Uganda: Away with unnatural, unafrican and ungodly beasts of the forest

Mar 7th, 2014 at 9:42 | By | Category: Opinion, Top news

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a hostile anti-gay law last 24th of February. The LGBT community mourned and the international community blocked aid. Be it cultural relativism or a violation of universal Human Rights, the reasons behind the law are highly over-reactive and poorly argued. 

uganda-paper-homos-headline-20140225-tw-640For a few days now, men petting men, men kissing men and men having sex with men have been declared Uganda’s worst enemies of state. Life imprisonment stands ‘’if you touch another person of the same gender with intent to engage in a sexual act’’ on Ugandan territory. Initially, jail time would range from a small 5 years up to death penalty. However, the majority of the MP’s grew a soft heart last December and only allowed for the maximum penalty of life imprisonment if lesbian, gay or bi Ugandans ‘’engaged in a sexual act’’. Anyone who tries to be a hero through counseling or helping LGBT people can get 7 years. The rebels who run NGO’s or businesses that support members of the LGBT community deserve 5-7 years. Uganda has already banned as much as 38 NGO’s [h1] for this in 2012.

With these new changes, things are likely to become more serious for LGBT’s inside a country that has criminalised homosexuality since as early as 1894[h2] . In previous years, under a ‘’milder’’ law, they were already being hunted and killed following the publication of their photographs in certain local newspapers. Yet, the reasoning behind the law, as explained by certain MP’s, is simple: LGBT people are unnatural, unafrican and ungodly. In case you disagree, Ugandans and other sympathizing ‘’Africans’’ are eager to remind you that what is being accepted in their domestic legislation is ‘’none of your business’’.  In a case where discrimination, persecution and maltreatment of gay people are getting worse and worse, these arguments deserve a proper magnification under a critical lens.

‘’It is unnatural’’

Initially, President Museveni had refused to sign the bill when it was introduced in 2009 because he wanted ‘’proof’’ that homosexuality was not a genetic disorder. Therefore he appointed a ‘’Ministerial Committee’’ of scientists to look into the matter and their results failed to provide a genetic explanation. The committee smartly kept silent on ongoing studies suggesting a link between sexual orientation and genes at Xq28 and, in early February this year, concluded that ‘’homosexuality is not a disease but merely an abnormal behavior which may be learned through experiences in life’’. Therefore, homosexuality was labeled as being ‘’a choice’’ and the President felt confident to sign the anti-gay law because ‘’we cannot accept that behaving unnaturally is a human right’’.

Likewise, Simon Lokodo, Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity told The Guardian: ‘’Excretion is through the anus, like the exhaust of an engine. The human body receives what it takes from the mouth. They [homosexuals] are twisting nature the wrong way. Homosexuality will destroy humanity because there is no procreation; it will destroy health because the backsides will not hold.’’

The Minister sure has a sense of the dramatic. So, in other words, if homosexuality is not punished, everybody on the planet will turn to it because it is a lifestyle that can be easily adapted. Lokodo and the President forget that many phenotypes in nature are not necessarily caused by a matching genotype.  They also easily ignore that nature has broadly evidenced same-sex relationships in animals. According to Lokodo, when LGBTs take over, nobody will be having children anymore, because apparently everybody will be convinced. Consequently, everybody will get AIDS and creepy gastrointestinal infections and die. If his title did not read ‘Minister’ one would certainly mistake him for a comedian.

His disproportional arguments of exaggeration continued eloquently as he portrayed homosexuals as child molesters:  ‘’It [homosexuality] is a social style of life that is acquired. They chose to be homosexual and are trying to recruit others (..) If they were doing it in their own rooms we wouldn’t mind, but when they go for children, that is not fair. They are beasts of the forest.’’

The Minister ridiculously makes it sound as though homosexuals cannot restrict themselves to having sex in private with their partners, as though being gay automatically means to venture out and rape and brainwash small children. His is a smear campaign that involves trashing the LGBT community to the general public, without ever considering the realistic possibility that a person can be homosexually oriented and a model citizen. In fact, it is this demonizing imaging, not the sexual act itself, that denaturalizes homosexuals to the point where some fear losing their lives under this new law. One would think that a man of ethics and integrity would know better.

