Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti and Uganda

Haiti clouds my mind.

I have had no electricity for close on 24 hours. All batteries down. All. even phone. And, when it came, back it went.
So, when I wake in the middle of the night and find it on, I jump to put the computer and TV on.

No, the main story is not Uganda [grin]. It is Haiti.

Hell. It is no grin. It is a rictus of pain. What am seeing on the screen is beyond description.
It is hell on earth. It is hell on any part of the world.

My heart goes out to those people. And, again, I am amazed as the world's peoples turn and give aid, help to those who are in critical need. We human beings are really amazing. We are. Cruel, cruel, cruel we can be. But, we can also have a heartbreaking degree of compassion.

Back to Uganda? I will have to. Because the scenes which I cannot switch off the tv are too heavy. Literally. Just want to be able to do something about that. Myself.
There is at least a lighter story coming out of Uganda the last 48 hours.....

But, I will still keep putting up some little things about Haiti.

  • Bill Clinton. UN special envoy on Haiti. Articulating what is necessary. Putting all the personal charm, and pulling the weight of his nation.
  • Obama. President of the US. Coming to the help of another country. Like he did in Uganda. Thanks.
  • President of Haiti loses his official residence, and personal residence. Homeless, like the rest of the citizens of his country in the devastated city.
  • Nothing spared. Hotels, hospitals, airport. Everything.
  • China, Israel, US, Britain,... All countries of the world are weighing in to help.
  • Canadian Governor General in tears as she calls for help.


I will get back to Uganda, to relieve the mood.

Anne Mugisha is at it again. With the prize winning analysis of what the Museveni announcement that he will talk to Bahati actually means. Examining the role of politicians. Uganda's 'elite'. The lady is fierce in her denunciation.
They failed to articulate to the public the difference between supporting the spread of homosexuality and the repressive nature of Bahati's Bill.  They were  more concerned about the political ramifications of supporting the Bill than on the potential of human rights violations that could result from passing the Bill.  The irony cannot be lost on them that it has taken Museveni - with a little help from our development partners (read: Donors) to put this Bill into a human rights perspective.  He set aside his personal homophobic inclinations and prevailed over those who were stampeding the nation into embracing this monstrosity of a Bill. 
Hey, simplify it. The leaders failed to lead. The talkers shut up. The pundits were all too scared.

But, caution.
we must not lose sight of the influences that have temporarily subdued his (President Museveni's) homophobia and transformed him into the voice of reason. It was not because he was suddenly enamored by the gay community or gay rights, it was not because Ugandan voters (his bosses) prevailed over him and begged him to have mercy on the gays, nor was it a change in his conviction that gay rights are human rights but rather it was in deference to Donor country demands that he reframed the issue as a foreign policy issue. The New Vision reports 'Museveni said he had been questioned about the bill by several foreign leaders, including the Canadian prime minister, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He said Clinton called him for over 45 minutes over the issue.
“I told them that this bill was brought up by a private member and I have not even had time to discuss it with him. It is neither the Government nor the NRM party. It is a private member,” Museveni told the NRM meeting at State House Entebbe. '
Museveni effectively washed his hands and the hands of government of anything to do with Bahati's Bill. He also reframed the issue as a foreign policy (rather than human rights) issue!
Sue me, I am gay and Ugandan. So, I tend to be more relieved than cynical, the way Anne Mugisha goes on here.
And so there is a collective sigh of relief from the West. Gay activists are appeased and Donor government's like the USA which need Museveni to continue protecting its interests in places like Somalia and sending mercenaries to Iraq, but dare not antagonize the powerful gay lobby at home; are once again at peace. In order for them to continue their game of 'see no evil, speak no evil' in Uganda, the US government must ensure that it's citizens are not agitated enough to put their African partner under closer scrutiny. That scrutiny might uncover more rights abuses, corruption, nepotism, abuse of office, election malpractices and other evils that the US likes to condemn in countries that do not do the US' bidding, or supply it with critical resources like oil or mercenaries.
 Hey, I didnt see that...! Politics is cynical business. I am glad that people still remain good, despite the cynicism that politics makes them. I say, thanks to my brothers and sisters in the US. It is YOUR intervention which put pressure on YOUR government, which put pressure on MY government.

