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Uganda: President Museveni Distances Himself from Anti-Homosexuality Bill

David Bahati

President Museveni opened the National Resistance Movement conference in Entebbe on 12th January with a long speech in which he clarified the government position on an anti-homosexuality bill passing through the Ugandan parliament.

When I was at the Commonwealth Meeting, The Prime Minister of Canada, came to see me about gays, Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to see me about gays, Carson rang me about Somalia and gays and Mrs Clinton rang to talk to me about gays. I want to clarify on this issue. The motion on gays was brought by a private member Hon. Bahati, I have not even talked to him. I told these people that since they are democrats why can’t they wait for this to be debated? Why has this caused excitement. We sat in cabinet and said that we should invite Hon. Bahati to tell us what he is talking about and then we can see how we can handle this together. It is better for more minds to discuss and see how to navigate around it.

We must handle it in a way in which it does not compromise our principles but also takes in mind foreign policy.

The foreign policy element in the debate became more pertinent on Friday 15th January, when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned of the effect such legislation could have on Uganda’s international reputation:

I would like to remind the Ugandan Government of the country’s obligations under international human rights law. Uganda is a party to the core human rights treaties and has generally had a good track record of cooperation with the various international human rights mechanisms. This bill threatens to seriously damage the country’s reputation in the international arena.

The draft legislation proposes jailing those who fail to report homosexual behaviour, prohibiting any form of sexual relations between people of the same sex, denying the promotion or recognition of homosexual relations as a healthy or acceptable lifestyle in public institutions, as well as punishing specific acts of homosexuality with the death penalty.

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