Uganda Watch: MPs Want to Debate Anti-Gay in Private

Fearful of retribution, some of Uganda’s MPs want to debate the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in private, according to a March 31 article in the Observer (UG).  The article lists 35 MPs who have gone on record as supporting the bill. Others interviewed for article refused to express a position.

There may be some truth in their concerns. It seems likely that travel restrictions will be imposed by some foreign governments on MPs who support the bill. Uganda will take hits to several sectors of their economy if the bill passes and becomes law.

However, having debate in private will do little to change these consequences. Foreign interests have made it quite clear that passage of the human rights disaster that is the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will lead to a re-evaluation of relationships in Uganda.

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  • Richard Willmer

    I’ve heard something to the effect that Ssempa has now opined, like Solomon Mmale always has, that the continued presence of the Bahati Bill is damaging to the ‘anti-gay cause’. I’ll try to get details.

    If this is the case, it is interesting. And he would be right: the advent of the Bill has helped to cement the (IMO entirely correct) idea that ‘homophobia is a bad thing’ in the minds of many, and to the point of being seen as pretty much axiomatic.

  • Richard Willmer

    Here’s Ssempa on the Marriage & Divorce Bill:

    In amongst all the other stuff (delivered in much the usual style), he says, “It becomes ridiculous to bring the state into the bedroom.”

    Well now …

  • Richard Willmer

    The more I think about this call for a private debate, the more I see this as an ‘interesting’ development.

    Having a private debate will not stop sanctions (e.g., travel bans) being imposed on pro-Bill MPs, so, on this basis, there is really no logic to the reported desire for secrecy. I think there may be another reason for this desire, and it may have to do with ‘saving face’ …

    The Bill is doing noone any good: not the Ugandan Parliament, which is looking more ineffectual by the day (wanting to debate things in secret could be seen as a sign of abject weakness); not Yoweri Museveni, whose protestations of ‘no discrimination’ simply look like a bad joke; not Ugandan society, which is experiencing rather more divisiveness over the Bill than it proponents ever expected; not ordinary Ugandans, many of whom are experiencing more hostility than hitherto (because people suspect they might be gay).

    Time for the games to stop. Time to put this nonsense to bed once and for all.

  • Richard Willmer

    Well, since 2 April there has been just one (advertised) plenary sitting – on 17 April. To my knowledge, there have no ‘secret sessions’.

    The picture re. Bahati may have been complicated by the appearance of the Anti-Porn (a.k.a. Miniskirts) Bill:

    Meanwhile, it might appear that wealth is being distributed to ‘where it belongs’ … with the wealthy (or those who vote for the wealthy):

    Who knows what will happen next.

  • Richard Willmer

    Two bits of ‘news’:-

    1. The Red Pepper (UG) is running a story about a MP being ‘sodomized’ for cash. Looks like fanciful nonsense, and is possibly aimed at one or more MPs who oppose the Bill.

    2. An extra-parliamentary organization, Coalition for Advancement of Moral Values (CAMOVA), is having another push at the MPs to get them to pass the Bill. Again, lots of gruesome parody (the sort of thing we’ve heard before) is there. [I'm not going to post a link as it really isn't 'family viewing' - I'll send a link to Warren.]

  • Richard Willmer

    The Bill is on today’s Order Paper (in the usual place, ie. Notice of Business …).

    Assuming the ordering reflects the order of consideration, it appears to have been ‘leapfrogged’ (again) by two other bills.

    The Marriage & Divorce Bill is nowhere to be seen.

  • Richard Willmer

    An ‘overview’ piece in Thursday’s edition of the Economist:

    The concluding paragraph:-

    “Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia who works for Political Research Associates, a liberal think-tank in Boston, observes that the [anti-gay] campaigners face a powerful progressive lobby at home [the US], but in east Africa their adversaries are isolated and weak. The suffering of homosexuals in such places, he says, is “collateral damage” in America’s culture wars.”

