Friday, January 29, 2010

Bahati says he’s willing to amend gays Bill

By John Tugume
The brain behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, MP David Bahati, says he can amend the proposed law but “without putting the values of the country at risk”. In an interview with Daily Monitor yesterday after meeting the Cabinet on the matter, Mr Bahati said: “I cannot discuss what happened in cabinet. They are going to meet me and we discuss some amendments but the process of legislation continues.”

Before the meeting, the Ndorwa West MP had told this newspaper that he was ready to listen to the ministers’ input but added that being a Private Member’s Bill, they would not do much to it although “if they want to amend some clauses, I can do it”.

When contacted, Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko said they had decided to form a sub-committee to discuss the Bill and “see if we can amend it”.
“The sub-committee will be headed by Attorney General Khidu Makubuya but being a Private Member’s Bill and a property of Parliament, the process of legislation must continue. But the government will suggest amendments,” Ms Masiko said.

Other members on the sub-committee include Regional Affairs State Minister Isaac Musumba, Education Minister Namirembe Bitamazire, Gender Minister Gabriel Opiyo and the Ethics Minister, Dr James Nsaba Buturo.
The Bill suggests that anyone found guilty of involvement in homosexual activities should be jailed for seven years while those involved in aggravated homosexuality should be sentenced to death.
Criticised Bill
The suggested law has drawn criticism across the world with some countries like the US, Canada and Sweden threatening to withdraw their aid to Uganda should it become law. However, a section of MPs have vowed to stand by Mr Bahati, saying those countries have no right to interfere with Uganda’s sovereignty and thus should let the legislators do their work without any influence.

Now the cabinet sub-committee has a duty of convincing Mr Bahati to remove such clauses since he says “the possibility of withdrawing it is very minimal”. President Museveni told a recent NRM meeting in Entebbe that MPs should go slow on the Bill because it has implications on the country’s foreign policy.

Catholic bishops oppose gays Bill

By Rodney Muhumuza
In Summary
The titular head of the Catholic Church in Uganda has weighed in on the proposed anti-homosexuality law, saying he rejects it because it is “at odds with the core values” of Christians.
The titular head of the Catholic Church in Uganda has weighed in on the proposed anti-homosexuality law, saying he rejects it because it is “at odds with the core values” of Christians. But while Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga’s opposition to the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill is based on compassion, the cleric retains the view that homosexuality is immoral and violates God’s will. “The Bible says homosexuality is strictly forbidden,” Dr Lwanga said in a statement made public yesterday.
“However, the Church equally teaches the Christian message of respect, compassion, and sensitivity. The Church has always asked its followers to hate the sin but to love the sinner… In our view, the proposed [law] is not necessary considering that acts of sodomy are already condemned in the Penal Code.”
The cleric offers a solution that homosexuals normally find unpleasant, too: rehabilitation. “The proposed (law) does not contain clauses encouraging homosexuals to be rehabilitated,” the statement said. “As (the) Catholic Church, we have a mission to reach out to all of the people of God. As Christ showed, no one is beyond God’s mercy and love.”
Still, in a country where homosexuality is taboo and where many preachers have condemned gays, Dr Lwanga’s comments will be seen as unlikely opposition to a piece of legislation that proposes death or life imprisonment for gay people.
Essentially, however, Dr Lwanga’s views run counter to the position of Uganda’s Anglican community, whose leaders have supported the proposed law but opposed the death penalty, and alienate junior priests who have expressed contrary views. In Uganda’s Pentecostal community, where pastors like Martin Ssempa have supported the proposed law in its current shape, homophobia is even more intense.
Mr Bahati, who says he wants to protect traditional family values, denies being in a hate campaign. But critics say he lacks evidence to back the claims that inspired him to propose such a tough law. In his statement, Dr Lwanga criticised the part in Mr Bahati’s proposal that would punish those who fail to report homosexuals to the authorities.
President Museveni has not spoken out on the subject, although a recent report, quoting US officials, said he had assured the Obama White House of his intention to veto the proposed law.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fresh row hits proposed gays law

