Uganda’s gay war: truth loses out! 5

Have you heard or read that the Parliament of Uganda has passed the Bahati Anti-Gay Bill? That’s true.

You might also have been led to believe that the logic for Parliament passing the bill was to protect Uganda’s young children as well as Uganda’s hitherto outstanding moral values. That’s patently not true even if the evidence could be hidden that the gay situation is being used as a political football between Uganda’s parliamentarians and their overbearing nemesis, President Museveni.

You might have been hoodwinked into thinking that Ugandan gays are going into schools to recruit young men and women into homosexuality. David Bahati has claimed it. So has convicted felon, Martin Ssempa. So have countless detractors, some of whom have trawled out ‘ex-gays’ to try and sway public opinion to their side. Despite the blanket television, print and radio coverage, the claims are totally untrue.

In case you read an article in the Stirrer about an activist being recently beaten up and hospitalized on account of his sexuality, it was a tissue of carefully prepared lies. Yours truly doesn’t know who made it up, but under the circumstances that doesn’t matter. The story was not true.

Then there is this extremely troubling video of a man being lynched on a street, complete with the caption “Another Gay Man Killed In Uganda.” Not true at all. That man was killed because the mob decided he was a thief. The voice-overs are of people who were not at the scene and their claims that he was killed because he was gay was just agenda-pushing.

It doesn’t end there. There is yet another gruesome image, this time from the slums of Kibera in Nairobi that is doing the rounds on the internet, again claiming that a gay man has been burned alive in Uganda! The killing happened alright but it had nothing to do with Uganda. Nada, zilch.

Yours truly has mentioned on his Twitter feed deliberate hoaxes by people in Uganda claiming to be activists who have reported being arrested, hazed, stopped from burying their mothers, and goodness knows what else. Some of the stories were accompanied with pictures – also staged.

The only story worth its salt in 2013 was the arrest and jailing of Sam Ganafa an activist who was turned in to the police by a young man he took into his home. He was later released on bail but the publicity his case received means that the likelihood that he will get a fair trial are next to nil. But then an activist group based in Eastern Uganda jumped on the bandwagon and claimed that the police were conducting a witch hunt for all other gays in Uganda. Not true at all.

One could go on but you get the picture.

The end is justifying the means and it is quite apparent that sections on both sides will go to any extent to push their agenda. Sadly, in the battle for hearts and minds, the truth is coming a distant … last. Add into this ungodly mix the tendency of foreign activists to naïvely (some of them actually know what the truth is but would rather not dwell on it as it doesn’t advance their ‘save the black African gays’ crusade) believe everything they read or hear and you have a stench of corruption that all the oil of Arabia will not cleanse.

Does this mean that all the LGBTI activist groups are guilty of engaging in these despicable tactics? Not at all. In fact there is strong indication on the ground that main ones such as FARUG, SMUG and SPECTRUM are doing a good job of staying out of the mud bath. Yours truly has lambasted them in the past for being inward-looking but there is now verifiable evidence that they are taking baby steps in trying to be accountable to their grassroots – addressing the core concerns in the community, such as HIV/AIDS, without resorting to scurrilous deceptions and outright lies.

It’s partly because of the financial industry that is the LGBTI bandwagon in Uganda that yours truly is glad the Bahati Bill has finally been passed by Uganda’s Parliament. At least now we can move the discussion on and, hopefully, draw a curtain on the self-serving mendacity and exaggerations that this bill has engendered for four years now.

On both sides.

Uganda has a gay bar … sort of 4

Martin Ssempa is not going to like this.

The Mill in SE DC; its pundits

The Bachelors’ Mill in SE DC; its punters

There is a gay bar in Kampala. Well, it’s not quite a gay bar in the sense the Bachelors’ Mill in Washington, DC is a gay bar. But it is about the best option available and, boy, is it being put to good use!

When you visit the bar, you are struck by how young the boys and girls are. Five years ago, I thought I knew every gay boy and girl in Kampala and I estimated at the time that there were at least 500 “kuchus” around.

On the two occasions I have visited the gay-themed night (sorry, I am not going to name the bar or its location as I am not sure I am ready to hear that Martin Ssempa is picketing it) I have seen yet more fresh, new, young faces. The average age seems to hover around 23. To be in your 30s as, ahem, yours truly is, is to be very, very old in the midst of this very “happening” crowd.

But that is perfectly okay because it is much-needed testimony that the next generation of same-gender-loving men and women Ugandan has arrived and they are living it up, thank you very much.

Martin Ssempa; not even tears will stop the gay march

Martin Ssempa; not even tears will stop the onward gay march

Poor Martin Ssempa (I am going to make sure I send this to him) will likely choke on his breakfast when he learns that his efforts to stop people being who they are, and loving  as they please, are clearly not working.  Ugandan gays are coming out of the woodwork like American cicadas even though they are not as shrill. To cite a popular cliché.: they are here, and they are queer.

