Uganda president playing both sides on anti-gay law

Only President Yoweri Museveni stands in the way of draconian anti-LGBTI bill becoming law. He appears to want to win domestic support without alienating international opinion

Uganda president playing both sides on anti-gay law
01 January 2014

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni wants to emerge as a domestic hero and appease angry foreign governments in the battle over the country’s new anti-gay legislation.

Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in a shock move on 20 December – now all it needs is Museveni’s signature to become law.

While the death penalty has been dropped in what was previously dubbed the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’, it punishes ‘aggravated homosexuality’ with life in prison.

If it becomes law it will make it illegal to ‘promote’ homosexuality and will also jail people who do not report homosexual activities to the police.

But Museveni has now indicated he will study the bill carefully before signing and is taking it to the caucus of his National Resistance Movement, the country’s leading political organization.

Uganda’s New Vision reports him as saying: ‘I like thinking before acting. It is not a simple matter to rush into. If the MPs bring the bill to me, I will first analyze it, take it to the NRM Caucus and see how to handle it.’

Museveni faces three choices: He can sign the bill, making it law immediately. He can reject it, pushing it back to parliament. Or he can recommend parliament changes it.

Frank Mugisha, director of leading LGBTI organization Sexual Minorities Uganda, told GSN: ‘If he doesn’t sign it they don’t vote it through again. It becomes law automatically. He has to send it back with recommendations or reject it.’

He added there is no schedule for the NRM Caucus to meet as they can do so at short notice.

Mugisha added: ‘In my own intuition I think he is going to send it back with recommendations. That is the only thing I can say now.’

Ugandan activist Edwin Sesange, director of the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, says Museveni appears to be stalling.

Parliament’s Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has already indicated Museveni is playing politics, saying he doesn’t need to consult now as he had plenty of time to consult while the bill was being debated.

Sesange believes the president is trying to appease the international community by his tactics – if he delays long enough he can claim the bill was forced through by parliament while also gaining domestic popularity for it becoming law.

He said: ‘I think he is going to play some politics here. He is going to send it back to the parliament.

‘Museveni will say to the international community that he didn’t support it but he was overpowered by the parliament. Again to the local people, he will say democracy reigned over him and he respects it.

‘He is coming out as the winner here with answers for both sides.’

Sesange added the legislation is ‘also a distraction to other political, economical and social problems in Uganda’ in the run up to elections.

If the activists are right, it means the bill is likely to become law.

The next option to fight it will be through a constitutional challenge in Uganda’s courts – however winning a case like that could take years, during which the law will be in place.

HAVE YOUR SAY

MORE TOP STORIES

No thumbnail available

Australian Government issues LGBT travel warning on Russia

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has cautioned LGBT people about traveling to Russia over the country’s ban on so-called homosexual propaganda
No thumbnail available

Former Rutgers student who spied on gay roommate wants new trial

Attorneys for Dharun Ravi are asking a judge to overturn his conviction
No thumbnail available

#Trailblazer: Dan Gillespie Sells: 'On the road with the band, people assume you're straight'

The openly gay front man of The Feeling shares his traveller tales – from old American diners to wet weekends in Ireland...
No thumbnail available

Vandals strike GLBT History Museum in San Francisco's Castro District

Museum seeking donations to help pay for damage
No thumbnail available

Same-sex couples win adoption rights for partners' children in Portugal

Portuguese parliament votes for partial adoption law for same-sex couples but stops short of full equality
No thumbnail available

Mel B shares 'lesbian kiss' with herself in new video

The former Spice Girl strips it all for fans, tearing her clothes off, cutting into her hair and sharing a kiss with a beautiful woman for her new dance track
No thumbnail available

Expendables 3 director hints Schwarzenegger and Jet Li’s characters are a gay couple

Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes said ‘I believe they are’ when asked if action legends Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li play a gay couple in his movie
No thumbnail available

Indiana church where boy sang anti-gay song says it does not condone or practice hate

Apostolic Truth Tabernacle updates its website with new message after more than 500,000 view video of performance
No thumbnail available

George Michael in hospital with pneumonia

George Michael has postponed concerts in Vienna, Strasbourg and Cardiff after being taken to hospital with pneumonia.
No thumbnail available

The best of Vienna’s balls include bow ties, tons of cake and marijuana

From balls celebrating the medicinal properties of weed to waltzs followed by ingesting tons of candy, we look at Vienna for some of the year’s most elegant and unique fancy dress events