Sunday, November 18, 2012

Uganda offfers the west a gay diversion

Uganda is certainly in the news just now. As a celebration of the 50th anniversary of its independence, the country slipped a supplement  into The Times entitled Uganda: A country in the process of transformation. On the front page, Justin Keay claimed, 'there is much to look forward to.' Indeed, since Uganda was named top tourist destination for 2012 by Lonely Planet, you would expect the papers to be filled with articles about national parks, birds and very large animals.

Instead, what do we find as we flick through the Daily Monitor over our toast and marmalade? The same old stories:
  • The theft by the Office of the Prime Minister of $50 million of aid money, (out of a total of $70 million) intended for the poor, weak and needy in the north of the country. The donors affected - Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark have stopped some of their aid, and so now has Britain ($26.9 million). Indeed, even the World Bank is 'reviewing' its development assistance following the reports of corruption. Uganda's clerics have found a solution to the institutionalised theft - channel all donor funds through them.  Mmm....I don't think so....
  • The much delayed investigation by the Anti-Corruption Court into the theft of funds from the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation. The latest revelation is that $millions found their way to the office of the President's wife. She is currently trying to explain why she (or an anonymous corrupt official or two - there are many to choose from) - made claims for nine visits to Israel within the same month. What the respected lady has to do with vaccination and immunisation, I have no idea.
  • The exoneration of the government ministers allegedly responsible for pocketing $millions during the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2007.
Many Ugandans are beginning to ask why the west has turned a blind eye to corruption over so many years. They wonder whether it could be something to do with Uganda's geo-political significance.

Stories about human rights abuses continue to emerge. The police have imprisoned the leader of the Opposition in his house for weeks. Protesters continue to be arrested on (so it might appear) trumped-up charges of treason. When policemen's wives had the temerity to suggest that that their husbands should receive several months' overdue pay, they were beaten, had their skirts deliberately raised so that their underwear was on view to the media and were thrown into police vehicles by colleagues of their spouses.

The UN is not exempt from Uganda's ire. Following the publication of the UN expert report on its involvement in DR Congo, Uganda threw its toys out of the pram, threatening to withdraw its troops from Somalia. Yesterday the Prime Minister wrote an apoplectic double-page article in the Monitor which spits venom at the UN for daring to suggest that Uganda might be involved in some way with the M23 rebels. Headline: UN experts malicious amateurs - Mbabazi. Now would you buy a used car, let alone a newspaper article from this man ....? In the meantime, thousands of refugees are fleeing across the border to Uganda every week.

What should a government do in these circumstances, with all this negative publicity flying around the world? Clearly, some sort of diversion is needed.

The answer is obvious: resurrect the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a private member's bill crafted a couple of years ago by a bonkers backbencher and then abandoned, a bill which had not been supported by the President, Prime Minister or the Cabinet. However, the 'Gay Bill', as it is called, could prove very successful in diverting the attention of the west from the real abuses in the country: the rising rates of suicide in ex-conflict areas, the increase in child sacrifice across the nation, the 50% of girls who are raped before they reach the age of 15, the 33% of children stunted by malnutrition. The Bill will divert eyes from alleged political and military interference in DR Congo. Above all, as a result of the Bill, people will forget all about the stolen international aid and its suffering victims in the hysteria aroused both here and in the west.

Western liberals are falling right into the government's trap. Some of them even think that the Bill still has the death penalty attached to it. Now, that is simply sloppy research. It is a private member's bill, for goodness sake. Do westerners not have mad backwoodsmen who propose crazy parliamentary bills in their own countries? As far as I can see, by rising to the bait, western liberals are playing right into the hands of the political manipulators over here. What is worse, many of them come from the very countries which exported homophobia to Africa in the first place. Their self-righteousness is beyond belief.

Let's just think it through. The unending revelations of theft in very very high places have alienated the majority of ordinary Ugandan people. They can see the impact all around them. There are more and more rumblings of discontent which could build up into something very significant  The government is looking increasingly worried at the groundswell of unrest.

However, by dusting down the old Gay Bill and waving it tantalisingly in front of western noses, they have a very good chance of getting their own people right behind them again. What all Ugandans find infuriating is the self-righteous pontificating of western liberals who know virtually nothing of the country, ignore the faults in their own nations and jump on the bandwagon of single issues such as gay rights which the west itself only sorted out twenty or thirty years ago. 'Neocolonialism!' is the cry.

Ugandans were particularly incensed by the Canadian premier who a couple of weeks ago publicly lectured the highly respected Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Parliament and one of the 'good guys', on gay rights at an event which had nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality. As a friend of ours said, how would the Canadians like it if Ugandans lectured them about their treatment of the Inuit?

Result? Kadaga has just sent the following letter to the Parliamentary Affairs Committee, an extract from which reads:

'I write to reiterate my earlier instruction to your committee to expeditiously handle the review of the report on the Bill. As you are aware, there is high demand by the population to address the escalating problem of promoting and recruiting minors into homosexuality.'

In other words, the Bill is, very largely but not entirely, about paedophilia. Do western liberals really want to be seen opposing it quite as emphatically as they appear to be doing? Consider how their attitudes could be spun. Uganda has rarely, if ever, prosecuted homosexuals even though practising homosexuality has been illegal for years. There certainly have been no cases in the more-than-two years we have been here. Most of the other 70 countries which have a similar law have shown far less reticence in applying it, for example, Egypt, not to mention Saudi Arabia which does have the death penalty.

Yes, as consenting adults, gays should have the right to live their own lives in their own way. However, pregnant women, underage girls and underfed children, all of them victims of the aid theft, also have rights. In fact, in a country where 350 people die of malaria every day, just staying alive is quite an achievement. Being able to to live an unconventional life and engage in untraditional relationships is a luxury.

Human rights should be for everyone. By focusing on a single issue, the gay lobby in the west is in danger of diverting attention away from far bigger issues, issues which relate to the other 90% of the population including many other minorities.

Western liberals, please don't over-react to the Gay Bill.

You may also be interested in the following post.

The President walks a tightrope on gay rights

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