Uganda’s Parliament of course still has pending the Bahati Anti Homosexuality Bill that would turn parents, counselors and doctors into informers (just like in Nazi Germany) as well as execute or jail gay citizens for merely being who they are.

As I left the gay bar, in walked a young man who looked suspiciously like the nephew of a vociferous anti-gay personality I know.

Oops!

A lot of the pontificating politicians and pastors agitating for the Bahati Nazi bill are going to have egg on their faces when they receive phone calls from a prurient press asking them if they will go rescue their children, jailed in gay ignominy at the Central Police Station.

Honorable members and venerable pastors – just remember you’ve been warned.

President Yoweri Museveni: please hire me! 3

Yoweri Museveni needs a special adviser on homosexuality: ME!

Yoweri Museveni needs a special adviser on [homo]sexuality: me!!!

I have finally found the job I would like to do in Uganda.

Specifically, I want to be hired by Uganda’s president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, as his spokesperson on homosexual affairs.

Okay, perhaps that would be too narrow a remit. Can he maybe hire me as his special adviser on matters relating to sex and sexuality? If you bear with me, you will see why this is such an excellent idea.

Mr. President:

I am ready to be your public relations manager, your consultant, your special adviser, your go-to person whenever  human rights activists  from the USA or wherever come to nag  when you are resting at your country home in Rwakitura, or when you wish to  clip the ears of a stubborn member of Parliament or wayward Speaker of the House.

What’s brought this on?

Simple. Who better to hire than a gay man whose fabled objectivity keeps friends and foes on their toes in trepidation that he might call them out?

Secondly, Mr. President, you need simple lessons in sexual public relations. Of course you are right when you argue that [in a manner of speaking] if you were to kiss your wife in public you would lose an election. That would be a very Ugandan reaction.

Mr. President, in me you are preaching to the converted on the issue of exhibitionism. Yours truly has lived on four continents and attended more gay pride parades than some people have had hot dinners. But I have nonetheless remained unimpressed by public displays of affection, preferring instead the Ugandan demure, roundabout, way.

Yes, this means that I frown on gay pride parades, hanging by the chandeliers or engaging in lesbian cat fights in public bars, men having backseat sex in public car parks, “cottaging” (having sex in public toilets) and any form of militancy that seeks to push the sexual envelope with lurid, simulated, sexual displays. That is ‘cut and paste’ stuff’ that might look good in San Francisco’s Castro District. In Uganda, it should be taken home and kept there.

Western people exhibit sexual acts in public which we don’t do here,” … Africans do even punish heterosexuals who [publicly] expose their sexual acts.” (Museveni)

Yes, Mr. President, we should keep our gay sexual peccadilloes in our gay bars (even if we don’t seem to have any), at our private gatherings, in our bedrooms. But it would help if you would say this not only when you are addressing American pressure groups, but Ugandans too. Activists must indeed respect the confidentiality of sex in our traditions and culture, but so should Martin Ssempa and his ilk who fail to respect our traditional expectation of sexual confidentiality when they try to incite the masses with pornographic shows on the pulpit.

We just need to make sure that our repressed attitudes towards sex are not used as an excuse to deny gay Ugandans equal access to the medical care they need – as is now the case.

As for your perennial refrain of there being  “… no discrimination, no killings, no marginalization, no luring of young people using money into homosexual acts,” you are right. Well, almost totally right.

Ready to join Special Adviser (Special Duties), Nasser Sebaggala

I am ready to join Special Adviser (Special Duties), Nasser Sebaggala plus 100+ others

The problem is that you say there is no discrimination and then stay deafeningly silent when your Minister of Ethics barges like a bull in a China stores into gay and lesbian gatherings in hotels in Entebbe and elsewhere . How can that be looked at as anything other than discriminatory when it is fairly plain that the activists have a right to assemble just like any other Ugandan?

Also, why is there such a time lag between the silly, ignorant pronouncements from your ministers and members of Parliament that young people are being recruited into homosexuality and your repudiation of these foolish claims? Hire me to monitor and alert you to such paranoia so that it is addressed by [what would be] our office promptly.

Please, Mr. President … hire me. You can reach me on supakoja@yahoo.com. I am available for discussions (interviews if you like but I am really so good you would be missing a critical opportunity not to jump at my offer)  any time, at your convenience of course. I recognize that there is a time element to this so I hope you will respond to my excellent idea quickly, certainly before the next delegation of human rights activists from the USA, Britain or Canada come calling which we all know they will.

I not only promise to help you clean up Uganda’s battered reputation as the worst place in the world to be gay; an utterly outrageous claim when viewed against places such as the United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Iran, rural Georgia and North Dakota, (USA), I will also help you figure out ways of taking the  politics of mendacity, exaggeration, obfuscation, double speak, opportunism and hysteria out of the debate.

I agree that you have fundamentally changed your position and are not an enemy of the gay community despite what some on our side rashly claim. But you could surely do with a consultant to fine-tune your ‘gay’ message and infuse it with much needed consistency.

