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Human Rights, Queer Politics, Uganda

Urgency is now required in Uganda

In April 1994, Rwandan radio broadcast daily programmes calling on all Hutus to kill the Tutsis. The broadcasts went like this….

“Why do we hate the Tutsis? They are cockroaches…Rwanda is Hutuland. We are the majority. Tutsis are the minority. Hutus must kill all the Tutsis…Stay alert — watch your neighbours.”

In a chilling reminder of those broadcasts, yesterday Rainbow Uganda reported that two Ugandan radio stations had called on Ugandans to kill or attack any known Gay person.

Smart & NBS FM Radio Station in Uganda, has called up all Ugandans wherever they are to stand up a fight, kill or attack any known Gay person in the Country. ….. Please this is not good! It can even cause genocide

If we stand back and reflect on the past three / four years of the Ugandan Anti-homosexuality and Transgender campaign and in particular these past six months, we should not be surprised that we have now reached this point. Only last week, demonstrators marched through the streets carrying “Kill Gays” placards. Starting from 2005 – not the beginning but a good place to start. First there was the illegal raid of Victor Mukasa’s home in July 2005 following which he choose to sue the Ugandan Attorney General and subsequently spent almost a year in fear of his life and in hiding. He and Kenyan activist, Yvonne Oyoo finally won their case which took almost 3 years of sheer perseverance on the part of Victor and his supporters. In September 2007 and again in April 2009 the Ugandan tabloid, Red Pepper, published the names of gays and lesbians. In the April publication a number of Ugandan LGBT activists were also named including Victor Mukasa, Frank Mugisha and Kasha Jacqueline whose interview I published yesterday. In November 2007, a group of Ugandan LGBTI activists were evicted from the “People’s Forum” and later other activists from East Africa were physically prevented from entering the forum.

During the same period a film discussing homosexuality made by a Ugandan film company, Amakula was screened and anti-gay religious leaders held a press conference calling on the Commonwealth

to not legislate for human wrongs. Homosexuality is an evil, which should never be discussed during Chogm. In Chogm meetings, we should advocate for them to change because the act is unnatural,” Bishop Niringiye said……The issue of rights of gays and lesbians was one of the recommendations in the Civil Society Statement to the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting……Bishop Niringire said, “As a church, we are telling Commonwealth heads of governments to formulate value systems to solve the question of lesbianism and homosexuality being a human right.

Again there the warnings were present but the silence remained.

In September 2008 two activists were arrested, tortured and held for one week without legal representation and later re-arrested. Last year, one of the arrested turned on his friends naming and denouncing them and claiming he was no longer gay. The placards at the time called for gays to be “kicked out of Uganda”. By this time many members of SMUG and other LGBTI activists were fleeing the country fearing for their lives. At the end of that post, I wrote

The Ugandan government is currently considering legislation that may increase already extreme criminal penalties for consensual homosexual relationships and make LGBT organizing and “recruitment,” whatever that might be, illegal.

In October last year, the Ugandan Parliament passed a resolution allowing David Bahati to submit a private member’s bill for the purposes of

“strengthening the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family”, that “same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic”, and “protect[ing] the cherished culture of the people of Uganda, legal, religious, and traditional family values of the people of Uganda against the attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity on the people of Uganda”

In the past six months the campaign has become more hateful and increasingly violent in tone and actions as yhe religious supporters of the Bill, both in Uganda and in the US become more and more brazen. There will become a point of critical mass when they no longer need to speak as they have willfully set in motion the killing spree.

The point of of the above trajectory is not to say that the radio broadcasts were inevitable – I dont think they were. But it is to place the calls to kill LGBTI people in a historical context, one that with hindsight could lead in that direction. But more so to state that we need to heed the warnings and put an end to the relative silence before people are murdered. Despite the considerable high profile the Bill has received in the mainstream media and blogosphere, there has been negligible response from human rights organisations or governments. African countries have been silent. Academia has been silent. So called African feminists and women’s organisations have been deafeningly silent. Only last week I was at a workshop in Accra when women expressed fear of claiming feminism in case they would be labeled the dreaded L-word – but where satisfied when reassured that the two could be mutually exclusive. Religious institutions have not been silent. On the contrary as unbelievable as it is to imagine religious institutions leading a hate campaign and inciting violence – it is they who lead the campaign.

