Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has said he will not just sign the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill without checking it carefully.
The bill, passed by parliament in a shock move last week, no longer has the death penalty for gays, but does offer life in prison for repeat homosexuals.
It also requires people in authority, including persons exercising religious or social authority, gay or straight, to report offences under the act within 24 hours or else face imprisonment for three years or a fine.
Museveni attended Christmas prayers in Mbarara, a town in west Uganda, and said he would push the bill back to parliament if he didn’t agree with it.
‘I will first go through it, if I find that it is right I will sign but if I find that it is not right I will send it back to parliament,’ he said.
He was responding to a demand by Uganda’s Head of the Pentecostal Churches, Apostle Joseph Serwadda, calling on him to sign the bill into law.
Meanwhile a prominent Ugandan ragga musician has spoken out against the bill on his Facebook page.
Bebe Cool said: ‘I can’t support the bill. Did the parliament know some people are born gay?
‘Does the parliament know what position they are putting the president and Uganda as a whole in, in the face of the international community?
‘Don’t u think those who are gay in Uganda now have their same equal rights as humans? And if your son became gay, would you want them to be taken to jail?
‘In my view it’s a one-way ticket to international rejection.’
He went on to suggest it was a plot by the opposition to create a political problem for Museveni.
‘The president if he signs it is in an international dilemma or if does not sign it he is in a local dilemma.
‘I didn’t say I am supportive of gayism but neither do we have a right to condemn them. Merry Xmas to you all, gay or not gay.’
Responding, Ugandan Edwin Sesange, director of the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, again appealed to Museveni not to sign and also to scrap the current law criminalizing homosexuality, Section 145 of the penal code.
He told Gay Star News: ‘The bill violates the Ugandan constitution, Commonwealth Charter 2013 and the African Charter on Human Rights. It does not even conform to the parliament’s own Human Rights Checklist.
‘The bill is scaring away foreign investors, expatriates, tourists and foreign donors. They fear to be blackmailed and prosecuted under this bill and Section 145 of the Penal Code. This affects the innocent people of Uganda economically.
‘For years Uganda used to be known as the Pearl of Africa, a peaceful and tolerant nation and a magnet for foreign investors. However the atrocities of past political leaders tarnished its international image.
‘The current president has done a lot to change the above image but now the bill is tarnishing Uganda’s international image and moral fibers.
‘Uganda is a country well known for mob justice, blackmail, mistreatment and abuse of detainees by the police.
‘Even though the government will find it hard to enforce this bill, it will be easily used by the anti-gay vigilantes. The witch-hunt of all those perceived to be LGBTI and those supporting them will increase. Even heterosexuals might be victims.’
He said the people of Uganda have been deceived into thinking the bill is about tackling rape and sexual violence – but laws already exist against such acts.
He added: ‘We know President Museveni has always championed good causes like the fight against HIV and AIDS the struggle for women equality, regional peace, and the rights of the minorities like squatters.
‘The president accepts LGBTI people exist in Uganda and have always existed; therefore legislating against their existence will only incite violence against them.
‘President Museveni prides himself as a liberator and a protector of all Ugandans. This bill however is not liberating neither protects any individual.
‘We are calling on the President of Uganda not to sign this bill into law and also eliminate Section 145. Even though the parliament has passed the bill the president can use his powers to veto the bill.
‘The bill was passed without the right quorum and it was not on the parliament order book. We are calling on the rest of the Members of Parliament to oppose it when it comes back to the parliament.’
Like Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Sesange has promised to fight the bill through peaceful means and called for international help.