Hire me.

Please.

David Cecil gets it 4

David Cecil rightly differentiates between leaders and led

David Cecil rightly differentiates between leaders and led

On another forum, a discussion is going on following remarks attributed to David Cecil the playwright who whose play, The River and the Mountain, got him deported from Uganda.

David Cecil is quoted as saying: “Uganda is not a terrible place and most people are not homophobic but they are conservative,” said Mr Cecil. “There are pastors preaching hate, they are the problem.”

I couldn’t agree with him more on the homophobia. I tried to illustrate way back in 2010 that Ugandans then were no more homophobic than the South Africans, Americans or the French of 2013.  Attitudes towards homosexuality worldwide are deeply visceral and the difference tends to be in the lengths governments are willing to go to discourage their citizens from acting ruinously on the feelings they are perfectly entitled to.

In that light, the Scandinavian countries are years ahead of almost any place else in the world on this question. Homophobic sentiment exists in Sweden and Denmark, too. But the politicians are setting an example by leading the campaign to actively discourage the feelings from going beyond that,and perhaps even change them to acceptance and tolerance.

But it is on the issue of ‘conservatism’ that I want to dwell at this time.

My suspicion is that David Cecil is confusing ignorance and/or lack of education about homosexuality with conservatism. There is scant evidence to show that most Ugandans are conservative. What they are is unschooled about some aspects of life and sexuality, and too many of them hide their lack of knowledge in bombastic, shrill, often foolish knee-jerk throw-aways that observers mistake for conservatism.

Then there are Ugandans who are incapable of logical thought who, largely because this country’s education system focuses largely on churning out examination grades rather than critical thinking,  run to the Bible and “tradition” as their refuge.

Just like their politicians, Ugandans often yell first and ask questions later

Just like their politicians, Ugandans often yell instead of asking questions to get educated

The ignorant ones , who are not  familiar with or educated about homosexuality,  simply parrot what they heard Martin Ssempa yell out. If you try to engage them in an intellectual exploration of the issues, they are visibly at sea. Since Ugandans typically don’t want to admit that they don’t know, it is little wonder they opt for ignorant din instead.

Ssempa is of course a cynical and opportunistically homophobic pastor who knows that he is talking nonsense all the time but nonetheless tries to encourage his listeners to be homophobic because he is hoping it will get him paid. It all makes for great mindless noise – sadly – which many people mistake for “conservatism.”

Remember that more than 50% of Uganda’s population is under 25 (48% is under 15). That is precisely the age group that is demonstrably more open-minded about sex and sexuality – to Martin Ssempa’s acute frustration since it is also the age group he really wants to convert in his homophobic petri dish sermons.

See why it is a complete misunderstanding to argue think that Ugandans are homophobic or conservative?

That said, David Cecil has clearly used the years he has spent in Uganda rather well. He never met my grandmother who died at the ripe old age of 96 but he would be correct if he realized that she was not homophobic or conservative.

Having only gone to Bible school, she wasn’t the kind of woman anyone today would call educated. But she showed critical thinking and an enlightenment that a lot of schooled Ugandans would do well to emulate.

How so?

My grandmother knew David Kato. He lived down the road from her own house. She also knew that he was gay and spoke about how odd it was that a man could ‘unite’ with another man that way. But she also knew to mind her own business and made sure she never raised Kato’s homosexuality with his mother whom she also knew well. One of her step sons, my father’s brother, spoke positively of David Kato at his funeral and my grandmother would have totally approved.

My grandmother had more sense than ten Martin Ssempas and do you know how I know that? She was angrier about the wanton abuse of office by government officials than she was about  homosexuality. She recognized that homosexuality was a curiosity but would not expend energy on it because she was aware that she had known ‘odd’ people like that all her life and they had never affected her life the way lack of drugs and doctors in hospitals had robbed her of children, grandchildren and great children.

Uganda is not at all a terrible place, and the majority of Ugandans are not homophobic or conservative. The pastors and politicians preaching hate for their own opportunistic, selfish, ends are the problem.

What makes Pastor Martin Ssempa (PhD) tick? 7

In full flow: Martin Ssempa (PhD)

In full flow: Martin Ssempa (PhD)

Given a new lease on life recently, Martin Ssempa, the charismatic but provocative, prurient  and excessive proponent of gay hate Uganda has ever known, continues to try to stay relevant in the ongoing homosexuality debate.

He has a radio talk show, is on Twitter (@martinssempa) and seems to have walked away from a criminal conviction more emboldened, even if also chastened.

So, what makes Martin Ssempa tick? How come this middle-aged, balding man still manages to make such waves in Uganda?

In order to understand Martin Ssempa, it helps to look to another firebrand anti-gay crusader from a different continent and era:  America’s Jerry Falwell.

When the Reverend Jerry Falwell died on May 15, 2007, the evangelical Bible belt lost one of the most vocal anti-gay leaders it had ever had, and the gay movement lost one of the most vocal enemies it had ever been fortunate to have.