As early as 2007, IGLHRC reported on the link between US evangelical churches and the growing homophobia in Uganda. Again in December last year I wrote two posts – here and here – on the US Christian connection. In fact the only group that have made a statement are the Abahlali Shackdwellers movement in Durban who themselves are under attack from the South African state.

Are all the people that make up these groups and institutions going to remain silent while Ugandan citizens are killed because of their sexuality and sexual preferences? Will they then sit by when the same thing happens in Malawi, Senegal, Kenya and Nigeria? At what point will they begin to see a pattern called genocide is taking place? How easy is it for people to consume this inhumanity? A post on World Pulse last week suggested that “Homosexuality is the new Apartheid: Silence is a global consensus” and points out the need to “elevate the debate to one of personal experience.

The basis of the human rights declaration is that contempt for our rights should not result in barbarous acts which outrage the conscience of mankind. There is far too much evidence of such acts already, so why actively allow more to be perpetrated under rule of law? How are we to evolve and progress society, if fear and obstruction is allowed commonplace. If homosexuality is the new apartheid – the absolute degradation of a part of society, the clear and conspicuous ostracizing of people based on sexual orientation. Its almost absurd to imagine this could be common place, yet it is. Even across America, a democratic society, voters have the right to oust minorities from access to legislation and basic rights under the law i.e. to be legally married, to live a life together to in mere fact – just get on with it.

But there is more than a will to dominate and oppress [see definition of Apartheid] in the hate campaign being conducted in Uganda – one gets the feeling that other countries like Malawi, Kenya are playing a wait and see game, ready to enact their own hideous laws. The campaign has now moved to legislating murder whether through the Bill itself or by inciting people on the streets to out and kill their neighbours. From where I am sitting and what I am feeling and all of us who actually believe in the concept of inclusive rights but particularly those of us who are LGBTIQ people is to quote my friend, Dan “calls for help at best receive tacit, discrete and polite responses, from their so-called allies.” . Urgency is now required in Uganda.

Links:
Martin Ssempa turns to pornography
Homophobia is the problem not Homosexuality

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4 Comments

  1. I was listening to NPR yesterday and on one of the shows this anti-homosexual attitude across the continent was discussed at length. I found it very informative. Particularly the sentiment of a Ugandan activist who explained why foreign intervention could only make things worse for homosexuals there.

    And therein lies the problem. Everyone wants to help, but doing so could make matters worse, what with American legislators seeking to withdraw AGOA money Uganda has greatly benefited from. Such actions could lead to a deeper backlash. Nevertheless, I personally stand against the persecution of homosexuals. How to be an effective help in this situation is the paradox. Will take a moment and tweet this post. Hopefully someone else will read and realize the parallels, as you eloquently presented them, between the calls for genocide so many years ago and the anti-gay sentiment that is currently on the rise.

  2. Comment by post author

    Sokari

    @SS Yes, one has to be careful about intervention. But could not the same have been said in Rwanda? I am not sure but the world cannot stand by and allow this to happen. Also there is a politics taking place and a struggle for religious dominance using anti-homosexuality as the weapon to beat others into submission. I think it depends on the kind of foreign intervention. Intervention with consultation with human rights defenders ensuring their safety and concerns are considered. People like Ssempa who has now been abandoned by his US allies is on the margins but as we all know people at the extreme are loud because of their extreme positions. He is also I believe a desperate man with a big ego and that too is dangerous.

  3. The international media, UN and African Union MUST INTERVENE NOW before it is too late.

    I am not gay, but I have friends who are gay and even one who won a gay pageant in Lagos, Nigeria and we dine together.

    I have never forced my own belief on him and he has not forced his own on me.

    As I have said on many cmments online, that if you are not gay, you are not holier than anyone who is gay. As my Lord Jesus Christ said, nobody has the right to judge anyone, except God and let anyone who has not sinned throw the first stone.

    It is insane to call for an attack on gays.
    .-= Orikinla Osinachi´s last blog ..eLearning Africa Launches Online Photography Competition =-.

  4. what? people will be killed for being homosexual in 2010? utterly senseless!