Uganda’s anti-gay laws versus aid, By my guest contributor William Manful

Uganda was heavily criticised when President Yoweri Museveni signed into law an anti gay Bill that imposed penalties on homosexuality and homosexual behaviour. The Ugandan President’s controversial stance has been condemned particularly by the US for violating the fundamental rights of homosexuals.
Aid must be humanitarian and not conditional
Even the UN Secretary General has urged President Musevemi to repeal the anti homosexuality law arguing that it could institutionalise violence against gays in the East African country.
As unpalatable as the new law may be, it has been generally accepted by fellow African states with Kenyan parliamentarians calling on the government to enforce anti gay laws in that country which have remained largely dormant.
Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Mauritania and many other African countries have officially banned homosexual acts placing Africa on a collision course with Western countries.
U.S. President Barack Obama warned Uganda that the legislation of the Bill was likely to complicate bilateral relations between Uganda and the US with an additional threat of withdrawing the annual donation of 400 million dollars of aid money to the struggling African nation.
So far the riposte of Western countries to Museveni’s actions has been calm with countries like the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway threatening to withhold or redirect aid whilst Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg has warned that the new law could nefariously affect Uganda’s economy.
There is however, a new challenge facing the international community as the issue of cultural relativism now threatens the very rudiments of international relations.
As unsavoury as continental attitude towards homosexuals might be to Western sensibilities, the suppression of gay rights appears to be consistent with the will of most Ugandans.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the passage of the anti gay Bill in Uganda was met with applause and acclamation by Ugandans.
The bans imposed upon gays in other African countries do not attract much in terms of local condemnation meaning that as inhumane as these new laws maybe and in spite of their seemingly undemocratic character they appear to respect the general will of the masses.
The refusal of African leaders to legalise same sex relations safeguards the careers of politicians whose political fate is now subject to the democratic credentials of most African states.
Criticism of Musevemi therefore typifies Western hypocrisy towards the African continent because in the final analysis the democratic structure was respected before the enactment of the Bill into law and yet its implementation is still attracting condemnation from the West.
Linking aid to some of these matters smacks of a dangerous attempt on the part of Western leaders to buy, cajole and compromise African leaders when it comes to the issue of gays and lesbians.
The kind of behaviour that has played a big role in keeping the continent poor is now being advocated by the US and its allies.
Aid must be humanitarian and not conditional. The West must bear this in mind even as it continues to discuss the issue of gays and lesbians with African leaders.

The writer, my friend William Manful, is a career diplomat and African foreign policy analyst.


3 thoughts on “Uganda’s anti-gay laws versus aid, By my guest contributor William Manful

  1. Akwasi do you really endorse this?

    I am Ghanaian born, and this is a matter that is beginning to get on my nerves (for lack of a more eloquent form of expression). I am not gay, and do not necessarily support gay people. But I hate hypocrisy.

    You can’t police people’s sexuality whether you find what they do right or wrong. With African countries they are often basing their contempt of homosexuality on biblical rhetoric, which is fine if that is what they believe. However, in my mind, underage marriage of girls who are 11 years old, infidelity of men (which is routinely accepted in patriarchal countries, even England), theft blah blah blah, are all as pressing and wrong via Scripture, and more pressing than a pair of consenting adults who choose to sleep together. If those men will be punished by God, then let them be, at no point is it the business of society to try and reprimand or ban them from their actions. If they aren’t raping other men and boys then why are they wasting their time trying to police them? If you think its against culture then that’s fine, bear in mind gay people aren’t part of ‘your culture’, they have their own. ‘Culture’ does not speak for everyone.

    Look, African nations have far more important ‘crimes’ occuring in their countries but their hypocrisy knows no bounds, they think because they (men or government men) aren’t sleeping with other men they are morally correct, when in actual fact they are more amoral than most people I can think of.

    Making homosexuality illegal won’t stop anything, gay men (which probably includes men that you know but who are too scared to admit their sexuality) will continue having sex, and dangerous sex (because they won’t have access to sexual health services) and are more likely to spread diseases because everything they do is forced underground.

    Uganda and other African countries can’t court international relations with one hand, and try to hang onto an enforced collective culture with the other hand. (Because whether they like it or not homosexuals have their own culture which doesn’t fit into the enforced ideals of other Ugandans or Africans).

    African society and governments insist on trying to speak for everyone in their countries, and that is just not possible. They do not speak for everyone, there are gay people who want to be gay in peace and quiet. What gives you the right to silence them?

