In what is not going to hurt Rebecca Kadaga’s chances at the ballot in 2016 at all, she has taken on John Baird, Canada’s Foreign Minister and, in my mind, won hands down. Rebecca Kadaga is the current (and first female) Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament.
Invited to a conference, entitled ‘Citizenship, Identity and Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in a Globalised World’, Canada’s Baird apparently saw it as an opportunity to lecture Kadaga (and by implication, Uganda) about the death of David Kato about 20 months ago, implying that Kato’s murder was a state-inspired crime.
Kadaga would have none of it and went for him in a way that only someone of her confidence in the law (Kadaga is an accomplished lawyer) would. She was absolutely right, again in only a way someone with a good understanding of the law can be.
Please listen up Mr. Baird and all your hand-wringing friends all over the world who have elected yourselves yes, elected yourselves, to wail louder than the bereaved:
Uganda’s legal system is not, cannot be perfect. It must be rife with miscarriages of justice, many of which will never be righted if only because Uganda lacks the resources to revisit cases that might have been decided incorrectly. But that imperfect law is what Uganda has and it passed the verdict that Kato was killed in a lover’s tiff.
Until you pay for your own superior investigation and prove otherwise, it’s game, set and match on that case. Kato was killed by an angry male lover and that is all there is to it. I have indicated before that there are many elements to the police investigation that I found disquieting but the verdict is the verdict is the verdict. Until I can prove otherwise, I, too, have to live with it.
I know all these friends of ours out there (many of them, dare one say it, making a living off of the back of gay rights issues in sub-Saharan Africa) wanted a different verdict, namely one that would advance their assumption that Kato was killed by the government of Uganda. They didn’t get it so Kadaga is absolutely right to call out their arrogance when they use their high offices to call out Uganda’s elected officials about legal cases that have been settled in courts of law that the people being lectured to had nothing to do with.
Canada’s Foreign Minister was thus out-of-order to harangue Rebecca Kadaga in the way he did. If he has evidence that David Kato was killed by the state, he should have taken her aside and given it to her. Or better still, he could have stood up on his bully pulpit and presented it to the world. But for him to try to publicly embarrass his own guest was rude, supercilious and, frankly, boorish. Kadaga was thus absolutely right to stand up to this man.
“as a Speaker of Parliament, it is my responsibility to protect the rights of Members of Parliament; hence I cannot deny them the right to move private members’ Bills. The debate on homosexuality is not a settled matter.” (Rebecca Kadaga)
Even on the question of gay rights, which I feel Canada has a right to lobby Ugandan officials about, Baird should never have tried to talk at Kadaga the way he did. It was a breach of diplomatic etiquette if not condescending.
To put it in context, you will not find a single incident where a Canadian Foreign Minister, past or present, has talked to a Saudi Arabian or Kuwaiti official in the way Baird talked down to Kadaga. Yet those countries have far more egregious gay rights abuses than Uganda. Indeed Baird will not talk publicly down at an American official either. Yet more gay men and women have been killed in the last three years in Washington, DC (population 600,000) than have been killed in Uganda (population 33m) in the last 5 years.
So, let me turn again to our friends in the gay rights struggle. Please listen up one more time:
Much as you are ready to wail on our behalf at the drop of a hat, we, Ugandan gay men and women, are the ones who will live with the consequences of your bull-in-a-China-store recklessness. Stop acting as though this baby belongs to you – it doesn’t. You merely alienate people we shall eventually need when you embarrass our elected officials in public. Consult before you charge.
Finally, terrible though the Bahati Bill might be, Uganda’s Parliament has a right to debate it if that’s what it decides to do. You can lobby from the sidelines, you can arm-twist whoever with threats to withdraw foreign aid, you can even lecture and give ultimatums – preferably in private. Should the law nonetheless be passed, then you can impose sanctions and whatever other measures you consider fit. You, (well, your ancestors) introduced this parliamentary system of governance to Uganda, remember?
On a related but separate note … I must admit it’s getting very difficult for this Ugandan gay man not to like Rebecca Kadaga very, very much.
- Uganda Government speaks: Bahati Bill will continue
- Thirty years for “killer” of David Kato
- [Kale kayihura's] Press Statement!
- Homophobic rant at funeral sows discord and disarray