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.