17 February 2014

Uganda: Enacting Anti-Gay Law Will Complicate U.S.-Uganda Relations, Obama Says

Photo: Magnus Manske/Flickr
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

U.S. President Barrack Obama has expressed disappointment and warned that enacting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will complicate U.S.-Uganda relations.

"As we have conveyed to President Museveni," Obama has said in a statement, "enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda."

Obama is not happy with the law that he says once enacted will be "more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda" but also a "step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people"

He adds that it will also mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.

The U.S. leader's comments come at a time when President Yoweri Museveni is set to sign on the bill, officially making it law.

Museveni told legislators from the ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM) last week while at the Kyankwanzi-based National Leadership Institute (NALI) during a party caucus retreat that he had finally decided to sign the law.

This is after the a panel of scientists he ordered to study the matter, issued him a report showing that there is no scientific proof yet that people are homosexuals by genetics.

But the establishment of this panel was just a political measure to enable Museveni deal with the sticky issue that homosexuality issue is in Uganda.

While following it through and having it passed on Dec.20, won the Speaker of Parliament, Rebbecca Kadaga political capital, criticising the manner in which it was passed, attracted President Museveni and his Premier Amama Mbabazi, backlash.

Museveni knew that signing it would keep him in the good books of his supporters especially with the 2016 polls that he intends to win are around the corner.

But there was the problem of his allies like President Obama and a host of campaigners in the West. With the scientists' report, Museveni feels that he has solved the puzzle.

"... I am going to sign the bill. I know we are going to have a big battle with the outside groups about this, but I will tell them what our scientists have to say," a State House press statement quoted Museveni.

However, President Obama in his statement insists that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.

"We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love," Obama said in a statement, "That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality."

At a time when, the statement adds, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons.

President Obama's last attempts at blocking the law follow attempts by several human rights campaigners. Human Rights Watch and the Robert F. Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights--have urged President Museveni not to assent to the bill.

The latter even sent an army of campaigners who visited President Museveni at State House in Entebbe on Jan.18 and issued a statement noting that the president had promised not to assent to the bill that he called "fascist".

This meeting followed a letter followed a letter a December 2013 letter from Kerry Kennedy, the President of the RFK Center, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote, in which the two sought an audience with the President to discuss the matter.

The same group had in March 2013, held a meeting with the President at his personal residence in Rwakitura, where he also pledged not to sign any bill that discriminates against any individual.

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