Uganda: Canny political ploy sets stage for gay deaths

The Rev. Canon Kapya Kaoma, an Episcopal priest from Zambia and a project director at Political Research Associates in Massachusetts, discusses the politics of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law and the need to protect LGBT people from its consequences.


Uganda's Red Pepper tabloid. (Photo courtesy of
Uganda’s Red Pepper tabloid. (Photo courtesy of

“Scandal,” “Exposed” and “200 Top Homos” are some of the headlines in Uganda lately. The notorious Red Pepper tabloid continues to publish names and photos of LGBT persons in Uganda, causing panic among them and their families. Some families have been forced to abandon their children or face community wrath.

As the situation deteriorates, President Yoweri Museveni, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, Catholic and Anglican bishops remain silent — thereby sanctioning the outings of innocent people. Unless political and religious leaders condemn these publications, many lives will be lost.

The publication of names follows President Museveni’s signing of the anti-gay bill into law. The new law carries life-in-prison sentences for “aggravated homosexuality” and, like Russia and Nigeria, it criminalizes “advocacy” on LGBTQ issues. International outcry over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill since it was introduced in 2009 succeeded in removing the death penalty.

Scott Lively (Photo courtesy of
Scott Lively (Photo courtesy of

This bill was a result of the Scott Lively Seminar on “Exposing the International Gay Agenda” in March 2009. People felt helpless as they heard from the evangelical pastor that gays have destroyed nations and committed genocides across the world. They demanded stiffer laws against homosexuality or they would take the law into their own hands.

Pastor Solomon Male, for example, went as far as asking for guns to fight the organized international gay movement—“people with guns can sniff them out, we can’t.” Others warned that if stiffer laws were not enacted, they were ready to go door to door, until Uganda was cleansed of homosexuality.

Lively is currently being sued in U.S. courts by Sexual Minorities Uganda for inciting the persecution of LGBT persons in Uganda — and rightly so. Elijah, one of the participants at Lively’s seminar spoke for millions who heard Lively’s speak in churches, on TV and on radio:

“The man of God [Scott Lively] told us about a movement behind the promotion of homosexuality and it is called gay movement. Me, I had never heard of that. But I got to know that there is a force behind homosexuality which we need to tackle with force.

“He also told us that these people who are behind this evil, they have all resources that they need to spread this evil. [In] Africa, Uganda in particular … it is more easy for the young generation to get attracted into the evil. Since that day, we need to stand firm to fight homosexuality.”

Ugandans were determined to fight homosexuals at all costs, and Museveni has constantly used this determination as political capital. He has constantly demonized gays in the media and in churches.

During the consecration of Ugandan Anglican Church Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, the successor of Henry Orombi in December 2012, Museveni said, “I hope these (white bishops) are your partners in the struggle against homosexuality and I commend the church for the fight against this practice. There are some people who have been wasting our time.”

Archbishop Henry Orombi and member of parliament David Bahati (Photo courtesy of NewVision)
Former Anglican Archbishop Henry Orombi and member of parliament David Bahati (Photo courtesy of NewVision)

Museveni’s backing for the bill is shown by the facts that Museveni’s parliament invited Lively to address them after his seminar, that David Bahati had the power to reintroduce the bill into the 9th session parliament after the 8th session of parliament closed without passing it, and that the bill was constantly on the agenda. Besides, Museveni had the power to stop the harassment of LGBT activists by defrocked Roman Catholic priest Simon Lugodo, his minister of ethics and integrity. Museveni had the power to stop Bahati from introducing this outrageous bill, but did none of this — again demonstrating his support of this Bill.

Museveni’s demand for scientific backing on homosexuality was meant to provide cover for his actions. With or without, Museveni was going to sign the bill to save his political career. Uganda goes to the polls in 2016—and Museveni is fighting for his party’s support to run on his party’s ticket—or allow his son, or his handpicked successor to take over from him. On the other hand, Museveni’s image as a dictator continues to trouble his Western allies, including the U.S., who have been demanding that he step aside in 2016. So what is his strategy?

It is tempting to view Museveni’s move as strange, especially if one reads his letter and response to President Barack Obama’s statement on Uganda. But, we have seen such moves in American politics, when moderate politicians like Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain were forced to denounce LGBT persons to win evangelical votes. Museveni is doing the same. He knows that he needs Ugandans more than the West to remain Uganda’s most powerful individual.

President Obama’s statement — in which he warns Uganda that signing the bill into law would affect Museveni’s relationship with the U.S. — works to Museveni’s advantage. By signing this draconian bill, Museveni repositions himself as the defender of Uganda against “Western imperialism” on one hand, and the defender of Ugandan religious and cultural values on the other.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

But this law serves Museveni another purpose. He knows that the U.S. and the European Union won’t support his attempt to run again, so he will interpret the West’s opposition to his bid for another term as due to his signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill — winning him support from his people. He will also define his opponents as pawns of the West, ready to legalize homosexuality, again winning him support among Ugandan voters. Moreover, the law works to the advantage of Museveni within his own caucus. Kadaga and her supporters have little room to maneuver should Museveni impose himself on the party. Their support for the bill will make it hard for them to seek international opposition to Museveni — making him the winner at all fronts.

But the signing of the bill also purifies his image as a Christian among American conservatives like Scott Lively, Lou Engle, Sharon Slater, among many others, who will see him as the hero for standing up against Obama’s global gay agenda.

Unfortunately, this law will also give cover to other African nations to pass similar bills. It is no longer about how many more nations will move with similar bills or whether we should sanction Uganda, but what it will take to protect the lives of LGBTQ Africans from state-sanctioned violence and persecutions.

We must not wait for more innocent blood to be shed in the name of defending African or Christian traditional values—all life is sacred.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Fear of anti-gay attacks closes Kenyan AIDS clinics

March 7 protests to focus on Nigeria’s anti-gay law