U.S. Must Suspend Aid to Anti-Gay Uganda

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Opinion, Politics

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Published on December 22, 2013 with 17 Comments


By Ralph E. Stone

December 22, 2013

The U.S. should cut off aid to Uganda over its anti-gay crackdown.

On December 20, Uganda passed anti-gay legislation that would impose a life imprisonment for gay sex involving an HIV-positive person, acts with minors and the disabled, and repeated sex offenses among consenting adults even though Uganda already punishes gay intimacy with life in prison.  The legislation also sets forth a seven-year jail term for a person who conducts a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples.

Given the advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) in this country, we forget the battle for such rights is still being fought in other parts of the world.  For example, on the eve of the Winter Olympic games, Russia passed legislation that bans the distribution of information about homosexuality to children.

How did this draconian Ugandan law come about?  In March 2009, American anti-gay activists traveled to Uganda for a conference that pledged to “wipe out” homosexuality. Seven months later, in October 2009, David Bahati, a Ugandan lawmaker and a member of the “Family,” sponsored the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.”

The “Family” or the “Fellowship,” is a secretive, privately-funded group and one of the most powerful, well-connected Christian fundamentalist movements in the U.S. This organization used its influence and funds through the Family’s African outreach programs to support the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill.  Previously, the Family had converted Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to its anti-gay brand of Christianity.  Doug Coe, the Family’s leader, called Uganda’s President Museveni the Family’s “key man” in Africa and the Family and other anti-gay groups have long viewed Uganda as a laboratory to experiment with Christian theocracy.

The Family leadership is now on record opposing the Ugandan anti-gay legislation — the very legislation they promoted — although it is unclear how active members were in lobbying Ugandan legislators to drop the legislation.

The Ugandan anti-gay legislation has sparked controversy in other Africa countries.  The influence of the religious right is being felt across Sub-Sahara Africa.  The Christian right has been involved in anti-gay legislative and constitutional activities in Kenya, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe as well.  Uganda’s anti-gay legislation may be the model for other countries, including Nigeria and Liberia, where similar laws are being considered.

While today, anti-gay legislation may be a reaction to Western ideas, discriminatory laws date back to Western colonization in Africa that banned sodomy as “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and then went on to prohibit lesbian relationships, to outlaw same-sex marriages, to prevent the adoption of children by same-sex couples, and to outlaw LGBT organizations.

The U.S. has a close alliance with the Ugandan military.  The U.S. provides advisers, training, weapons, and supplies, and in return Ugandan soldiers do most of the fighting in Somalia, a stronghold for Islamic militants.  Will the U.S. endanger its alliance to support “LGBT issues?”

Supposedly, “LGBT issues are a caveat on U.S. support.”  Given this caveat, the U.S. should cut off military aid to Uganda until the anti-gay legislation is repealed.  If the U.S. does not take a firm stand here, the rest of Sub-Sahara Africa will probably follow Uganda’s lead.

Will the U.S. jeopardize its alliance with Uganda over these LGBT issues?  I am hopeful, but not optimistic.

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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Comments for U.S. Must Suspend Aid to Anti-Gay Uganda are now closed.

  1. By cutting aid to the 38 African countries which have enacted anti-gay legislation, Washington can save a lot of money for new yachts, private jets and artificial island mansions.

    • The U.S. arguably needs Uganda as much as Uganda needs the U.S. It’s been the Pentagon’s main base of operations for projection of military force in the region since 1986, after yoweri Museveni won the Ugandan Bush War with U.S. support.

  2. Mr. Nkosi, try this link. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=263337779) Your comment tracks this and the other website I cited.

    • Still no joy!

      I am clicking directly on the links on this webpage, and both return “page not found” from the linked websites, cnn & npr.

  3. Uganda’s President has declined to sign a bill that would punish certain homosexual acts with life in prison. However, this may not be the ends of the hateful anti-gay legislation. (www.cnn.com/2014/01/17/world/africa/uganda-anti-gay-bill-rejected) Perhaps worldwide condemnation of the legislation persuaded Museveni’s action.

    • “Perhaps worldwide condemnation of the legislation persuaded Museveni’s action.”

      Sorry to be rude, but that is pure arrogance, typical of someone believing himself to part of the Cream of Civilisation. This simple, Malawian villager says that the bill was not assented to because it did not reflect Ugandan Government policy, was unfairly presented to Parliament sitting without a quorum, and rushed through it in one day. The Prime Minister did not want to see the bill passed. Museveni himself had already expressed some sympathy for LGBTs. He did not assent to the bill because that was the proper action.

      Are you posting stupid comments like that one just to keep yourself angry about Uganda?

      Right! Sorry, again! Now to other matters.

      That link appears not to be working. Have you got another one? I am trying to keep up with this Ugandan thing.

      Since I first posted here, I have found out more about the anti-homosexuality bill. Its passing should not reflect badly on the Ugandan Government.

      1. It was a private members bill, so we should not be taking the contents to be indicative of government policy.

      2. At some point Cabinet decided that there was no need for new legislation, because the law as it stands is sufficient for their present needs. (Don’t shoot the messenger!)

      3. The Speaker of Parliament wanted to see the Bill passed. In 2012 she promised its passing as a Christmas present to Ugandans. That was odd behaviour for an individual who is supposed to be impartial. Clearly she did not keep her promise.

