Uganda’s Parliament yesterday embarked upon a process that is going to take the country up the garden path. They resurrected the Bahati Nazi anti-gay bill, paving the way for it to be debated again in committee and, if they have their way, perhaps on the floor of the house.
The Bahati bill, put on life support by a presidential diktat in January 2010, has returned David Bahati to the rostrum of grandstanding (as I predicted it would) that will create a lot of froth but achieve absolutely nothing of tangible value on the issue of what the bill purports to be about.
You would think that our lawmakers would see sense when it was staring them in the face. But, no,
they rose in unison and cheered wildly yesterday as the hitherto comatose bill was given electric shock. The bill came alive, the cheers went up and everyone in the chamber slapped themselves on the back for a job well done.
What exactly was all the back slapping and ululating about?
Simple. Parliament is still smarting from the humiliation President Museveni dealt them on this bill in January 2010. Bahati had mobilized them, led them up the hill and then brought them back down with tails between their legs when Museveni told them in his characterically condescending manner that the matter was a foreign policy issue that only he dealt with. They have never forgiven him for that slight.
Parliament has thus been seething in a state of pique at having been publicly shown to be impotent in the face of a dismissive executive. It wasn’t the first time he had done that, of course, but this one rankled especially because Museveni made no secret of the fact that he was acting at the behest of foreigners.
Such is the hunger for Parliament to show that they matter in Uganda that, at the time in 2010, even Beti Kamya, a friend of the gay community if there ever was one, waded in and lectured the donor community about Parliament’s independence in Uganda.
Uganda’s Parliament is thus chomping at the bit, and this Nazi bill provides them an opportunity to show Museveni that they can give him a bloody nose.
Museveni hasn’t helped matters. He has presided over the worst corruption, nepotism, waste, incompetence, profligacy and cynicism that the country has ever witnessed. On top of that, he has been around for 26 years and the rust is showing in the faltering economy which has inflation running at over 25%. Even female ministers have blended in, brazenly stealing government equipment for their radio stations.
State house acolytes have been handed obscene amounts of taxpayers’ money on a presidential phone call. Thousands of hectares of forests are still being cut down in the middle of the night to benefit the president’s friends and political appointees. Tales abound of millions of dollars in suitcases being delivered by oil companies to government ministers’ homes as bribes to smooth the endorsement of ruinous if not dubious contracts, ministers are openly trying to bully the Speaker of Parliament and so on and so forth. An increasingly emboldened 9th Parliament, is looking for every avenue to embarrass Museveni’s tottering administration.
Parliament is in a such a mutinous mood that they will thumb their noses at Uganda’s donors to pass this heinous bill – just to prove to themselves that they actually matter, even if the consequences for Uganda’s foreign aid could be dire – a classic case of cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
So, those cheers you heard yesterday and the chants of “our bill, our bill” had nothing to do with what the bill will achieve – anyone with a modicum of intellect knows it will achieve nothing.
Parliament is frothing at the mouth over a redundant bill that will not, cannot eradicate homosexuality from Uganda because, if they pass it, they will finally have won their first ever victory over Yoweri Museveni since Parliament was reconstituted in Uganda more than 10 years ago.
Call it an ego trip if you like. If passing a daft, toothless, pointless, unenforceable anti-gay law is what it takes for Parliament to finally get one up on Yoweri Museveni and the patronizing donors that have propped him up for this long, so be it.