Not a lot of people know or realize it just yet but Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga is in political trouble.
Needled by a meddlesome do-gooder, Canada’s John Baird, over the death of a gay activist in 2011, Kadaga lashed out at him, shrilly lecturing him that Uganda is not a Canadian colony or protectorate. That went down extremely well in Uganda and, in hindsight, John Baird likely regrets the ill-considered way he confronted Kadaga.
It would have been alright if that had been the end of the matter.
Upon her return to Uganda, however, events spiraled out of Kadaga’s control when, upon landing at Entebbe Airport, she found the rabidly homophobic David Bahati, Martin Ssempa and James Elspeth Nsaba Buturo waiting to greet her as though she were a Ugandan Joan of Arc. It all went to her head and she forgot that as a Parliamentary Speaker she cannot be seen to be taking sides on political issues. She pompously announced that she would make sure that the anti-gay bill passed, the country wanted it, and so on and so forth. With every high-minded pronouncement, Kadaga was digging herself into a deeper hole. Now she is in a mess she likely wouldn’t be in if she hadn’t shot her mouth off like a Kalashnikov.
Kadaga really does want to be president of Uganda. If you doubt this, check out this telling New Vision interview she gave recently on the subject. Her reticence, some might argue ‘downright refusal’ to rule herself out of the presidential running, speaks huge volumes.
But the elections are still 4 years away and sane minds are justifiably asking themselves if it was/is wise for Kadaga to reveal her political cards so soon.
Remember that Kadaga has been at loggerheads with the Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, who is the president’s right hand man mostly over what she sees as their mal-administration and scant attention to the countriy’s most pressing priorities such as health, education and infrastructural development. In effect, she has been at odds with the president himself and, indeed, the president has had to intervene more than twice to separate the two when the internecine fighting spilled over into the press.
We all know that Kadaga thinks her government isn’t putting the ‘country first’ as evidenced by the telling caption she has on her Facebook page. That maxim strikes a chord with most Ugandans who are fed up with the wanton thieving, kleptocratic, selfish, bombastic but hollow leadership that characterizes every facet of Museveni’s 26-year-old government. So, Kadaga is on safe ground when she calls for the country to be put first …
At last, here is a politician from the ruling party calling out her own government albeit in veiled tones.
But Mbabazi and Museveni are not going to go away simply by Kadaga craftily using Facebook captions to dig at their incompetence and impunity. They have been around long enough to know that elections are not won 4 years in advance and so they can afford to wait for Kadaga to make mistakes.
She seems to have made one with the Bahati bill because whether it passes or not, Kadaga cannot come out the other side smelling of roses.
If the Bahati Bill doesn’t pass by Christmas, she will look foolish after her near-hysterical hullabaloo about it and the bizarre bed fellows she allowed her office to be associated with in the name of passing it. Right now, everyone is looking at the calendar, waiting to see if Kadaga can deliver the Christmas gift she promised Martin Ssempa, the convicted felon, and his motley crew of conniving pastors.
Uganda Revenue Authority recorded a Shs55 billion shortfall last month, and a worsening trade balance—Uganda’s current import bill is more than double export receipts reflected by a reported Shs2.5 trillion deficit. Last week, the Finance ministry told the House that the government was struggling with cash flow problems weeks into the aid suspensions. The decision, the first to be taken of the five donor countries, followed disclosures in a forensic audit report by Auditor General John Muwanga showing that as much as € 4million (Shs13.3 billion) in Irish funds, of a total € 12 million (Shs40 billion) donor kitty reportedly fiddled with, had gone missing in suspected fraud last year.
If the bill passes by Christmas, then Kadaga has to live by her claim that Uganda can do without foreign aid if the donors follow through with their pledge to withdraw their financial support to the country. Remember that the gay lobby is now the most powerful single minority entity in Uganda and, rightly or wrongly, has forced Museveni to his knees several times. So, when donors threaten to plug the faucets on account of the Bahati [Nazi] bill, it is no idle threat to Museveni.
Already, even before the bill has been debated on the floor of Parliament, the headlines are awash with the dire consequences for Uganda’s economy that the suspension of donor funds due to the massive theft of over $60m from the Office of the Prime Minister might wreak. Now, imagine if even more donors follow through and withdraw aid money on account of a morality bill designed to target about 500,000 of the country’s gay population. Kadaga will have to explain how that is in the interest of the 33,500,000 Ugandans the cuts to their aid will hit.
There is also another, more sensitive, reason why Kadaga will eventually lose political capital if the bill passes. Already in her 50s, she is not married, and has no biological children. Uganda’s female population already outnumbers men and most of them are mothers of course. Even if it might seem attractive at this point, very few Ugandan mothers will look kindly at a female politician, who has never had a child of her own, passing legislation that might end up getting their children killed or jailed. In Luganda we have a saying that aptly describes the situation: ensi egula mirambo; ngowuwo si gwebasse (it is easy to be indifferent towards death – if no one you know is being killed). Mothers will bay for Kadaga’s ice-cold blood if, as should surely be the case, their gay children are rounded up and killed or jailed because of nothing other than their being gay.
Finally, Kadaga’s throwaway claim that the country wants the Bahati Bill is based on a fanciful premise and, oddly for a politician, an impolitic reading of the situation on the ground. Martin Ssempa, David Bahati, James Nsaba Buturo and their ilk want the bill – mostly because they stand to make hundreds of thousands of dollars from extreme right-wing (mostly American) religious organizations who are fighting in Africa the morality war they have already lost in the United States. All told, the Ugandans who stand to gain directly from the passing of the bill stands at around … a paltry 100 souls!
But Uganda is a country with 34million people and they aren’t interested in who is sleeping with who in the privacy of their homes. If they were, our neighbors know where we live and you would have seen mass lynchings of gay men and women all over the country. None of that is happening because Ugandans are quite simply not that kind of people.
Yes, you will hear how 95% of Ugandan are opposed to homosexuality but it is also safe to argue that this figure doesn’t take into account the majority of Ugandans who don’t understand what they are opining about or who give knee-jerk responses that they can’t explain 5 minutes later. No, Ugandans don’t care one way or the other if gays live in their midst and it is opportunistic pastors and some people from the pro-gay side who make a living perpetrating the falsehood, who have painted the clearly wrong picture that Uganda is homophobic. It isn’t.
So, a bill that only myopic politicians and cynical pastors want is being touted as the panacea for Uganda’s moral decadence and Kadaga has ill-advisedly signed on to the silliness which, if made law, will never pass the basic litmus test of legality or enforceability. On the more pessimistic side, Kadaga’s die is already cast and she will now forever be seen as the Speaker who took sides in a scheme that sought to suck the life out of the Ugandan economy just to please a handful of bigoted pastors.
It’s not the kind of legacy she wants to run on in 2015-16 but … to quote again from Macbeth … she is now “stepped in so far that should [she] wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
President Yoweri Museveni and his prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, have Rebecca Kadaga exactly where they want her; on the political ropes.
- A letter to Rebecca Kadaga – from a supportive gay Ugandan (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- Canada’s Baird gives Ssempa and Bahati a new lease on life (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- A freshly rejuvenated Ugandan homophobic lobby goes to work (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- Time for Uganda’s major players to pronounce themselves on the Bahati Bill (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- The case for Kadaga 2016 (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- Kadaga (Uganda) 3 – Baird (Canada) 0 (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- Uganda ‘set to pass anti-gay law’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Ugandan Leader Says Antigay Bill Will Pass This Year (advocate.com)