  • Richard Willmer

    Another interesting article:

    Two bits I rather like:-

    “Anger and fear of homosexuality are products of 19th-century Western thought* – this is why the harshest penalties for homosexuality are found in Commonwealth nations. The adoption of these ideas by Muslim figures in Iran, Egypt and Pakistan is a 20th-century product of cross-cultural influence.”

    (* although I think this statement needs considerable qualification)


    “What’s actually happening, in the wider world, is a near-simultaneous shift toward acceptance of gays. The most recent World Values Survey, a massive multi-country poll, shows that those who believe homosexuality is “never tolerable” fell from 59 per cent in 1993 to 34 per cent in 2006. By no means was this just Western: In India during those years, anti-gay sentiment fell by a quarter; in China, by a third.”

    I do think that the writer rather ‘overstated’ Lively’s role in UG, disingenuous, mean and nasty though it was. It isn’t just (so-called) ‘evangelicals’ that are the problem.

    Saunders’s final sentence has for me a ‘ring of truth’ about it. (I am often struck by just how [much more] tolerant are Africans I know – in the context of quiet and friendly chat.)

  • Richard Willmer

    Latest report on the situation with Father Anthony Musaala:

    Nothing new here really, except that this comment of Fr Anthony’s is perhaps worthy of note: “I’m not a victim of homosexuality, I’m a victim of child sex abuse.”

    Fr Anthony is strong and active supporter for respect for the human rights of LBG /T/I Ugandans. This may indeed be a key reason behind the Church’s treatment of him, alongside his highly embarrassing claims of widespread child abuse by Ugandan clergy.

    Wannabe-pope Turkson’s ‘election outburst’ is also mentioned here. Turkson buried his chances of being elected when he said what he did, as he was clearly ‘angling for the job’ – never a good move for a ‘papabile’.

  • Richard Willmer

    (The position on the parliamentary Order Paper of the Bahati Bill is unchanged from last week. From what I hear, there are still murmurings about a secret session, although I can’t really see how this would affect the reaction from foreign governments if the Bill were to pass. One report I’ve seen also suggests a secret ballot within the secret session … which might in fact help anti-Bill MPs who are worried about ‘going public’ with their opposition.)

  • Richard Willmer

    Speaker Kadaga has spoken out on the issue of the defilement of girls:

    It’s interesting that, recently, she seems to be talking more about the rights of women and girls, and less about ‘homosexuality’. This latest statement is one of several she is reported to have made.

    I for one am pleased that she appears to have chosen a more useful focus for her pronouncements.

    The current (non-gender-specific) law on defilement (Penal Code 129) is already tough – with long prison terms for ‘defilement’ and death by hanging for ‘aggravated defilement’, so I’m not sure what ‘toughening’ of the law RDC Mbeiza has in mind. I suspect that the real problem may be that the current law is simply not being applied consistently. Maybe less obsession with ‘homosexuality’ and a greater focus on the real issues could help. (We can see, from Fr Anthony’s claims, that it would appear that ‘the homophobic mindset’ poses a far greater [potential] threat to children than does ‘homosexuality’.)

  • Richard Willmer

    This is a worrying development, and is, from things I hear, probably indicative of what is happening (or could happen) on the ground in UG whether or not Bahati gets his bill:

    What is very sad is that some African politicians are using ‘homosexuality’ as a kind of totem, perhaps as part of trying to forge some kind ‘national identity’? But we all know that attempts to do this kind of thing (ie. try to build a national identity by bashing a minority) are a sure sign of an unhealthy society.

    Historically, the notion that ‘homosexuality’ is (any more) ‘unAfrican’ (than it is unEuropean or unAmerican) doesn’t really stack up: it was, generally speaking, colonial powers that introduced anti-gay laws, and today it is, arguably, ‘westerners’ (who are stung by defeats at home) who are, in concert with their local clients, pushing the anti-gay agenda in places where they think the can enjoy local support.

