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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 20, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 20
Uganda's 'Kill the Gays' bill still alive
Section One
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Uganda's 'Kill the Gays' bill still alive

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Uganda's government has Gays, political opponents, and the news media on its hit list, according to reports from Kampala, the country's capital.

Although Uganda's parliament adjourned on May 13 without acting on the notorious 'Kill the Gays' bill, the measure will reportedly be reintroduced when parliament reconvenes later this year.

Also on the agenda will be legislation to allow the government to hold prisoners for up to six months without bail.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni asked for the special powers to cope with riots that have erupted since he won re-election in February, in a contest that his opponents charged was corrupt.

Museveni has been president since 1986, and all his re-election campaigns have been marked by violence against his opponents and charges of fraud.

His main challenger, Kizza Besigye, is currently being held under house arrest. New rioting broke out when Museveni's security forces beat him up while taking him into custody on April 29.

Museveni has accused him of using trying to foment an Egypt-style popular uprising.

From his house, Besigye told the BBC's Network Africa program on May 14 that he felt ashamed that his country had 'regressed back to the dark days of previous atrocious dictatorships.'

'When we used to have a law called the preventative detention act under which political opponents could be detained indefinitely by the regime in power,' he said.

'I have no idea what the conditions of my house arrest are & they didn't say for how long.'

During the campaign, Besigye advocated decriminalization of same-sex relations.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also known as the 'Kill the Gays' bill, was introduced by David Bahati, a junior minister in Museveni's political party.

Both Museveni and Bahati are reportedly protégés of The Family, a secretive right-wing evangelical group with connections to several powerful Republican politicians.

The legislation was drafted soon after a March 2009 conference in Kampala attended by U.S. evangelical leaders including Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmierer.

The measure would provide life sentences for same-sex relations - existing Ugandan law only calls for 14 years in prison - and a death sentence for 'repeat offenders' or for HIV-positive people who have sex with anyone.

Once the proposed legislation became widely known, Museveni was besieged by international condemnation - including threats by the European Union and Great Britain to cut off all foreign aid to Uganda.

President Obama characterized the bill as 'odious,' U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned it, and Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnny Carson personally phoned Museveni to stress U.S. objections to the law.

Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has also proposed legislation to cut off aid to Uganda if the bill passes.

Museveni, meanwhile, blamed all Uganda's troubles on his enemies, including news reporters.

On May 13, he wrote a long, rambling letter, laced with Biblical allusions, to New Vision newspaper. In it he described both local and foreign media as 'enemies of Uganda's recovery.'

Perhaps the best commentary on the situation in Uganda comes from a blogger know as GayUganda, a personal friend of murdered Gay activist David Kato:

'People, I am a Gay man, who is Ugandan. I can be killed because of being Gay in Uganda. But, I can also be killed because of the general abuse of human rights in the country.

'I REQUEST, AND BEG OF YOU, OUR ALLIES, NOT TO BE FOOLED.

'That is very important.

'If you want to condemn the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, please CONDEMN in the strongest terms possible the general state of human rights in Uganda.'

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