Posted by NGO News Africa on: Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The death penalty may go from the Ugandan anti-gay bill, but the rhetoric, and the revulsion, remains strong.
Kassiano Wadri sits at his sprawling wooden desk in his office at Uganda's parliament house in Kampala. Letters, brochures, newspapers and recent legislation sit waiting. The phone rings continuously, colleagues from parliament file in and out, talking and arguing in a friendly fashion.
As head of parliament's opposition, Wadri has an important role. A framed picture of President Yoweri Museveni (pictured left) hangs above his desk and Wadri points to it when he speaks of his duties; checking government, ensuring a democratic spirit. But this democratic spirit demands, he says, the criminalisation of homosexuality.
"These are our social values, these are our beliefs," says Wadri. "The idea of homosexuality in Uganda is absolutely inconceivable." If Uganda was to be expelled from the British Commonwealth, Wadri argues, "then let us go."
"As for this matter, there will be no dissenting voice," says Wadri. He claims not a single member of parliament will vote against the bill. "It has the overwhelming support of the population."
The anti-homosexuality bill has become infamous both in Uganda and around the world since its introduction in October. But it has undergone some changes. While there is little doubt in Uganda's capital Kampala that the bill in some form will pass, many see its introductory draft as wishful thinking and a exercise in anti-colonial rhetoric with the death-penalty clause as its exclamation point. The bill is being trimmed in committee now. That means the very likely end to the death-penalty clause, along with life imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality while carrying the HIV virus, clauses Wadri says go against the country's constitution. "Surgery will have to be done. The death penalty ... will be sieved out at the committee level. But the idea will remain the same."
Wadri claims the bill is not as much a legislative reaction to problems in the street as it is a national discourse on identity, independence, and as treatment as an equal member in the international community.
The extreme provisions of the bill, and Uganda's post-colonial view has polarized more complex, often softer opinions, and has sent national figures jockeying for political positions. Gideon Byamugisha, an Anglican minister in Uganda, took a gamble by speaking out openly against the bill, calling it "genocide." But James Buturo, Uganda's minister of ethics has become a spokesperson for the legislation and defended last week that Uganda would not "bend over" for donor aid.
"If one chooses to withdraw their aid they are free," says Mr. Buruto, who spoke out on the bill last week and the threat of sanctions against Uganda if the bill was passed. "Because Ugandans do not want to engage in anal sex. We do not care."
Given the recent changes, though, they must. American evangelical superstar Pastor Rick Warren, from the Saddleback church is the most recent to back away from the bill. After weeks of maintaining a silent diplomacy, Warren accused the bill of being "extreme and un-Christian" towards homosexuality. Warren, who spoke at US President Barack Obama's inauguration maintains an influential position in central Africa, where he personally advises President Paul Kagame (a similar bill is pending at Kigali's parliament), and has travedled often to Uganda. His former protegé, Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, has played a key role in promoting the fever behind the legislation.
Two of the American organizations that have campaigned the hardest against homosexuality in Uganda and helped stage a conference against homosexuality in Kampala in March have also come out against the proposed punishments for the crime.
Scott Lively, who presides over Abiding Truth Ministries, told the Guardian that the bill was "far too harsh and punitive."
Some of the most popular churches in the country, including the Anglican Church of Uganda, hesitated early on to endorse the bill; even so, an ecumenical grouping of churches Thursday gave their official blessing to the law.
"Those countries should respect respect our spiritual values," head of the inter-religious league Joshua Kitakule told the local Daily Monitor. "They shouldn't interfere."
But whether the United States helps spread the"gay agenda" or has influenced Uganda's leadership to strike the act down in law, Ugandans claim, above all, that the legislation is their own.
Source: The Guardian