Uganda gay leader says Associated Press misquoted him; group not partisan

The New York Times this morning ran this Associated Press story on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that did not make sense to me.

Ugandan President Urges Softening of Anti-Gay Bill

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: January 7, 2010

Filed at 7:12 a.m. ET

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A provision that would impose the death penalty for some gays is likely to be removed from the proposed legislation following opposition from Uganda’s president, the country’s ethics minister said Thursday.

President Yoweri Museveni has told colleagues he believes the bill is too harsh and has encouraged his ruling National Resistance Movement Party to overturn the death sentence provision, which would apply to sexually active gays living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape.

The proposed bill, though, says anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life imprisonment and it is unclear whether Museveni supports that provision or not.

Gay rights activists say the bill promotes hatred and could set back efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the conservative East African country. Protests already have been held in London, New York and Washington.

”The death penalty is likely to be removed,” said James Nsaba Buturo, Uganda’s minister of state for ethics and integrity. ”The president doesn’t believe in killing gays. I also don’t believe in it. I think gays can be counseled and they stop the bad habit.”

Ruling party spokeswoman Mary Karoro Okurut said she also agrees with the president that some punishments in the bill should be dropped. But she said she will still push for a modified version of the bill when it comes to parliament in late February or early March.

”Although the president is against some parts of the bill, the bill has to stay,” she said. ”(Homosexuality) is not allowed in African culture. We have to protect the children in schools who are being recruited into homosexual activities.”

Frank Mugisha, leader of Sex Minorities Uganda, said the gay-rights group will campaign for and support President Yoweri Museveni in the 2011 polls because of his opposition to the bill’s harsher provisions.

”If one scratches your back you also scratch his back,” Mugisha said. ”Museveni’s action shows that he is a true democrat. As a head of state he is doing the right thing of protecting all interests of its citizens including those of the minorities.”

The group said it has received a growing number of complaints of harassment from gays and lesbians across the country since the legislation was first proposed.

Julian Peppe, the group’s program coordinator, said she was chased by a crowd of angry people while trying to leave a supermarket on Christmas Eve in the capital.

”I can no longer move out of my house due to fear of being beaten up by people,” Peppe said.

The measure was proposed in Uganda following a visit by leaders of U.S. conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy for gays to become heterosexual. However, at least one of those leaders has denounced the bill, as have some other conservative and liberal Christians in the United States.

The Catholic church in Uganda has said it supports the bill but not the death penalty provision.

But a group of non-traditional churches has accused Museveni of siding with gays and maintains that the Bible supports killing gays. The churches accuse the president of bowing to pressure from Uganda’s many international donors.

”If Museveni manages to convince parliament to drop the anti-gay bill, that will be the worst tragedy to befall Uganda,” said Pastor Solomon Male, the chairman of the church coalition, Arising for Christ. ”Uganda should not dance to the tune of donors. We have our values to protect.”

Anglican Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who is one of the global fellowship’s most senior priests, has said he condemns the proposed law in his native country.

This section did not ring true:

Frank Mugisha, leader of Sex Minorities Uganda, said the gay-rights group will campaign for and support President Yoweri Museveni in the 2011 polls because of his opposition to the bill’s harsher provisions.

”If one scratches your back you also scratch his back,” Mugisha said. ”Museveni’s action shows that he is a true democrat. As a head of state he is doing the right thing of protecting all interests of its citizens including those of the minorities.”

I called Frank Mugisha to ask if he was quoted correctly and he said no, he was not quoted correctly. He said he did not say, ‘if one scratches your back, you also scratch his back.’ He also noted that Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUg) does not support specific political parties, saying

We are not political. As an organization, we don’t support any party. Like all Ugandans, some of our members support one party, and others support another party.

Regarding President Museveni, Mugisha said he did not know what stance he had taken. His comment to the reporter was meant to be a hypothetical statement, saying

I said, ‘if the President protects gays, then he is being democratic.’ We do not know yet what he is going to do.

Apparently, the leaders of the pastor’s coalition believe Museveni might thwart the bill based on their comments but I am not really sure what to believe after reading this article. Apparently Minister Buturo is inclined to recommend some kind of counseling or assistance in place of death but it is not at all clear what the specific changes will be.

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  • Lynn David

    The Catholic church in Uganda has said it supports the bill but not the death penalty provision.

    Got it wrong about the Catholic Church also. That might fit the Anglican Church.

    You, Timothy and Jim at BTB, and perhaps several of your and BTB’s readers could write better, more accurate articles about the goings on in Uganda than the AP or NY Times given the same timely information they get in.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    I still think you are making probably the same mistake that Warren & Co made. Uganda is not like the USA. When you think “help to change same-sex feelings” you mean psychotherapy. They think of something quite different.

    From the BBC:

    A BBC investigation into human sacrifice in Uganda has heard first-hand accounts which suggest ritual killings of children may be more common than authorities have acknowledged.

    One witch-doctor led us to his secret shrine and said he had clients who regularly captured children and brought their blood and body parts to be consumed by spirits.

    Meanwhile, a former witch-doctor who now campaigns to end child sacrifice confessed for the first time to having murdered about 70 people, including his own son.

    The Ugandan government told us that human sacrifice is on the increase, and according to the head of the country’s Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.

    Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo believes that “to punish retrospectively would cause a problem… if we can persuade Ugandans to change, that is much better than going back into the past.”

    Child protection activists in organisations such as FAPAD (Facilitation for Peace and Development) and ANPPCAN (African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect) have highlighted recent cases of ritual killing and called for new legislation to regulate so-called “traditional healers”.

    The place has a significant Human Sacrifice problem. Please revise your ideas in the light of that. More on that anon.

