This Is Why I Have A Problem With Fundamentalists Part 2

Ugandan anti-gay activist Pastor Martin Ssempa (C) leads anti-gay supporters as they celebrate after Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality in Kampala on Feb.24, 2014. Reuters/Edward Echwalu

Apparently, I’m in a ranty mood this week. Yesterday, I bitched about the erosion of women’s rights in America. Today, we’re going to revisit some horrible anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

Back in December, I posted about Uganda’s draconian anti-gay bill that was co-written by American fundamentalist Christian bigots:

When it was introduced in 2009, the bill was nicknamed the “Kill The Gays Bill” because it called for death sentences. In essence, Uganda wanted to legally kill gay people for being gay. The death sentence provision has since been removed. Instead, they’ll just lock them up and throw away the key. How generous.

Not only that, but if your friends, neighbors and coworkers don’t narc to the authorities that you are gay, they will also be prosecuted. “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, it’s actual name, makes it a crime to ‘promote’ homosexuality, which could mean simply offering HIV counseling” to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Ugandans and “prescribes a seven-year jail term for a person who ‘conducts a marriage ceremony’ for same-sex couples. [It also makes it a crime to rent] an apartment to an LGBT person, punishable by five years in prison.”

It seems that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni doesn’t read my blog, since in February, that disgusting bill became the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act. It is now punishable by a prison sentence to be gay in Uganda. You read that right. Gay = prison. It’s really difficult to wrap my mind around that concept. This is 2014, for fuck’s sake, yet civil rights are far from universal and homophobia is still rampant.

Before it was signed into law, U.S. President Obama warned Ugandan President Museveni that it would “complicate our valued relationship with Uganda,” which was a diplomatically veiled threat that the $400 million in annual U.S. aid to Uganda would dwindle.

Foreign policy is a messy business. The administration doesn’t support the anti-gay legislation, but by reducing aid, we’re really only hurting the ordinary citizens of Uganda, some of whom are impacted by the new stupid law. Plus, there’s still the whole Joseph Kony affair to attend to.

On Sunday, the Obama administration announced that it would decrease U.S. aid to Uganda’s government. According to the Washington Post, the United States has already moved to shift “$6.4 million that had been designated for the Interreligious Council of Uganda, which has supported the legislation. Approximately $3 million in tourism and biodiversity promotion programs has been transferred from the Ugandan government to nongovernmental organizations. The Pentagon has also shifted regional military conferences that were to be held in Uganda to other locations.”

At the same time, under the War Powers Resolution–the same resolution that President George W. Bush invoked in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks–the administration approved an increase in military support to Uganda.

According to Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, for the first time, the U.S. would be sending at least four CV-22 Osprey aircraft and 140 Air Force Special Operations members to Uganda to aid the hunt for the warlord Joseph Kony, whose Lord’s Resistance Army has led guerrilla attacks in central Africa for years. The White House notified Congress of the new deployments as they began Sunday night. These should be arriving in Uganda today.

I want one! (CV-22 Osprey: US Air Force)

Is it hypocritical to deny aid to ordinary Ugandan citizens while, at the same time, sending some pretty badass helicopters to hunt a warlord? Is it hypocritical to condemn Uganda’s hate legislation in the same month that hateful anti-gay legislation in Arizona, which were it not for the governor’s veto, would have allowed business owners to deny service to LGBT people on religious grounds?

Yes, it bloody well is, but as I said, foreign policy is a messy business. And while the President is the figurehead on the government ship, he is not at the helm, at least, not exclusively.

So, what’s the solution here? Do we punish the citizens of Uganda for their government’s treachery? Thanks in no small part to the history of Christian fundamentalist missionaries in Uganda as discussed in Part 1, a lot of Ugandans seem to agree that homosexuals are an abomination.

Ugandan anti-gay activist Pastor Martin Ssempa (C) leads anti-gay supporters as they celebrate after Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality in Kampala on Feb.24, 2014. Reuters/Edward Echwalu
Ugandan anti-gay activist Martin Ssempa, a Pentecostal preacher who championed the bill, center. (Reuters/Edward Echwalu)

Do we stop all military support and let a despot like Kony go free? Kony has been accused of ordering the abduction of children to become sex slaves and child soldiers, at least 66,000 of them. He was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in 2005 but as of writing this, he is still free.

For once, I’m not sure the U.S. government can really do any more than it’s doing. We’re removing financial aid from the Ugandan government and giving it to NGOs. We have publicly condemned the law. We cannot let a monster like Kony go free. What we can do is support the Ugandan people who are taking steps of their own.

The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL), comprised of 51 Ugandan human rights organizations, has filed a petition with Uganda’s Constitutional Court. This is their fight. I hope they win. For more information, visit their website.