‘’It is unafrican’’

Besides being unnatural, homosexuality is ‘’unafrican’’, accepted in the West but loathed in the South. Same-sex couples face the death penalty in Mauritania, Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. Only South-Africa allows for same-sex marriage, the rest of the continent stands in between. In 2011, BBC World News held a world debate on ‘’gay rights in Africa’’ that featured David Bahati, the Ugandan MP who submitted the anti-homosexuality bill. He said: ‘’It [homosexuality] is unafrican because it is inconsistent with African values of appropriation, of belief in continuity of families and clans.’’

However, gay people are not new to Africa, nor are they a Western import. In his article, ‘’Africanising Homosexuality[h5] ’’, Maziyateke argues that ‘’historical records from pre-colonial Africa show that there were diverse sexual partnerships existing way before white man set foot on the Motherland’’.  Chimamanda Adichie, one of the most awarded Nigerian writers of our time, wrote about the Nigerian anti-gay law and a boy called Sochukwuma who was both Nigerian and gay. The author refuted the claim of homosexuality being unafrican in The Scoop[h6] ..

 ‘’Homosexuality is ‘unafrican,’ they say, and we will not become like the west. The west is not exactly a homosexual haven; acts of discrimination against homosexuals are not uncommon in the US and Europe. But it is the idea of ‘unafricanness’ that is truly insidious. Sochukwuma was born of Igbo parents and had Igbo grandparents and Igbo great-grandparents. He was born a person who would romantically love other men. Many Nigerians know somebody like him. The boy who behaved like a girl. The girl who behaved like a boy. The effeminate man. The unusual woman. These were people we knew, people like us, born and raised on African soil. How then are they ‘unafrican?’ If anything, it is the passage of the law itself that is ‘unafrican.’ It goes against the values of tolerance and ‘live and let live’ that are part of many African cultures’’, she wrote.

Furthermore, going back to Uganda, there is undercover evidence pointing to US evangelical organisations being behind the homophobia of the country. In the documentary God loves Uganda[h7] , American evangelist  Dr. Lively is said to have been holding meetings with the local population in which he lets them in on the secret goal of the gay community: to destroy human society. Ugandan Anglican Kapya Kaoma says shortly after the meeting he heard a Parliamentarian say the Parliament felt a need to come up with a new bill after listening to Dr. Lively. The evangelists’ aim? To spread American culture wars throughout the rest of the world.

This raises the question whether it is homosexuality or homophobia that is unafrican.

‘’It is ungodly’’

If anything, LGBT people are said to be ungodly sinners; demons who ‘’sin against the Bible and God’s plan’’. The former Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo, told BBC News that gays are ‘’shameful, abominable and ungodly’’. To this statement, former Noble Peace Prize winner and Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu gives a reply that is difficult to ignore. In his letter to Uganda following the anti-gay law, the social rights activist calls LGBTs ‘’members of our family’’ and condemns discrimination.

‘’One thing that Ugandan legislators should know is that God does not discriminate among members of our family. God does not say black is better than white, or tall is better than short, or football players are better than basketball players, or Christians are better than Muslims… or gay is better than straight. No. God says love one another; love your neighbour. God is for freedom, equality and love,’’ he wrote on The Monitor[h8] .

Pope Francis, voted ‘Person of the Year’ by the pro-gay rights magazine The Advocate, gave the second best answer[h9] : “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?” We must always consider the person’’.

It seems Ugandan Christian MPs who support the law, including David Bahati and the President, serve a different God.  How else could one explain their ferocious hateful campaign against gays? If already among Christians themselves there is disagreement on whether or not to criminalise and penalize LGBTs, one cannot expect national legislation to function as an extension of personal belief. Law does not justify something in ‘’godly’’ or ‘’ungodly’’ terms.  Buturo and co. form a dangerous group that is out to oppose and criminalise all that they do not agree with. Homosexuals are not ungodly, they are ‘’unButuroly’’.