By Rodney Muhumuza
In Summary
Pastor Martin Ssempa, who supports the death penalty for gay sex, announced that he would mobilise at least a million Ugandans for a demonstration, scheduled for February 17 in Kampala
International condemnation of Uganda over a domestic anti-homosexuality effort has sparked a nationalist backlash that could make the lives of gays even more precarious.
President Museveni’s opposition to the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, expressed last week in a speech in which he noted that Uganda’s foreign policy was being undermined by anti-gay efforts at home, poured cold water on Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s work, but it may have energised some activists who want gays punished severely. They see gaps in Mr Museveni’s reason for distancing himself from Mr Bahati.
Pastor Martin Ssempa, who supports the death penalty for gay sex, announced that he would mobilise at least a million Ugandans for a demonstration, scheduled for February 17 in Kampala, to emphasise the strength of the anti-homosexuality wave. Multah Bukenya, a Tabliq cleric, has also renewed his threat to form squads that would hunt gays.
The efforts of such activists, along with the agitation of lawmakers who are outraged that Mr Museveni backed down under pressure, are geared towards making the Ugandan leader understand that he made the wrong call.
“Uganda is a sovereign country, and we don’t need any lectures from the US,” said Buliisa MP Steven Mukitale, who chairs the Committee on National Economy.
Sensing danger
Ms Val Kalende, the lesbian woman who recently gave Saturday Monitor a personal account of her predicament, said she was being forced to find another house. “I see anger, mob action along the way,” Ms Kalende said yesterday. Navi Pillay, the UN’s top human rights official, last week condemned the proposed legislation, adding her voice to a group that includes the US, Britain, Canada and Sweden.
But the growing international criticism seems to have been matched by a nationalist upsurge at home, with some groups saying they would punish the government, perhaps by refusing to re-elect some officials, for succumbing to international pressure. “The government is caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Mr Livingstone Sewanyana, who heads the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, a rights watchdog. “The (proposed) law itself is draconian.”

UPC party criticises gays Bill

By Flavia Nalubega
Uganda People’s Congress party members have criticised the controversial anti-gay legislation, arguing that it will distort the state’s relationship with the donors.
Mama Miria Obote, the party president, told journalists yesterday during a press briefing at party headquarters in Kampala that the Bill should be withdrawn since there already laws that governs homosexuality.
“This Bill was tabled to disrupt our donors. This is unfortunate because half of our budget comes from these donors so we need their support. We cannot afford to put in place laws that will distract the flow of funds into the state because it is what we solely depend on,” she argued.
The Bill currently before Parliament proposes a life imprisonment for anyone convicted of homosexuality and the death penalty in certain circumstances. While broadly supported domestically, the legislation has caused a storm of protest abroad.
President Museveni early this week during a party meeting said the private member’s Bill had become a matter of international concern and more consultation was needed.
“It’s a foreign policy issue, and we must handle it in a way that does not compromise our principles but also takes into account our foreign policy interests.”
UPC members, however, explained that the government is steering the Bill to cover-up for its past misdeeds so as to withdraw the public’s attention from more developmental issues.
Mr Yonasani Kanyomozi, the party’s National Chairman, told Daily Monitor that the government was directly involved in formulating the Bill but disguised it as Mr David Bahati’s, the MP who proposed it.
“This is not Bahati’s Bill; it is a government Bill which was put in place to distract the public from the government’s corruption cases.”
However, Museveni said the proposed law did not necessarily reflect government policy, and his cabinet would discuss the Bill with Mr Bahati, before it put to a vote.

Anti-gay meeting flops

By Rodney Muhumuza
In Summary
Pastor Martin Ssempa on Tuesday plumbed the depths of notoriety when he offered graphic images of gay sex as proof of the need for tough penalties against homosexuals.
Pastor Martin Ssempa on Tuesday plumbed the depths of notoriety when he offered graphic images of gay sex as proof of the need for tough penalties against homosexuals.
But midway through his presentation, saved on a computer, most of his audience walked out, some visibly disturbed, leaving him to wonder if he had done anything wrong. The cleric seemed genuinely rattled when he asked: “Why should I be traumatised?”
One man, who was part of a group of American students invited to the press conference by Rubaga North MP Beti Kamya, was seen crying, his colleagues consoling him as the group left the National Theatre.
In the immediate aftermath of the presentation, which ended prematurely, Pastor Ssempa said he did not regret his actions. The press conference, the latest in a series of events he is holding in support of the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, had been called to unveil two Ugandans, a man and a woman, who say their homosexuality has been rehabilitated.
Former gays
“I am Paul Kagaba, and I am a former homosexual,” the man declared. The woman, Sandrah Baggotte, a 19-year-old mother who says she became gay when she was 16, offered her baby as proof of her new life, while Kagaba says he is now happily married to a woman.
The duo had been brought to validate Pastor Ssempa’s argument that homosexuality can be cured, that gays are recruiting actively, and that “David Bahati is a hero” for proposing tough legislation against gays. The room was decorated with colourful anti-gay posters, including one that said: “Bahati Bill Made in Uganda for Ugandans.” The cleric, who let his two young sons attend the press conference, said the boys were free to make their own statements against homosexuality. “They represent those we need to protect… We are giving a red card to sodomy.”
Pastor’s Ssempa’s latest conduct represents a profound attempt to keep the anti-gay debate alive after President Museveni expressed opposition to Ndorwa West MP Bahati’s proposal of death or life imprisonment for gay sex. Mr Museveni recently said Uganda’s foreign policy was being hurt by anti-gay efforts at home.