  • Richard Willmer

    This is, to me, an interesting article:—competence/-/689744/1849200/-/womac9z/-/index.html

    I have written to the author requesting clarification on certain points, including whether he was aware that Penal Code 129 already provides legislation on the matter of the sexual abuse of both girls and boys. But I do perhaps ‘take heart’ at what he says here: “With such a brand name, [the Bahati Bill] was destined to crash before takeoff. There were and there are still many other ways to achieve the desired goal [of protecting boys from sexual abuse] without positioning the law as ammunition against a particular group of members of the society.”

    Meanwhile, ‘religious leaders’ are, I hear, trying to push the Bahati Bill again – although Speaker Kadaga’s response is, from what I’ve heard today, more ‘nuanced’ this time. Details to follow as I get hold of them …

    Of course, Catholic leaders in UG desperately want a ‘diversion’ from the embarrassing revelations of Fr Anthony Musaala (, and I fear that gays may be considered a ‘convenient target’ with respect to their efforts to find one. To be expected perhaps …

  • Richard Willmer

    Here’s the official parliamentary ‘article’ on the ‘religious leaders’ ‘ antics:

    None of the top brass of the Catholic Church in UG is mentioned in the article (and nor does any appear in the photo). Ntagali is Orombi’s designated successor at the Church of Uganda, and Sserwadda is a kind of ‘moderator’ (how inapt?!) of ‘conservative’ ‘evangelical’ and ‘pentecostal’ churches.

  • Richard Willmer

    In the interests of ‘keeping watch’: I’m checking in to report that another bill (and a bunch of reports to the full chamber) have ‘leap-frogged’ Bahati – according to the Order Paper for yesterday, that is …

  • Richard Willmer
  • Richard Willmer

    Well, yesterday was ‘prorogation day’, marking the end of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament. Not sure exactly when the Third Session begins.

    Because of the Parliament being prorogued, there was no ‘Notice of Business to Follow’ on the Order Paper, which therefore did not feature ‘that Bill’.

  • Richard Willmer

    There are reports of arrests as the UG Government appears to clamping down on freedom of speech and assembly:

  • Richard Willmer

    The Nigerian legislature (after many years of huffing and puffing) has finally launched its long-trailed all-out assault on freedom of expression (saying the one should not be mean to gays would effectively become a crime if the Bill were to be promulgated):

    It will be interesting to see how ‘donor’ countries react. I gather that there is an eerie silence emanating from the Office of President Jonathan Goodluck, who must sign the Bill for it to become law. I suspect Ugandan politicos will also be ‘watching with interest’.

    There is an estimated 15 million lesbian and gay men in Nigeria. One wonders on what basis people will be selected for incarceration (they surely can’t afford to build prison for them all) … though I suspect that money will have something to do with it … from what one hears, it usually does! :-(

  • Richard Willmer

    British actor, Stephen Fry, has interviewed Simon Lokodo, the Uganda Minister of Ethics and Integrity. According to Fry, Lokodo said some rather startling things …

    (So if would appear, if Fry’s account is accurate, that Lokodo sees men raping girls as ‘natural’, but consensual same-sex relations as ‘wrong’. Oh dearie dearie dear!)

  • Richard Willmer

    Meanwhile, Speaker Kadaga seems to share Fry’s concerns about the ‘defilement’ of the ‘girl child’:

    Looks like (her anti-gay ally?) Lokodo is seriously ‘off message’. Just to reinforce the point, this is what Lokodo is alleged (probably truthfully) to have said: “Ah, but it is the RIGHT kind of child rape … It is men raping girls and that is natural.”

    Absolutely astonishing!!!

  • Richard Willmer

    I have just received information about another newspaper ‘outing’, but that image sent to me is very blurred. I’ve asked for another, more readable, copy.

