Museveni Cautions Parliament on Anti-Gay Bill, Calling it a “Foreign Policy Issue”

Jodi Jacobson

In an indication that international pressure on Uganda regarding so-called "anti-gay" legislation is working, President Yoweri Museveni has cautioned those advocating for the bill to "go slow" saying the bill is a "sensitive foreign policy issue."

In an indication that international pressure on Uganda regarding the so-called "anti-gay" legislation proposing the death penalty for homosexual sexual relationships is working, the Kampala daily newspaper New Vision reports that President Yoweri Museveni has "cautioned those advocating for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to ‘go slow,’ saying the matter was a sensitive foreign policy issue."

The bill, introduced last year by Parliamentarian David Bahati makes "the offence of homosexuality liable to life imprisonment," and calls for the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," defined as sex with a minor or a disabled person, "where
the offender is HIV-positive, a parent or a person in authority over
the victim, or where drugs are used to overpower the victim."

Under the proposed bill, promotion of homosexuality attracts a prison
sentence of up to seven years, while anybody failing to report the
offence within 24 hours risks imprisonment for up to three years.

This last provision makes family, friends, and others who fail to report same-sex relationships accomplices in a crime.

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According to New Vision, while addressing members of the National Executive Council of his political party, the National Resistance Movement this week, Museveni said that although Ugandans should not allow their values to be compromised, they should equally not move ahead with the issue recklessly.

He told members of his party he had been "questioned about the bill by several foreign leaders, including the Canadian Prime Minister, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He said Clinton called him for over 45 minutes over the issue."

“I told them that this bill was brought up by a private member and I have not even had time to discuss it with him. It is neither the Government nor the NRM Party. It is a private member,” Museveni told the NRM meeting at State House Entebbe.


“It is my judgment," he continued:

"that our foreign policy is not managed just by some individuals. We have our values and our stand, historically and socially, but we need to know also that our partners we have been working with have their systems,” he added as members murmured in disapproval.  [In this case, "partners" refers to donor nations such as the United States.]

The Cabinet, he added, had decided to call Bahati and discuss the bill
with him. “This is a foreign policy issue and we have to discuss it in
a manner that does not compromise our principles but also takes care of
our foreign policy interest,” he said as the MPs shouted: “No, no, no!”

New Vision reports that Museveni further warned that those against development in Africa are using this opportunity (of the legislation) to make Uganda look bad.  He also stated that Uganda was due to host a conference of the
International Criminal Court (ICC) but "some people were opposed to the
venue, arguing that Uganda was violating the human rights of gays."

In his comments, Museveni told members of his party that the gay community in New York "organised a rally and invited then President Bill Clinton."

“In that rally, about 300,000 homosexuals attended. I challenge you. Who of you, MPs, has ever had a rally of 300,000 people, other than me? Even for me, it is not often that I get those numbers,” he said.


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