Powerful people fuelling homosexuality - VP

By Hudson Apunyo
The Vice President has blamed pressure from ‘some powerful people’ for homosexuality in the country.
Prof. Gilbert Bukenya made the remarks at the wedding of Apac NRM chairperson Richard Ogwang Odero and Rose Ogwang in Apac at the weekend. He said he is against homosexuality but is forced to ‘close his eyes’.
“Nobody supports man marrying man here but we have pressure because there are some outer people who marry men and they are powerful,” Prof. Bukenya said without naming the powerful people.
There has been international condemnation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill proposed by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay recently urged the government to shelve the Bill, saying it would bring the country into a direct collision with established international human rights standards aimed at preventing discrimination.
The Bill proposes the death penalty for a new offence of “aggravated homosexuality” - defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive or a “serial offender”.

Parents urged to join fight against gays

By Alfred Tumushabe
Parents should jointly work with the government in the fight against homosexuality that is taking root in society, a Mbarara cleric has said.
“In addition to the government laws, parents should strongly condemn acts of homosexuality because they live with the children,” said Rev. Johnson Twinomujuni of the Uganda Bible Institute Mbarara.
He was on Tuesday speaking at a seminar for Rwanyamahembe Students Association in Kashari.
Keep off
He appealed to the students, who are allegedly the target of the international pro-homosexual groups, never to accept to engage in the practice.
“There is money coming from those supporting homosexuality to schools. You must be ready to reject such offers,” he said.
An anti-gay Bill was tabled in Parliament last year.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Museveni warns NRM on Homo bill

Tuesday, 12th January, 2010

By Milton Olupot
and Cyprian Musoke

PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has cautioned those advocating for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to “go slow”, saying the matter was a sensitive foreign policy issue.

David Bahati (NRM) tabled a private member’s bill late last year making the offence of homosexuality liable to life imprisonment.

The President, while addressing the NRM national executive council meeting yesterday, said although Ugandans should not allow their values to be compromised, they should equally not move ahead with the issue recklessly.

Museveni said 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 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.

Museveni narrated 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.

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!”

He said when he talked to Hillary Clinton, he informed her that people come from Europe with money and woo young people into homosexuality.

Museveni warned that those against development in Africa use this opportunity to de-campaign Uganda.

He told the meeting 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.

The Bahati bill wants to impose a life sentence on homosexuality and the death penalty on aggravated homosexuality.

The latter is 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.

In his speech, the President castigated the granting of bail to embezzlement, treason, murder, rape, sodomy, defilement and corruption suspects like people who steal government drugs.

“Some of us in the UPDF and formerly in NRA pity the system we found here. You cannot bring discipline in this way. To give bail to a person accused of murder is unacceptable and I direct that it should stop!” he said.

“Recently, we had the amazing phenomenon of the LC5 chairman of Mayuge being sentenced to death when he was ‘out on bail’! He used that chance to escape.”

He called upon Parliament to legislate against granting bail to those accused of grave crimes.

“This must be stopped, if not by the courts, then by the NRM through our caucus and Parliament by way of legislation.”

He asked MPs and judges to ensure that discipline is restored in their institutions. “This is a criminal circus. We have tried to talk about it but nobody is listening.”

He said people welcomed the NRM because it restored respect to life compared to the wanton killings of the past; he would therefore not tolerate people getting bail after murdering others.

“We either put it to a referendum (or it is stopped by Parliament) but it cannot go on like this. This is not what I fought for,” he added.

The President also decried what he called the “massive theft of drugs by health workers” unearthed by the drugs inspection unit in his office, leading to many arrests.

On oil money, he again vowed that the revenues would be used for infrastructure development, vocational training, science education and scientific research.

He said the Government had set aside sh48b for value addition, bio-medical sciences, mechanical engineering and electronics.

“The Government is going to fund, for instance, the production of an electric car made by Makerere students of the technology faculty.”

He listed the beneficiaries as the faculties of ICT, technology and food science at Makerere University and the Uganda Industrial Research Institute.

In order to retain the scientists, he added, the Minister of Public Service should start a process of giving them wages that are close to international level of remuneration.

Before the meeting, there was excitement when the two NRM bigwigs who have been at loggerheads with each other, Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya and Secretary General Amama Mbabazi, hugged each other before the cameras.