  • Richard Willmer

    Interesting article by a Ugandan journalist:

    Lokodo’s comments on rape are mentioned (though reference is made to ‘women’, not ‘children’ or ‘girls’ … which gives a slightly false impression of what Lokodo is reported by the primary source, Stephen Fry, to have actually said) – the first time I’ve seen this in ‘mainstream’ British media.

    Not sure what’s happening in parliament re. the ever-lurking Bill. Pending bills not lapse as result of a prorogation; only when a parliamentary term ends … so I would expect to see the ‘lurking’ continue.

  • Ted Boyle

    Richard, fight the more pertinent sufferings of the world like starvation, lack of peace in war-torn areas and infrastructure; stop trying to disrupt the traditional family model (which is already in enough decline, without more minority “right’s” disturbing its ideal functioning).

    You want to give out rights? How about the rights of the +10 million that die from lack of basic needs each year from situations far out of their control?

    The message of the day that so many people are missing is “priorities” (not to mention not fighting wrongs that are CLEARLY wrongs; ones that are not possibly detrimental to progress).

    Nearly every wealthy nation on earth would still be condemning homosexual actions to harsh punishment if it wasn’t for their over-embellished decadence and resulting foray into non-issues afforded to them because of their enslavement to poorer nations for hundreds of years, whom are suffering far greater than these supposed LGBT you so believe are supressed.

    • Richard Willmer

      @ Ted

      What have I said that seeks to ‘destroy the traditional family model’? I’m merely saying that the Bahati Bill is nasty and hypocritical, and IMO bad for Uganda. There are many Ugandans who agree with me, but many of their voices are not being heard above the homophobic din

      And on the subject of ‘the traditional family’: you might wish to take a look at the private lives of some of these anti-gay agitators! They might not be as ‘traditional’ as you suppose.

      As for issues like poverty and starvation: well, I take an interest in those too, but I’m not going to ‘blow my trumpet’ about that.

      Perhaps you could give me a cogent argument for ‘harshly punishing’ two honest citizens who happen to be in a same-sex relationship with each other? And please don’t abandon logic and personality responsibility and simply quote out of context fragments of Holy Scripture.

  • Richard Willmer

    As Zoe Brain has reported on another thread, it is reported that a pastor has been arrested for allegedly ‘promoting homosexuality’ (whatever that might mean), and that the orphanage he runs is threatened by a consequent lack of cash.

    Here is the report on a CA church’s website:

    I’m trying to find out exactly what happened and what (if any) allegations are being made against Pastor Robert Kisitu. I think this is important to know before sending money to the orphanage. I’ve spoken with some of my own UG contacts (not necessarily, as Ted Boyle – who clearly thinks he can see into my soul [!], bless him – might suppose, ‘LGBT activists’), but have not yet got a clear picture. I’ll keep trying.

  • Richard Willmer

    Apparently the Red Pepper (that paragon of ‘traditional values’ – ha ha) is planning a new round of ‘outings’. Let’s see what happens …

  • Richard Willmer

    Not heard if the Red Pepper has carried out their latest reported threat.

    Anyway, yesterday I was chatting with a friend (and colleague) from Nigeria about this whole general theme of ‘gay bashing’ in Africa, and we were ‘chewing over’ the reasons for this unseemly phenomenon. We concluded that the main ‘driver’ was a desire on the part of many African politicos and religious leaders to ‘differentiate’ themselves from ‘the West’ in general, and their former colonial masters in particular – understandable, perhaps, given the history. The irony is that, in trying to ‘look different’, these people are embracing the same kind of behaviour an mindset as those who once (and, arguably, still, by ‘economic’ means) oppressed them.

  • Richard Willmer

    Bahati was not on today’s Order Paper, even under NoBTF. (Maybe the secret route will be taken; maybe the pragmatists in political circles are gaining strength; who knows?)

    Meanwhile, Amnesty International has reported that the general problem is a growing one, and points to foreign interference as a factor. The article below also mentions Warren.

