Sunday, May 9, 2010

Let’s swim and sink with Bahati on Gays Bill

By Beti Olive.Namisango. Kamya

We need to learn something from rich people when their interests are at stake - they have no qualms about principles. Legislators and civil society organisations in the UK, I hear, are working to isolate MP David Bahati, and squeeze him as an individual, having failed to make impact on the Ugandan population with their campaign against his Anti-homosexuality Bill, currently before Parliament.

The champions of democracy, rule of law and separation of powers, through their “fountains of honour”, the highest ranking political leaders in their respective countries, had the audacity to suggest to President Museveni that he should, by crook, interfere in a parliamentary process that had begun by Bahati’s tabling of the Bill before Parliament and that can only end by Parliament’s resolution on the matter.

It was not enough that Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi advised them that the only way they could influence the process was to campaign and lobby for their positions through civil society or through laid down parliamentary procedure.

They chose high handedness, clearly manifesting that democracy is for the rich, not for Africa, and that in Africa, by touching the right buttons, democracy becomes a meaningless word. Now they have turned their guns on Bahati and are proposing a travel ban on him. They believe it is so important to us to travel to their countries that such a threat would scare sense into poor Bahati and force him to withdraw the Bill!

I, for one, have issues with the Bahati Bill and intend to contest many of its sections in the plenary, but what I have no doubt about is that what the Europeans and Americans are doing is not only campaign against Bahati’s Bill, not just putting the squeeze on Bahati, not fighting for rights of gays, but an assault on Ugandas sovereignty, and this requires all Ugandans to get together.

If it is the only thing that we ever do together as Uganda, we must come out in our full force and defend our sovereignty, led by Parliament. If the UK slaps a travel ban on Bahati, we should all decline any invitations or intentions, formal or otherwise, to travel to the UK and any country which slaps the ban on Bahati, for as long as the ban is in force, surely we can do that!

For a long time, the opposition has begged European donors to slap travel bans on corrupt government officials and abusers of human rights. We have begged our “development partners” to set benchmarks on government human rights record, as qualifications for grants, donations and loans, but they always explained to us that such benchmarks would hurt the ordinary person who benefits from their magnanimity. But when it came to their sympathy for homosexuality, they are prepared to cut their aid, as if the ordinary person will be shifted from Uganda.

I once asked one top diplomat whether the ordinary person of Zimbabwe was of no consequence, hence sanctions against Zimbabwe and he mumbled some incoherent answer – double stands all through our relationship with the developed world. What is good for them is too good for Africans, unless it suits their interests – but Africa refuses to learn, and each day, we put out our begging hand for more, not caring that the more we beg, the deeper we sink in the abyss of abuse and contempt – and I don’t blame the donors, because I, too, would hold in contempt anybody who came to me daily for handouts and loans which they never pay back and never improve the their families’ welfare. Let’s hang onto the fake dignity that we have and swim or sink with Bahati, our varying positions on his Bill notwithstanding.

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