With the Moral Majority movement that he established in 1979, Falwell excoriated abortion, homosexuality and pornography with such venom and ferocity that America sat up and listened. The Moral Majority galvanized the religious right behind any political candidate that agreed with their message. But they also unwittingly did homosexuality (especially) a favor by bringing it into mainstream discussion, thereby enabling America to gradually realize that homosexuals were not the threat Falwell said they were.

As evidence of Falwell’s paranoia, he condemned a cartoon character in the BBC’s children’s program, the Teletubbies, as being gay. Then he famously blamed gays for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City. Even the remaining flag bearers who still believed in Falwell’s sanity hid away in embarrassment.

Jerry Falwell

At the height of his fame Falwell (2nd from left) hobnobbed with the Reagans

Over the years, listeners had, rightly, wondered how preaching hate was compatible with the overwhelming Biblical message of love and inclusion. Others silently wondered what Falwell wanted them to do with their children, relatives and friends who were gay. So, thanks to Falwell’s fire and brimstone excoriation of homosexuals, prostitutes and single mothers, most sensible Americans resorted to education, common sense and their natural decency, and paid less attention to Falwell.

You could literally juxtapose Martin Ssempa’s anti-gay trajectory in Uganda onto Falwell’s almost to the dotted eye and crossed tee save for one element:

When the going got tough, Canyon Ridge distanced itself from Ssempa

When the going got tough, Canyon Ridge distanced itself from Ssempa

Money.

Always able to rely on his followers for fundraising, Jerry Falwell wasn’t driven to rant and rave against prostitutes, gays and unwed mothers by money.

But, despite clearly being desperate for a lifetime paycheck, Martin Ssempa is all but broke. For the longest time, Ssempa relied on handouts from organizations such as the Canyon Ridge Christian Church of Las Vegas, but they all cut ties when Ssempa’s message degenerated into calling for the judicial execution of his fellow citizens.

Martin Ssempa’s continuing problem is twofold:

Kayanja (right) successfully sued and embarrassed Ssempa

Kayanja (right) successfully sued and embarrassed Ssempa

Thanks to some spectacular advocacy, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) have repeatedly scored resounding successes, up to and including forcing President Museveni to admit in international interviews that homosexuality is not a Western import as many ignorant detractors love to argue. Led by Frank Mugisha (SMUG) and Kasha Nabagesera (FARUG), those two organizations have achieved phenomenal success in raising the profile of the gay movement in Uganda, and with their success has come endorsements from notables such as Hillary Clinton and the Robert Kennedy Human Rights Award.

In fact, for better or worse, gay activism has been the most successful minority rights movement in Uganda in recent memory.

Compare that to Ssempa’s achievements over the same period: he managed to alienate his erstwhile American evangelical friends with his vile, putrid dish showing of graphic pornographic videos even during church services. Then he got entangled in a stratagem to tar a fellow pastor, Robert Kayanja, with the brush of pedophile homo-sodomy for which he was sued and convicted in late 2012.

Ssempa is now a convicted felon who must have been relieved that well-wishers came to his rescue to pay the $400.00 the judge fined him for perverting the course of justice, coaching witnesses, and conniving with others to sully the reputation of his rival.

Ssempa drowned out by Generation Y excesses

Ssempa drowned out by Generation Y excesses

The second frustration in Ssempa’s continuing attempt to convince Ugandans that he is still relevant is a generational one. He appeals to and preaches mainly to young, university-educated students. But growing evidence shows that it is precisely that generation (50% of Uganda’s population is under 25) in Uganda that is increasingly looking at sex and sexuality through a much more morally nuanced prism.

Wait Training statement abandoning Ssempa (Sebaspace)

Wait Training’s statement abandoning Ssempa (Sebaspace)

So, Ssempa is trying to convert precisely those people who a) don’t have much money to pay for his sinking crusade and b) whose far more liberal socialization makes his outlandish anti-gay vituperation fall on barren ground.

Martin Ssempa also freely admits that in his heyday he spent a whole year at university having sex with any woman who could have him. Thus, at the very least Ssempa’s exhortation to the youth of today to abstain till they get married smacks of hypocrisy.

Martin Ssempa doesn’t care a hoot about whether homosexuality is eradicated from Uganda because, of course, he is educated enough to know that is impossible. He doesn’t care about the youth and, worst of all, he doesn’t care about HIV/Aids in Uganda because if he did, he wouldn’t have been doing his utmost to make sure that gay men and women continue to be excluded from HIV/Aids-related treatment programs.

Ssempa’s shrillness also belies a deep-seated problem for him. He tends to latch on to the argument about the majority of Ugandans being against homosexuality. But when you ask him if he would have joined the 73% of Americans who supported the miscegenation laws that barred blacks and whites intermarrying until the Supreme Court’s deeply unpopular 1967 intervention (Ssempa’ is married to a white woman), he ignores that question.