    I have avoided the phrase “witch hunt” in relation to the issue. That’s because in Uganda, as in Kenya, they have literal witch hunts were old women are caught and burnt to death. (Please don’t follow that link without significant mental preparation beforehand)

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    They don’t go after the actual “Black Magicians”, just old women. Because they think it would be too dangerous to go after the real occult masters.

    The belief in witchcraft is pervasive across the continent and is not restricted only to peasants and the uneducated. In fact, nearly all of the educated African elite believe in its efficacy. It is quite hard to believe that given all the advances in medicine and science in the last 500 years, most Africans today still attribute their misfortune and sickness to evil spirits and demons, courtesy of witchcraft.

    In Uganda, where currently there is public outrage towards child sacrifice, there is a lot of discussion on what should be done to the perpetrators; but strangely, nowhere will you see any discussion of the root cause of the problem, which is the belief itself.

    The reason people go to witchdoctors is because they believe it works. They believe that if certain spells are cast, then their troubles will disappear. Some of these beliefs are harmless – or so they seem. For example, a young man might think wearing a simple voodoo charm will increase his chances of getting employed. No harm in that, you might think. But picture this young man, 20 years later, now an established businessman. His businesses are failing.

    In seeking solutions to the problems he consults a witchdoctor, who, this time, tells him that by sacrificing a child, his debts will disappear. Given his already ingrained belief that witchcraft works, is there any reason to think this man won’t go ahead with it, or at least consider it as an option? The answer is obvious. His formerly harmless superstition has now evolved into a dangerous belief system, which now is threatening to put the life of an innocent child in danger.

    Therefore, the best way of ending this scourge is by eradicating the irrational belief itself – through education and sensitisation.

    That’s why the authorities haven’t passed more stringent legislation against them. They’re afraid. They need a scapegoat to kill, to convince God not to destroy Uganda for their sins. A lot of the legislators believe in witchcraft too, it says in the Bible that they exist. They’re very religious. The Ugandan catholic church performs many, many exorcisms, with Bell, Book and Candle, as Evil and Unclean Spirits are everywhere.

    It’s likely that instead of psychotherapy, a program of scourging, exorcism, ritual involving “traditional healing” methods and just plain torture will be used. This is not the USA.

    Gays make the perfect scapegoat. The first Ugandan Saint was martyred by a gay pedophillic Ugandan ruler in the late 1800′s.

    Please look at the story of the Lord’s Resistance Army. There was a commenter here who made the quite valid point that following the literal words of the Bible really did mean killing children who were disrespectful, forcing rape victims to marry their rapists, and killing gays. His concern was the same as the Germans implementing the Endlosung, how to kill enough cheaply, and how to dispose of the bodies hygenically.

    Until you understand what Ugandans mean when they say something, what the cultural context is, you’re going to misunderstand completely.

    Reparative Therapy for the Ugandan legislature means use of thumbscrews and the rack. As it used to in Medieval Europe, another place infested with Evil Spirits etc etc

  • http://gayuganda.blogspot.com gayuganda

    A clarification in the last statement.

    When a person is accused of murder or child sacrifice, an alarm is sent out, and a mob gathers. They start beating up that person, beating and stonning them, until they die, and then the body is burnt. As soon as possible.

    If one is lucky, the police will come and rescue that person, and literally take them into protective custody. Maybe charged. Murderers are not reported to the police. Summary mob justice is meted out. So, the statement should have been, ‘murderers have to be rescued by the police’

  • http://gayuganda.blogspot.com gayuganda

    Yeah, [grimly], you are getting warm.

    Words, I have found, may not mean the same thing when I utter them, and when they are heard by someone in a different culture. Not even when we speak the same language, English. They mean something else. And, because in most of our mother tongues in Uganda, we speak in euphemisms most times, the concrete transliteration that the English language does have does not adequately translate what we may mean.

    You talk about witch-hunts, and think of McCarthyism? When I talk of witchhunts, I am thinking of a mob coming to our house, dragging us out and beating us to death. I am thinking of us (me and my partner) being dragged to a local council meeting, being tried for being homosexual, convicted, and the sentence of death being carried out there and then by our neighbours and people in the village. By stoning, and beating. That is what I think about. That is the reality in Uganda. And, that is what will literally happen.

    When we say we fear, we do fear. And, the fear is not misplaced. Especially in the atmosphere created at the moment, with a gay person being branded the worst of sinners in Church and mosque, with demonstrations, and the Minister of Ethics and Integrity urging people to report homosexuals and murderers to the police.

    Take that statement. People who do child sacrifice, and other murderers have to be rescued from the police. Because that is the one thing to make a mob, as quickly as possible. Lump homosexuals and murderers together, and you are sending a subtle but very dangerous message.

  • http://aebrain@webone.com.au Zoe Brain

    It is, of course, pure coincidence that those accused of being witches usually happen to own land that others want. Widows in particular are well advised to sell, or even give, their land away to any powerful individual, family or clan who wants it. Sometimes their only crime is to be related to someone who’s given offence.

    In some places, “witch” is substituted by “secretly christian”, or “israeli spy” or “communist” or “adulterer”. The pattern’s the same though.

    In the more humane places, they’re killed before being put on a funeral pyre. As the video from Kenya shows though, sometimes they’re repeatedly caught as they run out, are beaten and put back on until they give up trying to escape and just sit , rocking, while the flames slowly burn their clothes, their hair, and their skin off them. The fires are quite small. so this can take a long time before they finally lose consciousness.

    The ones who do actually kill children are usually considered too powerful to touch. Besides, you never know when you might need their services – and they often have powerful friends.

    Such a pattern is quite familiar – it happened all over Europe in the 1400s, and the last witch was hanged in Scotland in 1732.


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