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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Obama view on Uganda's Anti gay law stirs fierce online debate: Most comments of disapproval accused the US of double standards, of ignoring other human rights violations in the country, say the passing of the Public Order Management Bill (POMB).

Obama view stirs fierce online debate

By John K. Abimanyi

Posted  Wednesday, February 19  2014 at  08:00
In Summary

Taking a stance. The statement made by President Obama was posted on the US Embassy in Kampala’s facebook page and it generated debate with most commentors in support of the Bill.
Gays complain
Hardly a week after President Museveni promised to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, a grouping of gay supporters claim local community leaders are harassing them. In a statement dated February 14, Mr Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director Sexual Minorities Uganda, said: “The [sexual minorities] have faced banishment and rejection from their families as well as excommunication in community and places of worship.” He sighted areas like Nsambya, where a one Aidah Asaba was harassed last year. Mr Mugisha said several others had run to his office seeking protection. However, no violent assault has been reported to police yet.

News of President Barack Obama’s position on Uganda’s anti-gay Bill has sparked a fierce online debate on the Bill and its implications for Uganda and US relations, even drawing in the superpower’s officials.
As of press time yesterday, the Facebook post by the American Mission in Uganda, stating the USA’s official position, had attracted 1,283 comments. That is considerable, especially that posts, even of nationally gripping news by media outlets, struggle to reach the hundreds.
President Obama said that signing the Bill into law would complicate the USA’s relationship with Uganda. In the comments, Ugandans largely voiced disapproval, and on at least three occasions, elicited a response from the US embassy. It was a spectacle of common ordinary folk in a Third World country, taking on officials of the world’s strongest state on the other.
A Bob Rugambwa commented: “We greatly value and respect the US and the relationship with us. But it should never be abused to dictate what legislation we may enact or not enact. Diplomacy is also about respect. Respect the position of the Ugandan Parliament, and the culture and norms of the Ugandan people.”
To which the US embassy replied: “Uganda is a sovereign country, free to enact its laws. But the United States is a sovereign country as well, free to make statements and decisions based on its own values. This is what diplomacy is.”
Most comments of disapproval accused the US of double standards, of ignoring other human rights violations in the country, say the passing of the Public Order Management Bill (POMB). To which the US embassy’s account posted: “Glad someone brought up the POMB. There were many strong statements released after it was passed - all before anyone had actually seen it! We waited to see an official draft, and then did make a statement to press, noting our concerns about how it might be implemented.”
Some comments, however, were in support of the USA; in fact, the post had 443 ‘likes’. Jackie Nakazibwe, for instance, commented: “What someone does with their own body is their own business and no business of the government as long as they aren’t forcing or being forced into it. I don’t condone homosexuality, I possibly can’t stand it but I am also aware that my will shouldn’t be enforced on others.”

Museveni agrees to sign anti-gays Bill

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Posted  Sunday, February 16  2014 at  02:00
In Summary
By accepting to sign the Bill, the President fulfilled a promise he made to assent to the legislation should scientists prove that gays and lesbians are not abnormal people.

