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.