    If Uganda wants to act stupid then they shouldn’t get aid, I’m so tired of African hypocrisy, trying to ban one sin, whilst freely and happily revelling in other sins which they think are accetable. Infidelity amongst African men is more prolific and more damaging to families, society and morality as a whole than gay men. Infidelity is something that is wrong in the ten commandments as much as homosexuality.

    ‘Aid must be humanitarian and not conditional’? Yes of course because Uganda is really being humanitarian to all its citizens isn’t it?


    1. Thanks Akua for your strong come back. I provide a platform to engage the issues we’re all concerned about. I did a write up on this issue last year riled up by related events – not quite from the policy perspective. It’s titled ‘Without sin? Cast the first stone.’ I wish we’d engage on this level – of ideas – rather than the physical and threatening approach some have adopted in some states. Dayo

  2. Akua,

    If the fervor against homosexuality in Africa could be watered down to religious hypocrisy how do you explain countries like India, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and many more adopting policies that are not favourable to the gay lifestyle. Check this out in Saudi Arabia its punishable by death. Why isnt the world picking on those states? of course its easier for western politicians to direct scorn and condemnation at uganda, a poor developing african state that needs aid to survive and look good to gay constituents. Obviously, there is a plethora of factors that travel way beyond religious hypocrisy fuelling anti gay rhetoric in many countries including african states. Religion is indeed one of them, but there are medical, sociological, psychological, philosophical and cultural factors that come into play when broaching the subject of societal attitude towards gays and lesbians.
    Anthropologically every society is the way it is for reasons that are antecedent to its current state of being. It behooves an outsider to delve into said past and ferret out historical experiences, events, cultural beliefs, mores, and so on in order to ascertain what has framed the society into what it is today. the academy award winning epic 12 years a slave did a marvelous job of showing how relevant and important faith, religion and God was to african slaves even though the white slave master used the scriptures to justify their oppression and subjugation. Matters of faith gave the slaves hope, strength, resiliency in the face of unimaginable cruelty at the hands of the slavers. Religion has clearly served the black man and his ancestors in africa very well irrespective of form it took. Besides no one has ever said that africans are perfect christians and incapable of sinning but spiritual shortcomings notwithstanding its their duty to follow and abide by the edicts of their faith which fortunately or unfortunately doesnot condone same sex relations. The dalai lama even confirmed this view in a recent exchange with hollywood celebrities in los angeles. Does a preacher’s sinful nature invalidate the merit of his sermon? Let us not be guilty of the fallacy which confuses the message with the messsenger. The two are totally seperate and distinct. Besides if we are going to develop the habit of usurping the sovereign rights of states to enact internal laws then we must as well redefine the notional basis of international relations.
    There are human rights abuses everywhere….who is standing up for the gang banger or ghetto hoodlum who is brandishing a saturday night special, or a 9 mm desert eagle as he evokes fear in the hood as a means of self preservation. Why isnt the federal government incapable of creating gainfull employment for people of african origin crowding the inner cities in america compelling a drug trade which has become a means of livelihood. What about their social and economic rights? Lets amplify the scope of the debate who is attending to the cherokee indians, or the sioux or navajo indians who are the real, americans. the original inhabitants of the new world who number less than a million today largely because they are being left to waste away on resource poor reservations that were forced upon them by the US federal government. Do you think Musevemi, Putin or any world leader for that matter will have the temerity to tell Obama how to address these blatant cases of human rights abuses in his own backyard. Why does Obama feel that he can do same to african states.
    Finally as regards the issue of aid. FYI Uganda doesnot need america’s money. Russia alone is ready to donate 450 million dollars just to build olympic size swimming pools in the easteast african country. There is for all intents and purposes a new world order which means that africa is now in a position to approach, India, China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates etc….for aid money and developmental assistance. The withdrawal of aid will never hurt the citizens of uganda but merely severe long existing and important ties between africa and the US. Mind you relations that are key not only for commerce but for geo-political reasons integral to the US war against terror as they were important during the cold war. I personally dont favour the idea of criminalizing homosexuality but i will not begrudge that leader who decides to do it nor will i condemn that society that doesnot permit it in its existential midst. Its a matter of culture, faith, biology, sociology, philosophy. These issues are unique and peculiar to individual societies before we start preaching to african rulers about gays and lesbians we must bear in mind that a global cultural diversity is what we are striving for not uniformity……

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