President Museveni on Friday told NRM legislators at Kyankwanzi that he would assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by Parliament in December last year. The Bill seeks to make same-sex punishable by life imprisonment upon conviction.
President Museveni did not only agree to sign the Bill, he also warned that the promoters, exhibitionists and those who practice homosexuality for mercenary reasons “will not be tolerated” and “will be dealt with harshly”.
The President, who had earlier refused to assent to the Bill, changed his position after a group of 11 scientists from Ministry of Health and Makerere University, led by the director of planning and development at the ministry of Health, Dr Isaac Ezati (who represented Dr Ruth Achieng, the director general of health services), presented to him their findings on whether homosexual behaviour is genetic or not.
Presidential Advisor on Science Dr Richard Tushemereirwe told the president that homosexuality has serious public health consequences and should therefore not be tolerated.
A statement from the NRM Caucus Spokesperson Evelyn Anite reads: “The President made it clear that his work was done and that all he needed was for the scientists to sign the paper they presented since it would be a historical document forming basis for the signing of the Bill.”
Speaking after scientists presented their findings, the President, according to Information minister Rose Namayanja said if the scientists give him a signed copy of their presentation, he will do what he called “the historical job of signing the Bill” into law.
No further debates
After the President made his promise to sign the Bill, sources said the members moved a motion blocking further debate on the controversial Bill and immediately gave him a standing ovation, singing in Luganda: “Mzee Tajja Kugenda, Lwaki Agenda?” —loosely interpreted as “The old man (president Museveni) will not leave power, why should he?”
In a letter to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga dated December 28, 2013, Mr Museveni said it was the government’s job to “rescue” young people from being gay, and he accepted the premise that someone who lures a youth into “disgusting behaviour” should face life imprisonment.
However, initially he refused to sign the legislation on the basis that it was not properly passed in Parliament as there was no quorum.
External pressure
Government has faced pressure from the donor community to shelve the legislation, which was supported by radical Christian pastors and legislators. UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US president Barack Obama threatened to isolate Uganda if the Bill is passed into law.

Obama warns Museveni on anti-gays Bill

Anti-gay activists demonstrate in Kampala
Anti-gay activists demonstrate in Kampala last year. FILE PHOTO 

Posted  Tuesday, February 18  2014 at  02:00
In Summary
Warning comes after President Museveni promised to sign the Bill into law. 

KAMPALA- American President Barack Obama has warned that his country and Uganda’s relationship would be “complicated” if President Museveni assents to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
A statement from the White House in Washington quoted Mr Obama as saying that the bill will “complicate our valued relationship with Uganda”, adding: “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.”
Mr Obama’s Sunday warning came a day after President Museveni announced at the NRM party’s parliamentary retreat in Kyankwanzi that he would assent to the Bill after a presentation by Ugandan scientists concluded that homosexuality is not natural.
“It is on the strength (that people are not homosexuals by genetics) that I am going to sign the bill,” President Museveni told the MPs. “I know we are going to have a big battle with the outside groups about this but I will tell them what our scientists have to say.”
Whereas Parliament had passed the Bill in December, President Museveni was hesitant to assent to it, first citing the lack of quorum on the day it was passed but later indicating that he needed a scientific explanation on whether homosexuality was a natural condition.
Barely 24 hours after his Kyankwanzi pronouncement, the President was already facing the “battle” with the American National Security Adviser, Ms Susan Rice, calling Mr Museveni to express her government’s and Mr Obama’s reservations on the matter.
According to the Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Ambassador James Mugume, the Americans had called to offer “further evidence” that homosexuality is a natural behaviour in contradiction with what the local scientists had presented.
“We are discussing with the US government. We are waiting to see what they have [to present]. I am told that the Americans have some materials and evidence that they feel were left out by our scientists,” Mr Mugume said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Asked when the US was scheduled to table the said evidence, Ambassador Mugume could not give a clear time-line, only saying: “It will not take a lot of time. It will be soon.”
Weighing in, the President’s Press Secretary, Mr Tamale Mirundi, said: “Uganda’s relationship with the US has not been based on homosexuality. We have had a long relationship with the US even before the word homosexuality was invented. Museveni will not allow them (homosexuals) to be persecuted but they also cannot be allowed to exhibit themselves.”
While Ambassador Mugume did not offer details of Ms Rice’s call, the American top official posted on her Twitter account that “she had spoken at length” with Mr Museveni.
Thereafter, the US White House posted Obama’s official statement on their website, in which he warned of the “complication” of relationships if Uganda went ahead and passed the law.
“As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love,” the statement said in part.
A post on the US embassy in Kampala official Facebook page yesterday, quoted Ambassador Scott H. DeLisi, saying: “This is not a debate about homosexuality, it is about fundamental rights for all citizens regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or community.”
Ms Erin Truhler, an information officer with the embassy, insisted she had “no specifics apart from what is in the statement.”
The statement did not delve into the specifics of the US-Uganda relations that are likely to be strained by the Bill, but the former supports local efforts in the social, economic, political and security spheres.

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