—on this point, he wrote, “I would agree with the Bill passed by Parliament.”

Even as I recognize certain positive elements of Museveni’s letter, it is critical to address his ongoing support for other aspects of the anti-gay bill.  Additionally, Museveni will certainly pander to religious leaders, who are demanding that some form of the law be passed. Since Museveni approves of a “life sentence” for those who “lure” young people into homosexuality, the new bill, which will come from Parliament, will likely crack down on advocacy efforts. The bill Museveni will end up signing will also most likely outlaw same-sex marriages and adoption by gay and lesbian couples. This modified legislation will be celebrated by religious leaders in Uganda and put the country in line with Russia and Nigeria, where similar laws have been passed with the pretense of protecting the young people from “the promotion of homosexuality.”

These transnational linkages exist—and the international community must wake up and recognize the influence of Putin and Russia on efforts to criminalize advocacy in African nations.  Putin’s recent anti-LGBT actions have provided African nations with momentum and increased credibility as anti-gay laws move from the margins of global politics into the mainstream. As Jeff Sharlet rightly noted, “Russian anti-gay laws give license to smaller nations to follow suit.  It isn’t fringe anymore”

U.S. conservatives, who have exported (see here and here) regressive, deeply homophobic ideologies across the globe, will celebrate the criminalization of advocacy as a victory. Scott Lively, Sharon Slater, Lou Engle, and many other U.S. conservatives have been pressing for similar bills not only in the U.S., but also in Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, and other countries. They have been asking nations to criminalize the promotion of homosexuality and the “recruitment” of young people into homosexuality.

And religious leaders are likely to line up in support for the outlawing of advocacy—a measure they can market as relatively moderate and tame as compared to the earlier iteration of the “Kill the Gays” bill.  Such has already been the case in Nigeria, where Cardinal John Onaiyekan, a number of Roman Catholic bishops, and many evangelical leaders have celebrated the passage of the Nigeria anti-gay bill. Yet we cannot accept such attempts to re-brand. Silencing advocacy is inciting genocide of our fellow human beings. Museveni’s letter is not a cause for celebration.

President Museveni Letter on Anti-Homosexuality Bill – December 2013 by Political Research Associates