We are finally approaching the denouement to the saga that the Bahati Anti Homosexuality Bill (AHB) has been since 2009. The players are lined up and we must finally see the end to this drama.
Here is an attempt to summarize what is at stake:
President Yoweri Museveni:
In 2010, following pressure from Hillary Clinton and other Western diplomats, Museveni put his authority on the line and ordered his
National Resistance Movement (NRM) members of Parliament (MPs) to drop the bill because it was a matter of ‘foreign policy‘ that was not theirs to resolve. The MPs resentfully capitulated and the bill failed to get out of committee. It lay comatose for nearly three years until Canada’s John Baird resuscitated it with his withering attack on Rebecca Kadaga last October. Museveni must be irritated that he has to deal with this bill again, especially with the attendant implications for his authority and foreign policy (read foreign Aid) if it is debated and passed.
Museveni has no interest in the AHB, doesn’t want it debated at all, but will now work more quietly to kill it because he can’t employ the public, paternalistic, tactics he used in 2010.
The Parliament of Uganda:
Uganda’s Parliament is overwhelmingly NRM. This 9th Parliament has proved to be more prone to straining at the leash against the executive, because it has more young(er) MPs who are impatient to assert their authority as Parliamentarians. The problem for them is that too many NRM MPs are still beholden to the president for their seats (a lot of voters really vote NRM because of Museveni, rather than the MP) so they haven’t got enough guts to stand their ground when the president clips them behind the ear, passes them a few sweeteners or threatens them with political annihilation should they not fall into line. You sense that more of them are increasingly ready to try and use the AHB to give Museveni a bloody nose and so you will see them attempt to debate and pass it.
Kadaga nailed her colors to the AHB in an ill-advised attempt to bolster her presidential ambitions. At a stroke, she compromised her office which is supposed to be neutral and she also put herself directly in the cross-hairs of President Museveni who cannot have taken too kindly to her thinly veiled shot across the bows at his administration.
He stared her down when she led her Parliamentary troops up the hill because of the death in unclear circumstances of a young Parliamentarian, Selina Nebanda. Museveni insisted that there was no need to recall Parliament over that controversy and, despite her earlier blustering that Parliament would be recalled, Kadaga led her troops back down.
Already wounded by the skirmish with Yoweri Museveni over Selina Nebanda’s death, Kadaga’s authority will be damaged irreparably if the AHB never makes it to the floor of Parliament. She will thus do whatever she can to at least have the bill debated on the floor. She must be looking for every avenue to save herself further political humiliation, having promised and failed to deliver the AHB as a 2012 Christmas present.
The Evangelical/right vs the Liberal/Left foreign legion:
It is true that the bill was conceived with the support of American evangelicals such as Scott Lively. But they hadn’t reckoned with the
fierce backlash from Liberal/Left leaning organizations who took up the mantle and have, since the AHB was introduced in 2009, done whatever they can to guide the message as well as the tactics against their right-wing foes in America and the government authorities in Uganda.
To these two enemies, the AHB is but a mere Trojan Horse for their left/right ideological battle for hearts and minds. Uganda is but one of the battlefields on which they will fight to the death. Others are Cameroon, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana and so on. The American evangelicals started the battle in Uganda but have since lost ground due to their domestic flock getting cold feet at the idea that they could be responsible for the judicial killing of citizens in foreign places. They also don’t have the stomach to withstand the ferocity of the liberals’ response especially given that the American political climate has clearly turned against right-wing extremism as shown by Barack Obama’s resounding trouncing of the Republicans in successive elections.
The East African has an example of the left’s unrepentantly agenda-driven, personal, ruthless, egotistic, condescending, colonial, take-no-prisoners attitude that they bring to the internecine ideological battle. In that instance, one individual from a company calling itself Private Courts Inc. pressured Victoria University to close, without bothering to consult the LGBTI community in Uganda, thereby putting the future of 200 students and their lecturers s in jeopardy, and creating the wrong impression that the LGBTI community in Uganda didn’t care what happened to anyone else as long as their agenda was put on a pedestal.
In fact the LGBTI in Uganda, some of whom have friends at the university, found out who the prime mover had been when The East African’s article was published, weeks after the fact. The Private Courts Inc. personnel who wrote the haranguing e-mail to Victoria University last visited Uganda in 2011 but she doesn’t hesitate to lecture anyone and everyone she doesn’t agree with as though she is the Alpha and Omega of the poor, helpless, downtrodden black gay boys and girls in Uganda that she must save from a fireball of hate and bigotry. She clings to a patronizing and racist attitude she would never use had she been dealing with any African-American community in the United States. But, hey, she is a self-appointed white savior from San Francisco who knows better than all the backward black African people in a “tiny country” so her superiority makes her best suited to decide what is good for them.
It is clearly not only the evangelicals using the AHB for their own egoistic reasons.
Uganda’s LGBTI Community:
Last, and least, is the LGBTI community in Uganda. Even though they are the people who will bear the brunt of the effects of the AHB, events have evolved over the last 4 years in such a way as to make the gay community but a parenthesis in the various power and ideological battles the bill has spawned.
The fact that the West is funding all the LGBTI activities in Uganda makes the people on the ground but mere marionettes. Yes, that means that Martin Ssempa and David Bahati are as much a tool of the American evangelicals as the Ugandan LGBTI community are of the left/liberal camps in the West.
It is a noble fight that the LGBTI activists are fighting in Uganda but it is also, sadly, true that very little of what is going on in Uganda’ corridors of power, in San Francisco’s Private Courts Inc. or at Scott Lively’s Abiding Truth Ministries is driven by the realities of the gay population on the ground who are but mere pawns in much bigger, and sometimes tangential, political games.
The activists must, of course, keep lobbying Parliament (I think the message and tone need to be adjusted but that is another discussion) and keep engaging with anyone they can on the AHB. The alternative would be to give up; infinitely worse given how much they have already put into the fight.
When all is said and done, the Anti Homosexuality Bill’s fate can only be decided once and for all if A) President Museveni finds a way of getting it thrown out of Parliament for good, B) Uganda’s Parliament comes to its senses and rejects it out on their own volition or C) it is debated and passed and it goes to court for a final, legal, ruling on its constitutionality.
If Parliament stands its ground, Yoweri Museveni’s options are limited. In that happenstance, the solution to this protracted battle will be for Parliament to pass the bill, and the courts take it up, thereby finally taking the opportunistic politics out of play.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: After I posted this, it has been brought to my attention that the Private Courts person, Melanie Nathan, who wrote the e-mail to Victoria University has actually never been to Uganda.
- What makes Pastor Martin Ssempa (PhD) tick? (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- Ugandan politician rubbishes the Bahati [Nazi] Bill (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- Questions the anti-gay brigade struggles to answer (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- 2012 gone – bring on 2013 (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- Rebecca Kadaga trapped between a rock and a hard place
- Bahati anti-gay bill revived to teach Museveni a lesson