Uganda’s First Lady is not a shrinking violet. When she is cross, she lets you know it by penning angry responses about things people have said she has done that she thinks they shouldn’t have said. So, a few days ago she had published in the government owned New Vision a feisty rebuttal to claims in the Daily Monitor (quoting Wikileaks) that she was behind the anti gay bill that David Bahati brought to Parliament in 2009 – a bill that was eventually aborted in January 2010 by her husband’s intervention when international pressure got too hot for him.
Janet Museveni’s denial, especially her insistence that she fights her own battles, rings true. She is on record saying all sorts of things about homosexuality, all of them negative, to youths (as she did here in 2010) and all sorts of other groups she is privileged to be able to talk at simply by being invited.
“We used to have very few homosexuals traditionally. They were not persecuted but were not encouraged either because it was clear that is not how God arranged things to be.” Yoweri Museveni (November 2009)
In fact, her husband has been more contradictory on the subject of homosexuality. In late 1999 he asked the police to arrest and imprison all homosexuals, only to backtrack a few months later, due to pressure from Western donors, and say that homosexuals should be left alone. Then in 2009, before he left for the Commonwealth Summit in Trinidad and Tobago, he admitted to a youth at the inaugural Young Achievers Awards ceremony, an event organized by Tetea Uganda, that homosexuality has always been with us – we just didn’t talk about it. But on June 3 2010, he turned around and said that homosexuality was a Western import that the Church had to fight. The irony that he was asking a Western import (the Church) to fight “a Western import” seemed totally lost on the president but that is Museveni for you. At the same event, Museveni also told his listeners that Buganda’s Kabaka (King) Mwanga, a homosexual, had learned to be homosexual from the Arabs. One would have been forgiven for coming away wondering what one should take away from Museveni’s lecture: was homosexuality a Western import or was it introduced by the Arabs?
You will not find Janet Museveni going on record to speak through both sides of her mouth in that kind of manner. The reason for this is that she believes, and she tells the country regularly, that prayers can solve every problem. She once, for instance, stood up in Parliament and exhorted the country to go on its knees and pray for the eradication of corruption. Her message is thus fairly consistent: pray for every one of your problems and they will go away.
So, despite the possibility that she could have been a passive observer (and therefore complicit) during the process that brought the Bahati bill to Parliament, let’s give it to her that she had nothing to do with goading Bahati on as he drafted the bill in the middle of frenzied night prayer, on the back of a tithing envelope. If she had wanted to lead the campaign, she clearly could have since her views on this subject are already a matter of public record.
However, what Janet Museveni has craftily not done in her article is say whether or not she opposed/opposes the Bahati Nazi bill. Yet it would be important to know that. We know that her husband is against the bill because it is the politically expedient position for him to take given how much he is still beholden to Western money. But what about Janet? Yes, she is against homosexuality alright, but did she support the Bahati Bill? Was she disappointed when her husband killed it? Would she support it if it were to be tabled again in Parliament?
Those are the questions one wishes Mrs. Museveni had taken trouble to address in her ode to [lack of] journalistic integrity.