In a nutshell, Martin Ssempa is running a cynical, insincere campaign based on mendacity, demagoguery and sophism.

Martin Ssempa’s worst nightmare is for what happened to Jerry Falwell to happen to him: for Uganda to make an intelligent, considered, thoughtful  examination of the arguments.  That’s why his preferred mode of debate is showing graphic pornography in church services, waving sex toys on television, and raving like a lunatic. He hopes that if he makes as much empty noise as possible the sensible arguments for tolerance and common sense will be drowned out.

If, as the omens portend, the tide continues to ebb away from his type of mock-indignation, vitriolic, mindless hysteria, Martin Ssempa will follow Jerry Falwell into a slow but inexorable decline into total irrelevance.

Then,  like Jerry Falwell in his twilight years, Ssempa will cut a forlorn, aging figure echoing in the wilderness.

But without Jerry Falwell’s money …  or  legacy-building savvy.

Related articles:

Please stop this exaggeration! Please!!!!!! 51

I am really about to despair at this drip-drip stuff coming out of Western left and right field, propagated by our friends and sympathizers which, however, has no bearing on the truth whatsoever.

Before I shed tears at this latest offering from Roger Ross Williams, via the New York Times, let me make it clear:

There is NO violent anti-gay movement in Uganda, really there isn’t, and we who know the truth and, dare one say it, live it, need to say it loud and clear. The evangelicals are doing what they can to foment anti-gay sentiment, using well-known proxies, but it is a travesty of the truth for the New York Times (Roger William Ross) to claim that they have succeeded. These kinds of “cry wolf” reports might just be what drives the movement to take effect.

We, gay men and women on the ground, need our Ugandan neighbors to understand us, something that might never happen fully in my lifetime. But these hackneyed videos of recycled, clichéd stuff, only serve to create indignation in the minds of people who would otherwise see our point of view, however gradually that may be. The reason for this is that stuff such as Roger Ross Williams’ video perpetrate the impression that Ugandans are hateful, vengeful homophobes, something that is a caricature of the truth.

Watch Williams’ snippet; you will not see the evidence of a violent anti gay movement and the reason is simple: Ugandans are quite simply not that kind of people.

Let’s be clear. Pockets of influence are trying to make political careers and money off of the backs of homosexuals in Uganda. They don’t speak for the majority of Ugandans, however. Indeed, with the level of anti-gay sentiment (not violence!!) in Uganda many of these people who are making videos about homophobia in Uganda would really best be advised to put things in perspective.

They might be surprised to learn that far more gay men and women are being killed in South Africa, which has solid anti-gay laws on its statutes. Indeed, more gay men and women have been killed in Washington, DC in the last three years due to direct homophobic attacks than in Uganda in the past 10 years. Roger Ross Williams cannot contradict me on this because, of course, I am right.

Martin Ssempa and his homophobic friends are in cahoots with American evangelicals, mostly for money. Ssempa, however, has a following of perhaps 2o0 die-hard souls, in a country of 34 million. For any writer to use this man as a representative of  “violent” Uganda is, frankly, offensive. And I am saying this as a gay man who lives in Uganda, not some fly-by-night film maker who makes a whistle-stop tour and then reaches the conclusions he was looking to reach in the first place.

Mr. Roger Ross Williams, I feel more threatened by your scare-mongering hyperbole, which might push the Ugandans who already know I am gay  to turn against me because they may finally decide to live up to the rash claims you are making against them. It is half-baked, hastily scrambled stories like yours that will likely make Ugandans indignant enough to act on their antipathy towards homosexuality – antipathy they are entitled to but which they are not acting upon in the ruinous way your video tries to claim they are.

And, no, I am not on the payroll of the government of Uganda. I am a gay Ugandan who sees this kind of wild, baseless, self-serving, ‘cry wolf’ journalism as more harmful than helpful to our cause and case in Uganda.

I don’t know of any gay violence in Uganda that is unique to Uganda alone. I hear of more frequent anti-gay horror stories coming out of South Africa and, dare one say it, the USA. I know of Ugandan politicians and evangelical barracudas trying to make a living by inciting gay hatred, but I don’t know of any mass action by Ugandans against gays. No one I know of has ever illustrated that that sort of thing is happening – yet.

Enough on this already.

HIV/Aids is already killing LGBTI Ugandans! 9

I have a prediction to make:

The headline-grabbing lawsuit brought by the friends of  Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) against Scott Lively in Massachusetts recently will likely not succeed.

The basis of the lawsuit is that Lively incited hate and violence against Ugandan gay men and women through proxies such as Stephen Langa and Martin Ssempa, ” for the decade-long campaign he has waged, in agreement and coordination with his Ugandan counterparts, to persecute persons on the basis of their gender and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.”

I think Scott Lively cannot be proved to have incited any persecution of gays in Uganda. Yes, he has on various occasions said things we don’t like about gay cures and how gays are terrible for Uganda,  Africa and the world. That’s just his opinion and he is entitled to it. I believe  American and Ugandan laws entitle him to those opinions, too.