Back to Anne Mugisha. The lady is tough. Straight shooting.
To my friends in the opposition who kept tight lipped when their conscience told them otherwise I will quote Abraham Lincoln: To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men
To those who were repelled by the excessive punitive proposals in the Bill but then chose to play it safe for fear of political repercussions I will quote Martin Luther King, Jr: Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right.'
Throughout history the men and women who have distinguished themselves as leaders have not chosen the 'safe' line in defiance of their conscience or the popular line to please voters or Donor. They have instead chosen to stand up and defend what their conscience dictates and usually that aligns naturally with the common good for all humanity. And here is another quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: 'Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.'
The lesson we learn from this saga is that intense lobbying by Donors can cure an African Head of State of homophobia. Or more to the point the threat of withdrawing funds from critical programs like PEPFAR can deliver a human rights lesson better than any text book on the subject. But let us remain acutely aware of the influences that shape our political decisions and national policies? 
This Bill was not stalled because of the voice of Ugandan voters - given its popularity among Ugandan voters. Nor was it stalled because of a 'Saul - to - Paul' moment which touched the conscience of our benevolent ruler making him extremely sensitive to the rights of gay people. Sadly, this saga reminds us that the center of real power is not even in the State House that the opposition is trying to wrest from Museveni. 
President Museveni remains as homophobic as he was when he warned the youth a few weeks ago against homosexuality but his conscience like that of my silent colleagues in the opposition is quite accommodating when he senses a potential threat to his political survival.
I cant have the stomach of a politician. That is why I believe that this is real, back to basics, concrete advice. And, Anne reminds me that I dont have her guts to take on the politicians in Uganda so. Good for you Anne. Again, the article is here.

Maybe I should also be a little open about our real problems. Because, the desire to kill me was simply a symptom which my people's leaders desire to gain political advantage.

I will not think that this thing is down. It will go under the rug, ferment, and rear its ugly head later on. Bahati, Buturo, Ssempa, they are all still as homophobic as they were. So is the President. They will try to kill us again, or hurt us. We gay Ugandans, we gay Africans have to address the homophobic tendencies of our peoples. IT IS IMPERATIVE.

So is this letter here.
For decades, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has charmed donors while overseeing an increasingly centralized and corrupt regime. Parliament, which is considering the bill, is little more than a debating society that deflects attention from Mr. Museveni’s personalized rule. If and when it suits him, the president will intervene and the issue will disappear — at least for the moment.
Soon, however, even the limited influence exercised by the West is likely to evaporate because Uganda sits on huge oil reserves. Oil revenues could more than replace the contributions of Western countries.
While the experience of other resource-rich countries in Africa highlights the risks of (further) corruption, violence and environmental destruction that would ensue, so far Mr. Museveni hasn’t let Parliament anywhere near those issues. Better to keep it occupied with fear of homosexuals.
Western governments should not ignore the current debate, but they should open their eyes to the looming disaster that they have helped nurture before they have no influence at all.
Peter Rosenblum, Leslie Hannay
No. It is simply NOT yet over. The Bill is still in Parliament. David Bahati is still to withdraw it. It is still there. Not until it is withdrawn, in total, from parliament, will I relax. Listen to the Museveni speech. Or, read the transcript of it Box Turtle Bulletin here. It is not yet over. Do NOT take your foot off the accelerator.

Hey, this is a very small world. Have just seen a note on CNN of Google going out and saying enough is enough. To China. Google is refusing to do any more self censorship in China, and, it was after China was whacking at Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
That is a developing story. Have you noticed who hosts the gayuganda blog?

That is how important that tidbit of news is for this gay Ugandan.

Have a good day. Pray, help Haiti.

gug

3 comments:

Erik said...

What Haitians are going through right now is a nightmare of epic proportions. It is heartbreaking to say the least.

It is a catastrophic disaster such as this that really brings attention to the cost of bad foreign policy that focuses too many resources on war and destruction and not enough helping out the poorest citizens of the world.

If you can really stomach a leading U.S. fundamentalist's perspective on this check out Pat Robertson here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPyyXQN8cG0

This is the nature of so-called U.S. Christians, racist to the core.

J.P. said...

gug:

Thanks for this; you have educated me more than you will ever know, my friend.

Jean-Paul Bentham
Canada

Hélder António said...

Have a good weekend, GUG.

Malawi: End Arrests and Discrimination Against LGBT People:
http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/takeaction/globalactionalerts/1069.html

Thank you.
Greetings from Portugal.

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