  • Richard Willmer

    (Actually, I’m not certain that Amnesty has actually said that ‘foreign elements’ are a factor – I’ll try to get a copy of the report itself.)

  • Richard Willmer

    It appears that Amnesty DOES regard ‘foreign elements’ as factor in what they characterize as a deteriorating situation. Here’s (a precis of?) the report:

    From the report: “… most of the laws criminalising same sex activity in Africa are a direct legacy of colonialism and it is the religious right in Western countries like the USA who actively fund and promote homophobia in Africa.”

  • Richard Willmer

    Bahatism is back on the Order Paper – at #10 on NOBTF.

  • Richard Willmer

    Newly-appointed Papal Nuncio to Kenya calls for the respect of human rights:

    We need more of this!

  • David M

    Richard, I appreciate your keeping us informed.

  • Richard Willmer

    You’re welcome, David.

    (Comments from some ‘on the ground’ suggest that the Bill has become a kind of ‘political toy’ – to be waved around from time to time in order to distract people’s attention from something else. Stands to reason, I think.)

  • Richard Willmer

    Looks like the ‘Pastor Wars’ are heating up again, with Solomon Mmale (who is virulently anti-gay but opposes the Bahati Bill because he understands what an unmitigated public relations disaster the Bill has been for ‘Homophobia Inc’) ‘reactivating’ his accusations against Robert Kayanja:

  • Richard Willmer
  • Richard Willmer

    An interesting article from a Kenyan author:

    (The author effectively makes the point that the label ‘unAfrican’ is really just a bit of nonsense.)

  • Richard Willmer

    Looks like the Red Pepper (that renowned advocate of truthfulness and clean living**) has indeed done another round of ‘outing’:

    ** Apologies for the mordant sarcasm!

    (I ‘trailed’ this – after a ‘tip off’ – a couple of weeks back … see comments above.)

  • Richard Willmer

    WHOOPS! The attached report relates to the February ‘outing session’. (I think that one I’ve heard about has not [yet] broken cover.)

  • Richard Willmer

    An interesting ‘though piece’:

    Much of it ‘rings true’ IMO, and maybe African human rights activists would do well to ‘repackage’ some of their approaches?

    “Post-colonial tensions” is surely a very important factor. Places like Uganda want to be seen as ‘different’ from the former colonial power, and attitudes to LGBT is an easy way to express ‘difference’.

    In other news: Bahati does not feature on this week’s order papers … so far.

  • Richard Willmer

    Order papers are still ‘Bahati-free’. Much less talk at the moment about the Bill in the political circles with whom I’m in contact. Obviously, the UG Government is focusing on getting its budget through, and I imagine that most parliamentary time is being being spent on that. The Public Order Management Bill 2011 has also yet to complete its passage.

  • Richard Willmer

    Reports today that the Kampala offices of the Refugee Law Project were attacked by police and (other?) thugs. Reason for the attack not clear, but there could conceivably be a homophobic connection, given that the Project opposes bahatism.

  • Richard Willmer

    Another snippet: Stephen Langa (the high priest of bahatism?) is hosting a public meeting on Sunday. The meeting will be monitored and contents reported.

  • Richard Willmer

    At the launch of what looks like being a massive UN campaign against gay-bashing, Desmond Tutu compares the Bahati Bill to Apartheid and Nazism and says this:

    It’ll be interesting to see if / how some people respond to what is probably the strongest attack to date on homophobia by the Archbishop, who is very widely respected in much of Africa.

    On a lighter note – it rather reminds me of something Winston Churchill said: “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

  • Richard Willmer

    Still no mention of Bahati on today’s order paper.

    Am still waiting for some details of the Langa meeting of 23 July.

