Why Ugandans Embrace U.S. Christian Right’s Anti-Gay Agenda

Edwin Okong’o

American religious right-wingers are flocking to Africa and are having more success in passing new legislation criminalizing homosexuality there than they are having in the United States. The most vicious of those laws is in Uganda.

UPDATE: January 13th, 9:28 am: Uganda’s newspaper New Vision reports that Museveni has made concerns about the foreign policy and foreign assistance impact known to members of his party. See the story here.

This article was originally published by
New America Media  and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

There is a
joke among Africans about how colonialism began. A Christian missionary came
with a Bible in hand, told our ancestors to bow their heads for a prayer, and
when they opened their eyes their land was gone. Today, the same can be said
about African constitutions.

American religious right-wingers are flocking to Africa and are having more
success in passing new legislation criminalizing homosexuality there than they
are having in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.

Appreciate our work?

Rewire is a non-profit independent media publication. Your tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.


The most vicious of those laws is in Uganda, where Parliament is now
considering a bill that would make some homosexual acts punishable by death.
Although they have denied it, evidence suggests that American right-wingers are
in the forefront of this war on homosexuality.

Among them is the Fellowship Foundation, better known as the Family, a
secretive but powerful evangelical club that includes U.S. senators and
congressmen. Republican senators Jim Inhofe, Tom Coburn, John Ensign, Jim
DeMint and Sam Brownback belong to the group. The group includes members like
Mike McIntyre, a conservative Democratic congressman, who believes that the Ten
Commandments are "the fundamental legal code for the laws of the United

Publicly, the Family’s most prominent event is a National Prayer Breakfast held
in Washington, D.C., which has been attended by congressmen, senators, and even
presidents. In his book, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of
American Power," New York University scholar Jeff Sharlet writes that of the
Family’s $14 million budget, "the bulk of it, $12 million, goes to ‘mentoring,
counseling, and partnering with friends around the world.’"

In other words, having failed to turn the United States into a true "Nation
under God," American evangelicals are going to Africa to satisfy that calling.
Is there a better place to create Christian nations than in a continent with
nearly 500 million impoverished believers, and easily corruptible governments?
Similar laws have been proposed, or exist, in Nigeria, Burundi, Rwanda and

"You develop a relationship with the [African] presidents in the spirit of
Jesus," Sen. Inhofe said in a February 2009 interview posted on the website of
Faith and Action, an evangelical Christian group, whose "mission is to awaken
the conscience of our nation by proclaiming Truth to those in positions of

In his book, Sharlet writes that Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni is the
organization’s "key man" in Africa. Museveni’s relationship with the Family
goes as far back as 1986, when he came to power following a bloody civil war.
David Bahati, the Ugandan lawmaker who introduced the anti-gay bill, is also a
member of the Family.

U.S. evangelical groups have gotten so close to African religious and political
leaders that they openly conduct their hateful crusades. In early March 2009,
for example, U.S. religious extremists played a central role in the "Seminar on
Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda" held in Kampala, Uganda. Among speakers was
Scott Lively, a California evangelical pastor who heads Abiding Truth Ministry.

Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian priest who went undercover to the "viciously
homophobic" conference, quoted one Ugandan attendee as saying, "The man of God
(Scott Lively) told us about…a movement behind the promotion of homosexuality.
… I got to know that there is a force behind homosexuality, which we need to
tackle with force. He also told us that these people who are behind this…evil,
they have all resources that they need…to spread this evil. We need to stand
firm to fight homosexuality."

Evangelicals have managed to succeed in promoting homophobia by taking
advantage of Africans’ lack of adequate information. They have presented
homosexuality as a new "culture," rather than something that has existed all

Kaoma quotes yet another Ugandan from the anti-gay conference: "Dr. Scott told
us about Brazil where, 10 years ago, homosexuality was unheard of. Today, it is
the capital. There are people that have been against homosexuality that are
having to leave because of the pressure and the threats that they are putting
on them. That is how serious it is."

Africans take such filth without questions because they suffer from a severe
case of inferiority complex. Even worse, they staunchly believe in the
supremacy of the white man. Ill-informed Christians like the ones Rev. Kaoma
quotes above, place the white man immediately below the Holy Trinity, a belief
with its roots in the colonial era.

Growing up in Kenya, I heard stories about how supernatural the white man was.
When we did well in school, our parents and teachers said we were as
intelligent as white men. When you went to take a bath, Ma told you to come out
as clean as a white man. If the white doctor at the hospital failed to diagnose
your disease, death was imminent.

Even among the "educated," this plague runs deep. In 2006, I
mentioned to my younger brother — a graduate of a Kenyan university — that I
had co-taught a writing class at the University of California, Berkeley, where
I was studying journalism.

"Come on! Stop playing," he brushed me off and laughed.

When he was finally convinced that I was telling the truth, he asked, "Were there white students in the class?"

Having gone through schools reading mostly textbooks written by white men,
Africans are programmed to accept any Western literature. Add the word of God
to that and the white man’s message becomes gospel truth. That’s why when a
white religious fanatic like Scott Lively writes in his book, "The Pink
Swastika," that Nazis committed the Holocaust because they were gay, without
hesitation Africans promise "to stand firm to fight homosexuality."

As I ponder over this issue I’m reminded of the 1980s, when Reinhard Bonnke, a
German evangelist who claimed to have healing powers, visited Kenya. Business
came to a halt, as people with all kinds of ailments traveled to Nairobi to
seek his miracles. Kenyans flocked Bonnke’s sermons because they believed that
as a white man, he was closer to Jesus Christ than were black evangelists.

If Archbishop Manassas Kuria, who at the time was the Anglican primate of the
Church of Kenya, had called a press conference to announce that he had healing
powers, they would have laughed at him, and perhaps accuse him of blasphemy.
Black clergymen do not perform miracles.

The belief that black people can only speak to God through white men is
illustrated in the same interview Sen. Inhofe gave to Faith and Action. Inhofe
describes the Family’s work in a "miserable" village in Benin. The hamlet’s
name translates to "Village of Darkness," he says, and children "drink mud and
die of dysentery." The evangelicals rescue the village by providing sanitary

When residents ask why the evangelicals have decided to shine light on the
village, the Americans say, "Because we love you." And when they ask, "Why do
you love us?" they answer, "Because Jesus loves us."

No one asks why Jesus didn’t send love directly to Africa without going through
middlemen. Inhofe says today the village has changed its name to "The Village
of Jesus", thanks to the Savior’s "miracles."

Now imagine telling such people that the "force behind homosexuality" threatens
to corrupt their children and anger Jesus. They will "stand firm to fight" this
"evil." Enacting laws allows them to hide the blood in their hands.

Load More

We must defend reproductive rights at every level. That includes staying informed. Sign up for our email list now.

Thank you for reading Rewire!