The United States of America has announced punitive measures in response to the signing of the Nazi anti-gay law by Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, February 24 2014.
Among the sanctions to be imposed are visa bans on those deemed responsible for human rights violations in Uganda, relocation of a health conference to South Africa, redirection of development funds from the government to non-governmental organizations and so on and so forth.
From a purely symbolic point of view, the steps America has taken are highly significant. It is America’s money to do as she pleases, but to come out and declare that a foreign government’s law is so heinous as to call for a public slap on the wrist is extremely embarrassing – for Uganda.
Ugandan officials will, of course, try to put a brave face on it, pretend that it doesn’t matter what America does. They will wax lyrical about Uganda turning to Russia or China, and how they must keep their culture and religious beliefs. It will be the usual piffle that ignores the fact that all Uganda’s major religions are foreign, and that, as Yoweri Museveni has repeatedly informed the people he leads, Ugandan tribes actually tolerated homosexuality before Biblical lore was imposed on them. But Uganda’s government has nonetheless been stung by the public dressing down from the United States which is part of the point of the sanctions. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t have lashed out in the manner that their spokesman, Ofwono Opondo did as soon as the punishment was announced.
The United States is bluntly telling Uganda that it is a basket case which is free to reject American money if it wishes. As long as Uganda accepts US tax dollars, he who pays the piper will call the tune. It’s not lost on anyone with a modicum of intelligence that Uganda’s administration is merely about hanging on for grim death and that its leader will sign anything, say anything, do anything however contradictory to stay at the helm of his party and, by extension, country. That’s why he signed the Nazi anti-gay bill that he had consistently spoken out against and had blocked from even being debated for three years. It was purely to stave off insurrection from his own ruling National Resistance Movement.
Revolutions tend to be permanent when they are fomented from within. For some examples, think of the French Revolution – a bloody series of events in 1789 that ousted the monarchy and gave rise to the French Republic. Then there is the American revolution that ousted British colonialism. Closer to home, there is the Mau Mau rebellion, a completely local internecine struggle that toppled British rule in Kenya.
On the other side of the coin, the Falklands Islands are still a property of Britain, thanks to a lot of help from Ronald Reagan to Margaret Thatcher in 1982. She asked for and got American logistical support to win that war. Uganda’s Idi Amin would have lasted longer than 1979 had it not been for a lot of help from Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere and his Chama Cha Mapinduzi fighters. Indeed, we now also know that Museveni’s 1981-85 bush war which eventually got rid of Milton Obote was funded heavily by Gadhafi’s Libya.
So, contrary to what those who are ignorant about history might have you believe, there is a rich track record of revolutions that have been won, thanks to outside interference in other countries’ affairs, usually by invitation.
Yours truly is of the view that the gay struggle in Uganda is one such struggle that must ask for and receive outside help. Here is a put-upon minority which would mind its own business if it were not for a pernicious, malicious cabal of religious and political leaders who are hellbent on using the lives of their fellow citizens to enrich themselves, if not to further their careers. They are cynically and blatantly feeding a poorly educated, ignorant, pliable populace with garbage and outrageous lies. Based on these lies, laws have been enacted to subjugate and even imprison for life citizens who have done nothing wrong other than be who they are.
The sanctions the United States has imposed have been requested by the gay representatives living in Uganda. They are thus neither an imposition nor needless interference in Uganda’s politics as Ofwono Opondo is pretending; the gay community has asked for them and a sympathetic foreign government has, as Nyerere’s did in the 1970s, come to their aid.
It is thus right that Museveni’s government should be clipped around the ear like a recalcitrant child because, of course, Museveni’s government is nothing if not childish – relying on foreign handouts and then turning around and petulantly claiming that it doesn’t need America’s money even as it secretly lobbies for it not to be cut off.
Well, Uganda: America has laid down the gauntlet. If you don’t want American taxpayers dollars, fine. Reject the money or, better still, return, too, what has been given. As long as America’s policy is to help the downtrodden in countries which receive more money from America than they give, Barack Obama can decide to help the Ugandan gay community in any way they ask.
Over to you Mr. Yoweri Museveni. America under Barack Obama will not tolerate a banana republic, whose leadership relies on American money to stay in power, treating its gay citizens like vermin because American aid money is contributed by all Americans, including gay men and women.
You cannot thus have your cake and eat it, too; accepting money contributed by gay Americans among others, and then turning around and signing laws intended to maltreat your own gay people. Reject the aid. Even better, return what you have been given if you’re so righteous. Then go begging to your newly found friends in Russia and China who have such a wonderful track record of not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.
America has exercised its choices. Feel free to do the same, too.