Why President Obama Should Dis-invite Gen. Museveni, Uganda's Brutal Dictator And Leading Homophobe
Uganda's Gen. Museveni
Gen. Yoweri Museveni, dictator of 28 years and Uganda's head homophobe will be in Washington in less than two weeks when President Obama hosts dozens of presidents at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
The idea of a summit that gives global visibility and highlights business and development opportunities in Africa is long overdue.
The Ugandan tyrant once told The Atlantic Monthly magazine that people brought to the United States as slaves must have been "stupid" and a Ugandan newspaper once quoted him as having praised Hitler. When he signed the country's anti-LGBT law earlier this year he said his "scientists" should study Gay people by drawing their blood and examining their genes.
Rather than inviting a man like Museveni and Kagame, it would have been much better for the U.S. to have held a high level summit that included leaders of countries in Africa which are either democratically governed or democratizing such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and others, to reward their achievements.
Even Kenya, where President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto are both being tried by the ICC on connection with violence connected to the 2007 vote, has come a long way from the days when it was a one-party autocracy.Kagame has been in power for 20 years now; Museveni for 28. Both preside over ruthless regimes, routinely torturing and killing political opponents, as the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have documented for years.
As a result of the numerous invasions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by Gen. Kagame's and Gen. Museveni's respective armies, paving the way for these leaders and their associates to plunder resources, millions of Congolese have died with some estimates placed at seven million -- a 2007 survey had already placed the toll at 5.4 million.
For its role in the atrocities, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2005 found Uganda liable for war crimes in Congo and awarded $6 billion to $10 billion in reparations; not a dime has been paid.
As a result of the ICJ's rulings Gen. Museveni became concerned about possible criminal indictment after the International Court of Justice (ICC) launched its own inquiry into the role played by Uganda's military in the Congo atrocities. The Wall Street Journal reported on June 8, 2006, that Gen. Museveni personally contacted then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and asked him to block the investigation.
Both Rwanda and Uganda were in the news again in 2012. President Obama had to personally intervene by phoning Gen. Kagame and telling him to call off M23, the murderous proxy army he and Gen. Museveni trained, financed, armed, and then unleashed on Congo to cause more havoc. Even after the defeat of M23 Uganda still harbors its wanted commander Sultan Makenga, who is on a U.S. sanctions list -- Museveni refuses Congo's request that Makenga be returned for trial.
As for Gen. Kagame, at the end of last year his regime was implicated in the assassination of a prominent political opponent, Col. Patrick Karegeya, who was exiled in South Africa. When he was criticized recently by the State Department, Gen. Kagame said suspected regime opponents may now be "shot on sight."
Both Kagame and Museveni believe that attending the Washington gathering and being seen with President Obama and other global dignitaries will lend some legitimacy and political mileage to their discredited regimes.
The need for global acceptability to mask its repressive domestic political environment was also why Uganda campaigned aggressively to have its foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa installed by acclamation as President of the UN General Assembly on June 11 even though his boss Museveni signed the homophobic bill in February and a former U.S. ambassador in a memo to the State Department wrote that Kutesa's corruption was "egregious."
An ongoing Change.org campaign which had called on Secretary of State John Kerry to revoke Kutesa's visa to block him from the UN vote has now garnered over 15,000 signatures. (Kutesa already faces a new conflict of interest issue as past and forthcoming reports show even before he formally takes office in September).
The presence of Gen. Kagame and Gen. Museveni are even more glaring in light of President Obama's speech in Accra, Ghana, on July 11, 2009 during the historic trip there. Speaking before Ghana's Parliament but actually addressing the whole continent, Obama declared: "Africa doesn't need strong men; it needs strong institutions."
Gen. Kagame and Gen. Museveni epitomize the antithesis of the rule of law, democratization, and the ideals espoused by Obama in Ghana.
What's more there's absolutely no rationale for hosting Kagame and Museveni while barring Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe from the summit. After all, Kagame and Museveni have the blood of millions of Congolese on their hands.
The U.S. has also complained that China has main economic gains in Africa by ignoring human rights abuses; the U.S. can hardly make such claims while hosting the Rwanda and Uganda leaders.
In Uganda Museveni faces election challenges two years from now in 2016 and has been lining up scapegoats. He's decided to demonize the LGBT community, hoping that inciting hatred towards them will translate into votes especially in the country's rural areas where the majority of voters reside and where society is still very traditional and conservative.
Gen. Museveni used the same strategy in 2009, two years before the 2011 presidential election. The hate-campaign he unleashed using acolytes like Member of Parliament David Bahati embolded tabloid publications such as "Rolling Stone" to print photos of allegedly-Gay Ugandans on its frontpage under the headline "hang them." It's believed that this incitement led to the January 26, 2011 murder of David Kato, a leading Ugandan Gay rights advocate.
The harsh anti-LGBT law signed by Gen. Museveni punishes people in same-sex relations with life imprisonment. Ugandans, including employers and landlords, who know of Gay people and don't report them to the police could be subjected to seven years imprisonment. Gen. Museveni said it was akin to someone witnessing a murder and not reporting it.
