As own goals go, it’s difficult to imagine a more spectacular one.
Canada’s Foreign Minister, John Baird, can’t have anticipated the negative impact he would elicit when he decided to publicly berate Uganda’s Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, about the murder of a gay activist in January 2011.
The reaction from Uganda was unanimously hostile. John Baird’s bull in a China store intervention had managed to rally the majority of Ugandans around a cause that had been pushed to the margins by massive corruption revelations, public disinterest and bread-and-butter politics. I, too, couldn’t help but agree that it was ill-timed, needlessly confrontational and condescending – a typical case of a white man ganging up on a black, African, woman in a manner that he would never have adopted had Kadaga been white, male, or a Saudi Arabian prince.
Rather predictably, Rebecca Kadaga has returned to Uganda to a hero’s welcome. Chief among those who went to meet her at the airport were none other than the convicted criminal, Martin Ssempa, the author of the infamous Bahati Anti-gay Nazi Bill, David Bahati, and ministerial has-been James Nsaba-Buturo.
Thanks to John Baird’s intemperate and ill-considered harangue, the enemies of Uganda’s gay community have a new lease on life. Worse, Rebecca Kadaga, who is running for president of Uganda in 2016 if she were a politician, has been handed an incendiary political garland that she can use to rally Ugandans around.
You are not going to hear many gay sympathizers admit it but John Baird’s patronizing intervention has turned out to be a godsend to our enemies. There’s a time and place for everything, especially in politics. We all know the Bahati Nazi anti-gay Bill is political and that it has been comatose – thanks almost entirely to Yoweri Museveni, for pragmatics reasons. Any of our friends abroad need to consult with those on the ground as to how to move the discussion forward.
I refuse to accept that had Baird done that, he would have been advised by activists in Uganda to confront Kadaga the way he did. She had no known history of public anti-gay sentiment up to that point. She was there as Speaker of the House, not a gay/anti-gay advocate. Baird’s intervention thus stirred up a hornets’ nest – needlessly. He should have spoken to her about the issue privately.Talk about our friends shooting us in the foot.
The irony is that Kadaga who is in her 50s, is single and has never married, has been offered a convenient “out” by one of our own friends should anyone wonder why she is single when she runs for presidential office in 2016, which all signs suggest she will. Ugandans are not very sophisticated people and most will assume that she is a godsend since she stood up to a Canadian minister on the issue of gay rights.
The last and, perhaps, most incongruous irony is that despite her tough anti-gay rhetoric, Kadaga is our best hope in the unlikely event that Museveni relinquished power in 2015-16. She can huff and puff all she wants but Kadaga cannot afford to alienate donors. Being a woman, she is also likely to understand better than male politicians the importance of embracing diversity.
- Speaker Kadaga promises to revive shelved anti-gay bill
- Kadaga (Uganda) 3 – Baird (Canada) 0 (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- Martin Ssempa guilty! (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- Abolish the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity, silly! (sebaspace.wordpress.com)