16 March 2014

Uganda: Anti-Gay Law - Museveni, Kadaga Face Travel Bans

Photo: Uganda Media Centre
Ugandan President Museveni signing the Anti Homosexuality Bill into law.

The Brussels-based European Parliament has backed a resolution imposing travel and visa bans against "key individuals responsible for drafting and adopting" the anti-homosexuality laws in Nigeria and Uganda.

During its sitting on March 13, the members unanimously criticised the laws passed in both countries and said they were a "grave menace" to human rights. The members approved the non-binding resolution by a large majority which said the two countries violated the Cotonou accord on human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.

This means that individual countries will choose whether to effect the bans or not. Uganda's Parliament in a unanimous vote controversially passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on December 20, 2013, and on February 24, President Museveni signed it into law.

The anti-gay law calls for "repeat homosexuals" to be jailed for life, outlaws any promotion of homosexuality and requires people to report homosexuals. Earlier in Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan had signed the anti-gay law in January though it had been passed in November 2013.

In addition to the travel and visa ban; it was also suggested that there should be a review of EU's "development aid strategy with Uganda and Nigeria, with a view to redirecting aid to civil society and other organisations rather than suspending it", according to the EU parliamentary statement.

Targeting key individuals responsible for drafting and adopting the law casts a wide net on many individuals. The law's key promoter and originator David Bahati (MP for Ndorwa West) could be targeted for drafting the law.

Both President Museveni who signed it into law, and Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who presided at the voting and MPs who voted overwhelmingly for the law's passage, could be targeted for leading the charge for the law's adoption, among others. A senior official in the ministry of Foreign Affairs who requested to remain anonymous, said last week that the EU resolution was highhanded.

"In diplomatic practice, there is respect for sovereignty and culture. One country cannot seek to impose its cultures on other people," the official said.

Bahati's initial bill had proposed a death penalty for " aggravated homosexuality". But the death penalty was dropped in the face of fierce pressure from human rights activists and the West. It was, instead, replaced by a life sentence.

Uganda's anti-gay law has already triggered aid cuts from some donor countries and agencies. So far, at least Shs 262 billion worth of donor aid has been withheld. Leading the way was the World Bank which announced last month that it had postponed a $90m (Shs 220bn) loan to Uganda over the law.

In addition, Norway and Denmark withheld aid of $8m and $9m respectively. EU Budget Gommissioner Janusz Lewandowski, representing the Commission, told European MPs that they had already had "very frank discussions" with the two countries, with more talks planned.

"The outcome of these contacts will be very important in determining how our relations with Nigeria and Uganda develop under the Cotonou accord," Lewandowski said.

The resolution on travel and visa bans came days after activists in London including Peter Tatchell, the director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, urged governments around the world to impose stringent punishments on the key movers of the new homophobic legislation.

Mr Tatchell said while he did not support aid cuts to Uganda, he favoured travel sanctions against President Museveni, Bahati, the minister for Ethics Simon Lokodo and pastors Martin Sempa, Solomon Male and Scott Lively for their vocal support of Uganda's anti-gay law.

"They are implicated in stirring homophobic hatred, which has coincided with an escalation of threats and mob violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans," Mr Tatchell said.

"These people are modern-day ideological inheritors of Dr Goebbels' hateful propaganda methods, with their vile slurs equating homosexuality with child molestation, rape and bestiality."

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