After signing the bill on Feb 24, Gen. Museveni disparaged, mocked, and ridiculed members of the LGBT community in Uganda and globally, in rambling comments to an audience that included members of Parliament, "scientific experts" he had assembled, and media -- including CNN and the BBC.
He claimed Ugandan scientists, in consultation with unnamed Western experts, had determined that while there were genetic factors that are taken into account, homosexuality was primarily "triggered" by how people were raised or "nurtured" and that the solution was to "rehabilitate" Gay people.
"Yes, genetically he may have some small-small things which are not in good order," Gen. Museveni expounded, describing a homosexual male, "but if he's not nurtured in that way -- if he's not encouraged in that way he would be normal, in spite of whatever little" genetic abnormality.
"Can somebody be homosexual purely by nature without nurture? The answer is 'no,'" general Museveni, the new expert on human sexuality, declared.
"No study has shown that you can be homosexual purely by nature," Gen. Museveni said. "Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality then society can do something about it to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the Bill."
His scientists had concluded that "nature without nurture, you cannot get a homosexual." He added: "So why don't we remove this nurture. The society removes this nurture. Instead of the way the Western societies they are presenting it that there are two options. It's like a menu. You go to a hotel, you can choose -- either this or that..."
These comments were welcomed by the Ugandan lawmakers who dutifully clapped for their president.
Museveni claimed in Uganda most people who engaged in same-sex activity were heterosexuals who were recruited into the practice by Westerners, on account of their poverty. "These are prostitutes for money," he said. "They are normal people. They are just recruited because of economic hardship they go into that."
"Even now I have not fully understood it," Museveni said, of homosexuality. "That you can fail to be attracted to all these beautiful women here and elsewhere, and you are attracted to a man," Museveni said.
"That's a very serious matter. It means there is something really wrong with you. So for me in my simple way I thought they must be born like that. What is attracting you in a man? A man to a man?"
The dictator also warned of the hazards of a homosexual practice he said was "indulged in and promoted by some of the outsiders" -- oral sex.
"Mouth, mouth, is for eating it's not for sex," Gen. Museveni declared. "I'm told you can even contract gonorrhea of the mouth and the throat on account of so-called oral sex. Not to mention worms. I'm told somebody can pick worms from -- you go for sex you come back with worms in your stomach. Because you went to a wrong address. I was wondering about Hepatitis-E. Can you also go through that route? Because it is oral-fecal. Can it? Yes, if you go South instead of..."
Museveni, bizarrely, also said he had personally consulted a Western expert, or experts on homosexuality over the phone. "I don't want to name names because it was in confidence," he claimed.
"One of them just the other night I was on the phone with one of my people in the West -- my friends in the West," Museveni said. "The person said there is no reputable scientist who can put his signature to the opinion that nature is the one that causes homosexuality. That's what somebody told me over the phone."
Not surprisingly, the hostile political environment against Uganda's LGBT community by Gen. Museveni and Ugandan lawmakers has had consequences.
The Guardian (U.K.) has reported that between December 2013 when the law was enacted by Parliament, and May 2014, attacks against LGBT community --including an attempted lynching and a suicide after harassment-- went up to 162, compared to only eight in almost all of 2013.
This represents a 20-fold increase although The Guardian's headline says 10-fold.
During the Feb. 24 signing ceremony, a reporter asked Gen. Museveni whether he would be willing to meet members of the LGBT community who had requested an audience with him through her. "We shall discuss it among ourselves and see the best. Because somebody must meet them to rehabilitate them and to study them," Museveni said, laughing as did his supporters. "Yes, and also to study them," he added. "Scientists should meet them study them, take their blood, look at their genetics. So definitely we need to meet them."
The autocrat either doesn't see that such a policy resembles experiments once conducted by the Nazi regime of he just doesn't care. After all, a Ugandan weekly newspaper, The Shariat (Vol. II No.15, April 15-21, 1998), quoted Gen. Museveni as having said: “As Hitler did to bring Germany together, we should also do it here. Hitler was a smart guy, but I think he went a bit too far by wanting to conquer the world.”
How callous and perverted is the dictator? In an interview published in The Atlantic Monthly Magazine's September 1994 issue Gen. Museveni pontificated: “I have never blamed the whites for colonizing Africa: I have never blamed these whites for taking slaves. If you are stupid, you should be taken a slave.”
Yes, this is the man who will be feted in Washington -- unless of course Gen. Museveni is barred from coming since there is policy that now permits it.
Shortly after Museveni's foreign minister Kutesa was installed at the UN, the White House announced on June 19 sanctions that include visa restrictions for Ugandan officials involved in corruption and in creating the anti-Gay law. As the architect of the law and the man who signed the bill, the sanctions, if serious, surely must cover Gen. Museveni.
President Obama should do the right thing and dis-invite Gen. Museveni from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
Note To Readers: Please also call The White House comments line at (202) 456-1111 and leave a message for President Obama to dis-invite Uganda's bigoted tyrant from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Also sign and share the petition on Change.org