But, one suspects, that the American friends of SMUG who filed the lawsuit (SMUG could not afford such a lawsuit) knew this, and their real motive was a public relations (PR) one.  Observers can debate whether they used the most cost-effective tactic or not. I think their tactics have a place in human rights struggles such as the one SMUG is engaged in.

Which brings me to the real reason for writing this:

I think we should be doing more to move the debate forward in the gay community in Uganda. A commentator, Frank McMullan, recently suggested that I do that instead of peppering activists with questions. I think he had a point.

So, what do I think the gay rights struggle in Uganda should be about?

The gay struggle needs to augment the “We are here, we are queer/They are killing us” gay human rights movement, now the only currency doing the rounds in activists’ circles in Uganda and around the world, with an additional, serious, movement targeting the health and wellness of gay Ugandans in Uganda.

Frank Mugisha & Kasha Nabagesera

The faces of ‘Gay Uganda’: Frank Mugisha & Kasha Nabagesera

The  “they are killing us” activists have a place still. It is just that it seems that judicial killing of gays is all we are talking about and everything else, such as advocating for equal access to specialized medical care that Ugandan heterosexuals take for granted, is but a parenthesis. The reason for this might be that the current crop of Ugandan advocates already have enough on their plates. Given their schedules, it would be surprising if they didn’t.

There is thus a need for a different, medically qualified (or trained) arm to focus on the less ‘sexy,’, less headline-grabbing health and wellness issues.

Uganda needs a separate “HIV/Aids is killing us” message to push for studies to establish statistics, trends of HIV/Aids among men who have sex with men, and the general LGBTI population. It goes without saying that there are infinitely more  Ugandan gay boys (especially) who have died of HIV/Aids, due to neglect and lack of care,  in the last five years than have been killed by mob action or the law because they are gay.

We thus need to let the nascent movements trying to make HIV/Aids in the gay community in Uganda a hot topic, too, have room to breath because we can’t wait for the fight against “killing the gays” to be won for the fight against HIV/Aids in the gay community to get organized. Think of it as a two-pronged approach: health/public health/HIV AND Gay Rights with different protagonists leading each one since the expertise required is different.

If you sense an undercurrent of criticism, it is intended. I am of the view that, in the quest for the  “they are killing us” dollars and media space,  the “HIV/Aids is killing us” message  in our community has been relegated to an afterthought.

Yet you read that the incidence of HIV/Aids in Kenya (where information is more readily available and the fight against the spread of  HIV/Aids in the gay community more concerted) is 35% among men who have sex with men. It stands to reason that the statistics are grimmer in Uganda where studies are stymied by government disinterest and, little to no coordination in the community.

The only professional study I have seen on the HIV scourge in the gay community in Uganda, the CDC’s Crane Survey Report (2008/9) suggests to me that we are sitting on a problem so serious as to make the effects of David Bahati’s proposed anti-gay legislation look like a walk in the park. If nothing is done on the HIV/Aids problem in the gay community, the 1.5% annual rise in the gay infections being reported countrywide will shoot to 5% and beyond – as surely as night follows day.

The HIV/Aids problem in the gay community in Uganda therefore needs to be made a much bigger priority than it is at the moment. It would be fair enough for the current faces of  the “they are killing us” message to argue that they neither have the time nor the competence to fight every battle.

That’s  why the Ugandans willing to fight the “HIV/Aids is killing gays”  fight should be actively encouraged to step up to lobby Uganda’s government and anyone else they think will listen. Our friends in America and elsewhere should also be encouraged by the already established representatives of ‘Gay Uganda’ to organize PR exercises for that message, too.

2012 gone – bring on 2013 9

2012 is behind us so it is time to think about what to expect in 2013. On occasions like this, it’s best to let one’s mind wander and not try to be terribly structured.

2012 is a year Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, will not look back on with unbridled pleasure. When she rose to the post of Speaker in 2011, Kadaga mounted and rode a wave of public disgruntlement against Yoweri Museveni’s tired, uncaring, thieving, bungling administration, and impressed even die-hard skeptics, such as yours truly, with her crusading zeal to put “country first.” Openly warring with Museveni’s Squealer-like puppet, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Kadaga emboldened the ruling NRM caucus in Parliament and hitherto docile parliamentarians started asking pointed questions about their own government’s wanton corruption, fecklessness,  lack of new ideas and drift.

Kadaga was repelled by Mbabazi

Rebecca Kadaga was repelled by Amama Mbabazi

Alas, Kadaga then came a-cropper when she was lured into consorting with convicted felons over the Bahati [Nazi]Anti-Gay Bill. She promised the bill to Martin Ssempa who had just been convicted of fabricating sodomy evidence against a rival pastor – for Christmas – and then failed to deliver it. Thanks to events running away from Kadaga, time run out on the Bahati [Nazi) Bill in 2012, not least because the President, who we all know is against the bill, chose to use up an entire afternoon the bill could have been debated to indulge in ... gossip. Kadaga thus lost her last opportunity in 2012 to deliver her [Nazi] Christmas gift to Martin Ssempa and with it went her credibility where political maneuvering is concerned.