      4. When the bill was passed just before Christmas 2013, it was:

      – presented for reading by the Speaker without notice,
      – read three times the same day,
      – in sessions which did not have quorums present, (quora?)

      5. The passing of the bill was due to the tactics used by the Speaker, and caught the Government off-guard.

  4. Ann, you make my argument as to why U.S. should cutoff aid to Uganda. Yes, there are a lot of other reasons to cutoff aid, but the anti-gay legislation is something many Americans can identify with. The anti-gay legislation puts the spotlight on Uganda, which is a good thing.

  5. @Ralph: You realize that Museveni has not given his “assent” to the bill, don’t you? He does not have veto power, but if he doesn’t assent, and I cannot imagine that he will, it will be sent back to Uganda’s Parliament, where it will need to pass by 2/3 to become law.

    Do you want to cut off all aid, including anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients, because Ugandan Parliament passed a bill – quite likely without a quorum – which could conceivably become law, but is very very unlikely to?

    Why not over Uganda’s Public Order Management Bill, which outlawed public assembly? Or the legislation in the works now, which would make Museveni’s executive orders the law of the land, to be followed by all “leaders”?

  6. Ann, I respectfully disagree. It is simply unacceptable that American citizens would be asked to continue subsidizing anti-LGBT violence and discrimination. Yes, we created the Museveni monster as we have created others. But we have no obligation to continue to feed the monster. A credible U.S. threat to cutoff or suspend aid would make supporters of Bahati put aside their prejudices for the good of the nation. (Bahati, by the way, is the Family’s Ugandan and the sponsor of the Draconian anti-gay legislation.) If aid were actually cutoff, Museveni would see the light as I doubt he has a personal stake in the anti-gay legislation.

    It is interesting to note that the gay-obsessed Bahati claims attempts by the West to stop the anti-gay legislation are “neocolonialism,” but yet has no problem when American Christian colonialists like The Family embraced him and made Uganda their right wing experiment.

    We shall see.

    • Why not cutoff or suspend aid because of Museveni’s war in Rwanda, which cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a million lives? Or his war in Congo, which cost more millions more than anyone can count? This privileging one human right, sexual preference, which now blessed by the neoliberal West, over all others, including the right to life – security of person – makes enemies in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa.

  7. This is a really dumb and worse yet, arrogant and self-defeating idea. The U.S. formed its alliance with Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, backing his seizure of power in 1986, at the end of the Bush War, and has from that time forward used Uganda as a beachhead for the projection of military force on the African continent, and used Ugandan proxy warriors in Iraq Afghanistan, Mali, Somalia, CAR, Sudan, South Sudan, and probably another half a dozen African countries I can’t think of. Since that time, a million people have died in the war in Northern Uganda, millions have died in Sudan, as the U.S. urged it secede, another million died after a Ugandan army battalion made up of Rwandan refugees invaded Rwanda between 1990 and 1994, and more millions than anyone is really sure of died after Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi’s invasion of its resource rich neighbor, DR Congo, starting in 1996.

    Political repression continues to escalate in Uganda, including a piece of legislation called the Public Order Management Bill which outlaws public assembly. President/General Yoweri Museveni is now in a standoff with the Lord Mayor of Kampala, the capital city and the Ugandan judiciary, as to whether or not the Lord Mayor is still the Lord Mayor, and Museveni is trying to get his Parliament to pass a “law” saying that his orders are the law of the land, which all the rest of the country’s leaders must obey.

    Uganda’s prisons are packed and there are many security forces that answer to Museveni alone, not to the law, and Human Rights Watch has reported torture and extrajudicial execution.

    After the U.S. has sponsored all this to become the dominant power in the region, you think it’s time to bludgeon Ugandans into accepting Western cultural norms? The more the U.S. threatens, bullies, and bludgeons, the angrier Ugandans will become about such arrogant cultural imperiallism. The struggle for LGBT rights in Uganda, must be situated within the struggles of the Ugandan people for self-determination, against the near dictatorship that the U.S. has supported and made use of for 27 years.

  8. I would not expect the ugandan court to be any relief here . African courts are very far from being fair places that respect human rights = they are in fact little more than rubber stamps for the ruling elite .

  9. “On October 20, 2013, Uganda passed anti-gay legislation … ”

    Do you mean December 20, because it is only a couple of days ago that I saw the passing of the Ugandan bill being published on the internet?

    With regard to the passing of the bill, do not despair unless you read that the Ugandan President has assented to it. The reading of the bill seems to have caught everyone by surprise, including the Prime Minister who says that its passing was irregular because not enough MPs were present in the House. Also, an MP says that he will challenge its passing in Court.

    I have a feeling that the Ugandan Government were just keeping the bill hanging around as an act of defiance against foreign LGBT activists, and perhaps to keep their own electorate happy. Otherwise how can their PM (responsible for the day-to-day running of the government) have been caught out with its passing?

    The President may not assent to the bill, partly because he himself has apparently expressed a recent softening of his stance towards LGBTs. Also, the new law could well be successfully challenged in court because it can be argued that it is against that section of the Constitution which forbids discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, and so on. In addition, the new law could be seen to be against another section which allows freedom of speech and expression.

    Finally, I suspect that this bill was voted on, and passed, by mistake. Having it turned into law will open up a huge can of worms for the Government.

    • Thank you for the date correction, now corrected,