22 December 2011

Uganda: Nation 'Shouldn't Bow to Donors Over Gays'

West Ankole diocese bishop, Yona Mwesigwa Katonene, has urged the government not to bow to pressure from donors that have threatened to withdraw aid if Uganda continues to refuse to embrace homosexuality.

Bishop Katonene noted that even though Uganda cannot fund the whole of its budget, the country should be willing to suffer for the right cause, because such suffering is justified before God.

"Our stand as Church of Uganda is very clear on sexuality and nobody, whether donors or anyone else, shall compromise it" he said.

Katonene reiterated his stand after a church service to install 300 church elders and 30 lay canons at St Peter's Cathedral Bweranyangi in Bushenyi district, Sunday.

He said Ugandans should not be swayed from their faith and values by threats from donor governments to deny the country aid under the pretext that they are defending the human rights of citizens.

"We should prepare to suffer for our faith . . . They can take their money and leave us with our faith," the bishop said at a media briefing after the well-attended church service.

West Ankole diocese is comprised of six districts: Mitooma, Buhweju, Rubirizi, Sheema, Bushenyi and Ntungamo, which will secede in January 2012 to become part of South Ankole diocese. In 2009, Ndorwa West MP, David Bahati, tabled a Private Member's Bill to criminalize homosexuals and lesbians. The bill, which sparked widespread international condemnation, was recently withdrawn and returned to Parliament's Gender and Social Services committee for further work.

The US and UK are among foreign governments that have come out openly in the past to oppose the bill and threaten action against Uganda if it is passed into law.

More recently, in October, British Prime Minister David Cameron, in direct reference to Uganda, among other countries, said those receiving British aid should respect gay rights.

In response, presidential adviser John Nagenda told the BBC that Ugandans were "tired of these lectures" and accused Cameron of showing an "ex-colonial mentality" and of treating Ugandans "like children."

"Uganda is, if you remember, a sovereign state and we are tired of being given these lectures by people," Nagenda said. "If they must take their money, so be it." He added, however, that he doubted that Parliament would ever approve a bill that proposes the death penalty for homosexuals and that he believed Bahati's bill would "die a natural death".

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