Museveni: took up precious Parliamentary time in December to "gossip"

Museveni: took up precious Parliamentary time in December to “gossip”

Kadaga got a political bloody nose in 2012, which the death of her octogenarian father did not help. She will come back again in 2013, and you can expect her to continue making noises about this and that. She has, however, already showed that she is prone to moving her political chess pieces without a lot of thought and will, going forward, struggle to maintain her moral high ground given her failure to deliver on what should have been an easy bill to pass in 2012. She of course, should be advised to steer her office clear of political controversy as well as be more discreet about her political ambitions, but only time will tell whether she is willing to play a more subtle form of politics.

Frank Mugisha & Kasha Nabagesera

The faces of gay Uganda: Frank Mugisha & Kasha Nabagesera

2012 has been a spectacularly successful year for Ugandan gay rights activists, thanks largely to events that have been driven by others. To the activists’ direct credit, 2012 saw Uganda’s first ever gay pride march in Entebbe which was eventually broken up by the police. Yours truly doesn’t believe in such things as pride marches because they go against his sensibilities. But it is not lost on him that parades serve a useful ‘public awareness’ purpose especially when activism is faced with boorish, foolish, intemperate, obtuse and tactless foes such as Uganda’s current Minister of Ethics and Integrity, defrocked Catholic priest Simon Lokodo.

Lokodo should really have known to leave activists well alone when they met in hotels and public gardens because, of course, they were doing no harm even if they didn’t have the right to assemble which they did. But, no, he kept on charging in there, likely tipped off by someone inside the gay camp on at least one occasion,  like a bull in a China store which of course played right into the gay advocates’ hands. Still, even after conferences were disrupted and a couple of gay-themed plays were stymied, one got the feeling that the gay debate in Uganda had stalled, that the public weren’t interested in it. The activists’ tactics on the ground weren’t really producing the kind of impact they wanted.

A lot of Ugandans on Facebook clearly need an education

A lot of Ugandans on Facebook clearly need an education

All that changed of course when John Baird confronted Rebecca Kadaga in Quebec in late October. The furor that incident unleashed reverberated around the world, thanks to Kadaga’s intemperate, impolitic and, dare one say it, totally over-the-top response when she returned home.

So, due to foreign intervention, the last three months of 2012 have generated some of the most heated debates around homosexuality Uganda has ever witnessed – on local radio, in the papers, and most especially on social media in cyberspace. Baird’s harangue thus proved to be a godsend to the limping gay cause in Uganda in ways he likely didn’t expect.

Ruled for gay rights: Justice Stella Arach Amoko

Ruled for gay rights: Justice Stella Arach Amoko

Where to next? The Bahati bill remains in Parliament and will be passed by Parliament if it is debated regardless of what local activists and our friends abroad do. So, the way forward is to find a way for the bill not to be debated on the floor of Parliament or to prepare for a constitutional challenge if it is passed.

My own feeling is that the bill should be debated and passed so that it can be challenged in the courts. This would serve to take it out of the political arena and, hopefully, draw a line under the [mostly cynical] jockeying by both friends and detractors which has helped shape public debate, yes, but which has also left the core issues unresolved.

A lot of well-schooled Ugandans remain astonishingly illiterate on the homosexuality issue and so need an education. Raising the debate to a more intellectual, highbrow, legal, level will give a lot of our brothers and sisters who have gone to school but remain ignorant a different, less hysterical and/or hackneyed perspective.

The other reason this issue needs to go to court is precedent;  the gay side in Uganda has never lost a legal ruling in the three or four times gay activists have taken our enemies to court in the recent past. With such great odds, I would bet my last cent that the Bahati Bill would be ruled unconstitutional in less time than it takes to say “bigoted.” But first it has to be passed for the courts to consider any challenges.

Is it risque parades we are after?

Is  flaunting it at parades what we are after?

The activists on the ground should also continue to expect questions about what exactly they want to achieve. I have asked the questions and continue to hear them being asked by others in more muted tones.

Are they looking for acceptance in Uganda? If so, what form should it take? Is it about gay marriage? Every sinew in my body tells me it shouldn’t be and I haven’t heard any Ugandan activist argue that marriage is what it’s about so we can dismiss that line of thought. Or can we?

Is it about gay men and women being allowed to love each other freely (in private) in Uganda? What about those, like yours truly, who feel we are already doing that in the broad context of the inhibited sexual sensibilities in Uganda?

Is it about putting it out there, on the airwaves, in public parks, in bars and on the streets as one sees in San Fransisco’s Castro District? If so, how do we hope to cut and paste that model into a country like Uganda where heterosexuals frown upon flaunting their own relationships?

