How Uganda's President Museveni Created Kill-The-Gays Mentality
"I have told the Criminal Investigations Department to look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them," the New Vision, Uganda's government-owned daily newspaper quoted the general saying, in an article on September 29, 1999. "God created Adam and Eve...I did not see God creating man and man."
[Black Star News Editorial]
The murder of David Kato, a gay rights activist in Uganda who was bludgeoned with a hammer, can be laid directly on the doorsteps of the country's dictator of 25 years Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni who for years has been publicly vilifying homosexuals.
It's one thing to accept that in Uganda, as in most African countries, with conservative traditional and cultural values, homosexuality is taboo--denied, hidden, rejected and denounced. It's altogether reprehensible, abhorrent, and completely unacceptable, when a country's president incites the population against a segment of its own citizenry, especially one that is already ostracized.
That's precisely what's been happening in Uganda--clearing the path for the killing of Kato, a spokesman for Sexual Minorities Uganda and a noted human rights activist.
Uganda gained quite a bit of negative global publicity last year when a member of parliament from Gen. Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM) ruling party introduced legislation to make homosexuality punishable by death. After calls from the Prime ministers of Britain and Canada, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging him to have the proposed Bill scrapped, Gen. Museveni, during a meeting of his NRM stalwarts, urged legislators to "go slow" on the Bill, which he said had now become a "foreign policy" issue.
According to the President's own official website in Uganda, Gen. Museveni said the proposal was "brought as a private members bill to Parliament" by Bahati, and not by his government. Gen. Museveni, on his website also claims that "in his conversation with US secretary of State Clinton, he said he had heard that homosexuals come from Europe and recruit young people using money, something she described as exploitation."
It would be interesting to compare Secretary Clinton's own recollection of that conversation with general Museveni's account.
As a natural progression of David Bahati's hate campaign, last year, a Ugandan tabloid newspaper, Rolling Stone, published the names, photographs and addresses of suspected homosexuals --including Kato's-- with a yellow banner saying "hang them." The editor of the paper Giles Muhame said it was in the "public interest," even though attacks on suspected gays were reported after the publication--he also called on people to report those believed to be homosexual to the police.
Yet, Gen. Museveni's attempt to distance himself from Bahati's proposed execute-the-gays Bill or the publisher of Rolling Stone's lynching campaign, is disingenuous. For years, the dictator himself had been preaching hatred towards homosexuals.
Here are a sampling of his own utterances:
"I have told the Criminal Investigations Department to look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them," The New Vision, Uganda's government-owned daily newspaper quoted the general saying, in an article on September 29, 1999. "God created Adam and Eve...I did not see God creating man and man."
And according to local Uganda media and human rights organization's accounts, in subsequent weeks there were indeed arrests of several suspected homosexuals; some were tortured and locked up for weeks by the secret police. Some victims described being kicked and slapped until they bled, made to urinate on each other, having skin peeling chemicals poured on their skin, or made to sleep in the same room with corpses; some were reportedly allowed to be raped by other inmates.
Even students reported being publicly caned in front of their peers and then expelled from school for suspected of being homosexual.
On August 17, 2008, under the headline "Museveni backs church against gays," The New Vision reported that during the consecration of a Bishop, Gen. Museveni, speaking against homosexuality, said: “I salute the Archbishop and bishops of Africa for resisting disorientation and a decadent culture.." being passed by Western nations.
“Don’t fear, resist and do not compromise on that. It is a danger not only to the believers but to the whole of Africa. It is bad if our children become complacent and think that people who are not in order are alright," he is quoted as saying. Dr. Kizza Besigye, leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) opposition party who was also attending the consecration ceremony reportedly walked out.
Yet, who could blame people like David Bahati and the publisher of Rolling Stone newspaper, who might have seen themselves as Ugandan "heroes" and "saviors" following such pronouncements by their president. Especially when the president has now been in office for a quarter century and recently said, regardless of the outcome of the Feb. 18, 2011 presidential elections, that he does not intend to cede power.
Yet Gen. Museveni remains a favorite of some Western leaders, including in Washington and London.
As recently as June 3, 2010 under the headline "Museveni warns on dangers of sodomy," The New Vision reported that Gen. Museveni "asked the clergy and African leaders to guard against Western culture, warning that the continent will end up eaten by homosexuality if they relax."
The newspaper quoted him saying: “The African Church is the only one that is still standing against homosexuality. The Europeans are finished. If we follow them, we shall end up in Sodom and Gomorrah.” The newspaper said Museveni also spoke about the “dehumanisation of people through homosexuality.”
African traditional values and conservatism aside, Uganda's dictator has undeniably through the presidential pulpit fostered the kind of hate and impunity which gave rise to David Bahati, the publisher of Rolling Stone, and now the killer of David Kato.
Even after Kato's murder, Muhame, Rolling Stone's editor today told a Ugandan newspaper: “He brought death upon himself. He hasn’t lived carefully. Kato was a shame to this country.”
No; it's Bahati, Muhame, and Museveni who are a shame to Uganda.
"Speaking Truth To Empower."
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