  • Richard Willmer

    And on a note that is simultaniously lighter and somewhat chilling, I’ve just seen this:-

    “Am helping my niece in P7 with her homework and had to refer to her science notes;

    “Causes of homosexuality;

    -desire for money

    -drug abuse

    -failure to marry without any clear reasons

    -use of pornographic material

    -army barracks

    -failure to approach members of opp [sic] sex

    -humiliatn [sic] and lack of success in associatng [sic] with members of the opposite sex!”

    Well now, if ‘desire for money’ were a ’cause of homosexuality’, one might expect much political leadership of rather a lot of countries to ‘Go Gay’ at may moment!

    No kidding folks – I saw this, and trust the person who wrote it.

  • Richard Willmer

    *simultaneously* (what was I thinking?!)

  • Richard Willmer

    Just heard that THE PUBLIC ORDER MANAGEMENT BILL, 2011 has now completed Third Reading and therefore goes to Museveni for signature.

    The prospective law (which has government support, and is almost certainly going to be promulgated) could have severe implications for any ‘dissident’ group.

  • Richard Willmer

    Here’s a report from the BBC:

    Amnesty International have been ‘quick off the mark’ with a statement:

    Giles Muhame’s ChimpReports carries this article, indicating a measure of ‘unrest’ in the UG Parliament:

    This from the Daily Monitor (the largest ‘non-goverment’ newspaper):

  • Richard Willmer

    (The Amnesty report contains an inaccuracy: they, like me, expected passage to be completed tomorrow, but it seems that Miss Kadaga, the very anti-gay Speaker, gave it a ‘shove’ so that it passed today.)

  • Richard Willmer

    Back to Langa, and his conference last month: apparently he said this of ‘homosexuality’:

    “Providing literature, writing books about it, standing up and saying it is OK — you should be arrested. Even if you are not in the act, you should be arrested. Anybody who tries to promote it should be arrested. That’s why we need a stronger law.”

    One can see why the Public Order Management Bill is relevant to this whole situation; both it and Bahati Bill are really about attacks on freedom of speech and conscience.

  • Richard Willmer

    I was wondering if, now that the Public Order Management Bill has passed, Bahati would be back on the Order Paper. He isn’t, as of now.

  • Warren

    I noticed that too. For now at least, no news is good news.

  • ken

    I’m beginning to suspect the Uganda parliament is just keeping the bill around for when they need a distraction. Whenever they have some other controverial bill (or scandal), just resurrect the Bhati bill and everyone just goes nuts over it.

    • Richard Willmer

      I suspect you’re right, ken!

      Pundits I speak to in Kampala are saying that, while there are indeed ‘true believers’, there are also the ‘cynics’ who see the Bill as a ‘political toy’. The more sensible politicians also understand that it is a ‘tar baby’: Kadaga tried to use it advance her political profile, and was well-and-truly ‘slapped down’ by M7 and his (softly-spoken but ‘touch-as-a-button) premier, Amama Mbabazi, both of whom saw the chance to squash the ‘upstart’ by cancelling her ‘Christmas’.

      Time for that poem again?

      THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL, 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 …

      Here it comes,

      there it goes,

      round and round and round.

      Now you see it,

      now you don’t;

      perhaps it is just sound

      and fury that is meant to be

      distraction for a people ground

      by war and graft and poverty.

  • Richard Willmer


  • Richard Willmer

    Looks as if a heavily edited version of the Bahati Bill may be back in contention.

    Heard that the Legal Parliamentary Affairs Committee has held some kind of hearings, but not yet seen the text of what they were supposedly ‘consulting’ on.

  • Richard Willmer

    Just received some clarification: it’s almost certainly the Anti-Pornography Bill being referred to by the source, but – as I understand it – with depiction / mention of any gay relationship being deemed pornography … whether that depiction / mention truly pornographic or not.

    It might be that the latest ruse from Kampala will be to ‘farm out’ bits of Bahati to other bills. Or not, as the case may be – we’ll see what the autumn brings.

  • Richard Willmer

    (It is the Anti-Porno Bill – an MP ‘mistweeted’.)