Or is it about attaining equal access to social services such as HIV/Aids treatment  and other health and wellness programs which heterosexuals already take for granted?

Is it about lifting the confidence of gay men and women all over the country to believe in themselves enough to pool together to set up gay venues (bars, clubs etc) that they call their own?

In other words, with and without help from our friends abroad, for whom and for what are we making all this noise in the press, in conferences around the world, in dramatic stage productions, on podiums accepting accolades, in television debates with a lunatic Martin Ssempa?

If the struggle is not really about those who front it, because most struggles are usually larger than those who front them, do those we assume to be representing really know what it is we are trying to do for them, and have they bought into the agenda we espouse? How have we ensured that they are on board with what we are trying to achieve?

If we were to take a poll of gay Ugandans today, how confident are we that they would all be able to say in one sentence what gay activism in Uganda is about?

What will the matrix of success following all this gay activism in Uganda be? What will need to happen  (and to whom) in order for us to say that the gay struggle in Uganda has succeeded?

When I speak to gay men and women from all walks of life in Uganda, I get the impression that those are the broad questions whose answers they still want clearly articulated.

The communication chasm between leaders and led still needs to be bridged.

Still.

Questions the anti-gay brigade struggles to answer 3

No bill: Ugandan girls walking around in the nude

No bill: Ugandan girls walking around in the nude

Now and then, it helps to revisit the questions that we would like those supporting the Bahati [Nazi] anti-gay bill to answer. We’ve asked them ad nauseam but I am not aware that a coherent response has ever been provided anywhere.

1. The Bahati Bill was not a result of a spike in “gay recruitment in schools” or a threat to the family as is claimed. So, what prompted it? Money? There is a lot of money to be made by Christian evangelicals such as Martin Ssempa who will gladly fight, for hundreds of thousands of dollars, the proxy morality fight already lost in the United States. His vested interest and that of the people who pay his way is well documented.

Peripatetic Rebecca Kadaga - this time visiting the Pope at the Vatican

Pushing for bill: peripatetic Rebecca Kadaga – this time visiting the Pope at the Vatican

2. Do you know that under this bill, everyone in Uganda who knows a gay man/woman is at risk of a 3-year jail term if they don’t hand them in to the police? Did you also know that priests, counselors, doctors and parents are also mandated to turn in anyone they discover is gay? When did we last read about such stuff, “read” because most of us are too young to have seen it first hand? Does Nazi Germany ring any bells?

3. The Uganda government’s own figures show that 176 girls were molested by their male relatives last year. Those are the ones on record and it stands to reason that the true number is much higher. Do you know of even a faintly comparable statistic on the gay side? What then makes Bahati claim that gays are a threat to Uganda?

4. Ugandans (and their president, Museveni) keep on arguing that they don’t like the “flaunting it.” What sort of

Junket straight ladies flaunting it: Zari and Sylvia Owori

No Bill: Junket straight ladies flaunting it: Zari and Sylvia Owori

flaunting it in Uganda have they seen anywhere that requires Parliament to enact a law? Anything near what one sees with the ladies of the night at Speke Hotel or on the drink junkets on boat cruises on Lake Victoria? I have done most, if not all, the night clubs in Kampala, sometimes from Wednesday through Sunday and I have never seen a gay couple or a semblance of a gay couple ‘flaunting it.’ Am I looking in the wrong places?

5. How exactly do you recruit someone into any kind of sexuality? Would you make the same argument if a woman of 45 lured a boy of 15 into her bosoms and he went along? Or should we argue that this would be okay since she would be recruiting him into the ‘normal’ sexuality? If not, why isn’t Uganda also enacting a separate law for that sort of thing?

6. Child molestation/preying on the young (gay or straight) is already a crime on Uganda’s books. Why does Uganda need an additional law specifically targeting gays for stuff that both gay and straight people are capable of doing?

Conservative? Ugandan women routinely dispense with knickers

No bill: Ugandan women are increasingly caught out with no knickers

Finally, is Uganda really a conservative country? Do you remember happily married Gen. Kazini (RIP) and how he died in the bedsit of a mistress in the wee hours of the morning? Conservative? How about the recent Zari/Bad Black et al shenanigans? Conservative? Is the way girls dress in Club Rouge (micro-minis, roof high LBTs, no knickers, breasts hanging out etc.) reminiscent of the olden days that you want to see continue in Uganda? Do you know that there are night clubs in the heart of Kampala that host live sex shows (straight) if you have just 20,000/= ($7.00) for the entrance? Conservative? Really?

Or should we argue that Ugandans are conservative because they attend church in record numbers?

Rebecca Kadaga trapped between a rock and hard place! 7

Speaker of the House: Rebecca Kadaga

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.

How so?

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.

Country First … about time, too, after 26 years!

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.

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.

Kadaga wrong on this, too: Donor money is critical to Uganda

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.

Ugandan newspaper headlines: Withdrawal of donor money will hurt Uganda – badly

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!

Uganda really can’t do without foreign Aid!

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.