It is none of your business?

Lastly, a common heard argument of Ugandans and other sympathizing Africans is that decisions made in an independent sovereign state should be ‘’respected’’ by everybody else in the world. On the day the law was signed, Ofwono Opondo, spokesman for the Ugandan government, twitted: ‘’Western governments and media blackmailing Uganda over anti-homosexuality law should swallow their pride.’’

Yet, following the new bill, Denmark and Norway have decided to withhold respectively 9 and 8 million euros from the Ugandan Government. The World Bank will be delaying its loan of 90 million dollars. Likewise, the Dutch are freezing Ugandan Government’s annual pocket money of 7 million euros. Austria, Canada and the US have said to review their donor-recipient relationships with the country.

201312132352414734_20President Museveni reacted to CNN reporter Zain Verjee that it is the society, not the state, that is involved in the anti-gay bill and outsiders should not come to mingle:  ‘’I am acting on behalf of the society (..) That is why I would like to advice the Europeans and the Western groups that this is one area that should be a no-go area. Because if they want a real confrontation with us, this is one area they are not going to make our people budge.’’ His message to President Obama and western Human Rights groups/LGTBs was to just ‘’keep quiet’’ and let Ugandans manage their own society.

Not surprisingly, Museveni’s reaction to all this would be somewhere along the lines of President Robert Mugabe’s reaction to president Barack Obama on the same issue. The 90-year-old president who has been ruling Zimbabwe for more than three decades said: ‘’If President Obama wants me to allow same-sex marriage in my country, he must first come here and let me marry him.’’ His quote earned more than 9 000 likes on Facebook[h10] .  In other words, what a country decides to adopt in their legislation concerns only its citizens. As long as the Ugandan majority supports the law, who is the rest to criticize?

But was not there once a great man who said ‘’injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere?’’ If these donor countries consider Uganda’s law to be a violation against the local LGBT community that could possibly fuel similar bills being accepted elsewhere, they should be allowed to withhold a million or two off their Ugandan expenses. It may be a show-off of power, a Western paternalistic way of generating its funds, a misuse of ‘’development aid’’ that reveals its background noise of morals, guilt or hidden agendas, but, in any case, it is reasonable that the donor is not eager to donate if the recipient is misrepresenting some of his own principles. Uganda, unlike Russia, can be pressured through this channel of financial dependency and donors realize this all too well.

As Swedish Minister for International Development Co-operation, Hillevi Engström, told The Globe and Mail: “I want to emphasize that our aid is not given unconditionally’’. Uganda knew the risks and chose its own path, good for them. If anything, the MPs can pet themselves on the back for not budging when their donors say so. However, they should also understand that the donating rest of the world cannot play the silent observer when a minority’s personal freedoms are being restricted. After all, nothing is for free, certainly not in the narrative of cultural relativism against universal Human Rights.

In conclusion, the Ugandan government wants everybody to be according to their ideal model of heterosexuality. Those who are not have forcefully become criminal beasts. If the world was ruled according to Ugandan thinking, the Ugandan Government would be forced into being tolerant towards gays. Perhaps the ways in which some members of Parliament speak and act towards LGBTs would even be criminalized internationally. Fortunately, the day of world dominance has not yet come. Uganda cannot and should not be forced into anything, but certainly it is a free target that can be pressured. It is only a pity that, in the midst of Ugandan sovereignty versus the international community´s pressure, LGBT Ugandans continue to suffer for bigotry reasons.


Jane Nishimwe















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One Comment to “Uganda: Away with unnatural, unafrican and ungodly beasts of the forest”

  1. The gay issue has provided Museveni with political credibility in Uganda and across Africa for the wrong reasons. Those who know the person he does not care about anyone except his own ego. Trumping on the issue as he did is only part of his political calculations to remain in power for life.


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