The Independent (Kampala)

11 October 2013

Uganda: NGOs, Media Houses Face Closure Over Homosexuality, Pornography

Photo: Sandesh Bhugaloo/RNW
Media houses and tabloids in Uganda to face jail over Anti-Pornography Bill (file photo)

interview

 Fr. Simon Lokodo, the Minister of State in charge of the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity, spoke to The Independent's Stephen Kafeero.

Who decides the meaning of ethics and integrity in this country?

We have our cultural codes of conduct and the absolute and supreme law of this country is the constitution; so all values and privileges are well positioned in the constitution. The first point of departure is the societal values that have always existed.

Communities have their rules of behavior which everybody was expected to conform to, otherwise they would be assumed to be ill-behaved and so we borrow from these. Above all, as a directorate we have a mandate to formulate these rules. We already have in cabinet and soon it shall be out the National Ethical Value Policy. It identifies what we shall call our national values.

So what is your mandate as the state minister for ethics and integrity?

Our mission is to coordinate national efforts against corruption and empower Ugandan society to uphold moral values and principles and our vision is to have a well governed and prosperous society that cherishes moral values and principles.

I reduce our mandate to four; that is set standards for rebuilding and promotion of ethics and integrity in society, spearhead the development of anti-corruption policies and legal framework, monitor the implementation of ethical standards and anti-corruption legislations and provide political representations in the fight against corruption.

Then, how do you balance human rights commitments that Uganda has not only signed up to internationally, but also enshrined domestically in our own Constitution with your mandate?

Human rights are not absolute and you cannot impose your own way of seeing things into another culture. African culture and Ugandan culture for that matter respects the body of a human being and we want everybody decently dressed but what the western culture brings in the guise of liberty, freedom and human rights is unfortunately contradicting our constitution.

For example the constitution and the Penal Code is very clear that people in the public should be decently dressed; they should cover the most intimate parts of their bodies which manifest the loose sense of dignity, morality, modesty and decency. For homosexuality, the Ugandan laws are very clear; marriage between people of the same sex cannot be allowed and therefore we condemn it. When they come and say it is a human right we say that it is bestiality in the African culture.

In the recent past, we have had quite a number of cases of children being raped and sometimes murdered, the prominent one being that of 9-year old Nisha but we have not had a strong response from your ministry, what do you have to say about this?

We strongly condemn rape, incest, defilement, child sacrifice and any kind of violence. So if someone doesn't want to acknowledge this, then they should help me. As a directorate, we have visited over 55 districts building capacity and sensitising people on moral values and principals

Don't you think that the threats posed by things like child trafficking and child sex abuse deserve more attention than the controversial Bills that you are coming up with?

The Bills are part of the bigger agenda. How do we implement our mandate if we do not put up laws? For example we want to ban homosexuality and the way to do it is to come up with laws, sooner or later homosexuality will be unacceptable in this country, and whoever misbehaves will face the courts of laws, not me going to chase them with police.

Why has the menace of corruption that the directorate was originally created to fight, not been more visibly defeated?

Corruption work is very evident, we have reprimanded, apprehended and brought to court people suspected of corruption. We have subjected people even at the level of ministers to court for being implicated in corruption. A Vice President was taken to court.

But again our courts take things the way they want and even a person whom you would see with naked eyes that they have committed a corrupt act can be exonerated by our courts. The reason there are so many cases of corruption being talked about is because the agencies are active and exposing this evil, before it was being done underground and lots of things were being embezzled. Now everybody is cautious because there are watchdogs out there.

What problems do you have with some NGO's?

I have two problems with NGOs; one is that they are not honest, there are a number of them which are not transparent, honest, and lack integrity. They get resources from abroad to help people in Uganda but in reality, they consume that money and make it a luxury out here. I know of NGOs that are supposed to be working in Karamoja but are in Kampala and their members are sleeping in five-star hotels.

I denounce those NGOs that are not honest and are using Uganda's poverty situation to enrich themselves and get more opportunities for their luxuries. Two, I don't admire a number of NGOs which come with an intention of promoting the social, economic development of this country but inject in wrong cultures from the west such as homosexuality and pornography.

There are some which are here to fight government. Instead of helping our children grow up with a culture of positively behaved persons, they are going to schools to tell these children that it is not bad to get a same sex partner.

You have been accused of making moves to deregister them especially those that are critical of government?

I want people who are constructive in their criticism not those that are malicious and sell the bad image of government. During this just concluded strike of teachers, NGOs were involved. They want this country to be in tatters, we regret the presence of such in this country. If they criticise government positively, it is okay we are a government that is open-minded and we are ready for criticism in a positive direction so that we can rebuild this country. Those NGO's that do it with an ill agenda are not welcome.

In June this year, you were quoted to have said that 'Men Raping Girls is Natural' is this true?

Rape is a crime and for anybody who commits it must be punished. I have never said that there is a justification for a criminality called rape.

Don't you think that government needs to put its house in order judging by the remarks attributed to your colleague the youth minister about women being raped?

The minister has corrected that allegation by the press. He said that he did not say girls dressed indecently should be raped. He said that it is a recipe for rape. He said that if a person is dressed in such a way, they can provoke a weak mind. In any case I associate with him in condemning rape and indecent dressing. Those two things are all criminal in the laws of this country and they are both unacceptable.

Pornographic material is sold on Ugandan streets in broad day light and we have not seen you come out to curtail it?

That is why I have come up with the Anti-pornography Bill. It is meant to condemn any indecent exposure of the human body. It is going to challenge anybody in the media whether broadcast or print and even online, who exposes images of a human being which demonstrate an inclination towards a sexual or erotic behavior.

They are going to be condemned by the courts of law and a minimum of supplying that, is going to be 4 years and the banning of a media house. These people are surviving because there is no exact law that can condemn and criminalise their actions. Even if we arrest them we cannot do anything because there is no law to prosecute them.

So how far have you gone with it?

Within a few weeks it will be debated. Am very optimistic that it will pass, 99% of my colleagues are supportive of it except some sluggish people who think that we are legislating on some people's lives. They even put me on a website in a mini skirt.

What would you say are your achievements for the time that you have been at this ministry?

We have brought to the awareness of the people the dangers of certain forms of behavior. We have said that people should pick up certain norms and standards that help us behave like a dignified citizenry.

We have been able to put in place excellent institutions to fight corruption and they are regularly empowered with skills, equipment so that they can fight graft.

We have also put in place the legal framework which will support the anti corruption entities to bring to book the implicated cases.

We have registered a decrease in corruption cases and the fact that it is something that you can no longer do without fear or shame. Now if you do it, you fear that you will be implicated and be brought to book and pay a heavy sentence.

At the grass root we have sensitised people on their rights and privileges because in the constitution it is clearly stipulated that one of the duties of the citizens is to fight and denounce corruption. Am not saying that we have ended corruption but the journey continues; we shall see that corruption curbed in this country and moral decadence is controlled.

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InFocus

Uganda Editors to Be Jailed Over Law

Media houses and tabloids in Uganda to face jail over Anti-Pornography Bill (file photo)

Human rights activists have protested the New Anti-Pornography Bill aimed at prosecuting media houses and tabloids calling it an attack to media freedom. Read more »