Saturday, 14 May 2011

Uganda Kill Gays bill stalled - or stopped? And an early post mortem

By Paul Canning

Uganda's Kill the Gays bill was not discussed in Friday's Parliament session and it is unclear whether it will return in the new Parliament in June.

A Parliament spokesperson told Warren Throckmorton that parliamentary business had been stalled Friday on a "technicality".

Parliament formally finishes 18 May and Throckmorton was told, first. that MPs were discussing a motion to continue all business until the next Parliament perhaps next week, when a new Cabinet is in place, then that the Speaker could call the members back before 18 May.

Throckmorton could not confirm whether the bill could continue into the next Parliament (rather than die with the end of the previous Parliament), nor whether procedure means that David Bahati MP (the bill's proponent) would have to reintroduce it as a Private Members Bill.

Throughout the week, the World has been relying for its information on the bill's progress in Parliament on the sterling work of bloggers Warren Throckmorton and Jim Burroway, as opposed to the usual major news agencies. In fact one, the Associated Press, made a serious error on the supposed removal of the death penalty from the bill - an issue which the anti-gay forces have repeated talked of as a 'concession' (see BBC last Monday). As Throckmorton demonstrated on Thursday, the bill which was finally presented did contain the death penalty.

The issues with mainstream media reporting led Burroway to post that he was 'exasperated' on Wednesday.
"Mainstream media have been wrongly reporting this for more than a year now. Every time they’ve reported it, they have been wrong. Stop doing it, mainstream media," he wrote.
It remains unclear how (and if) the massive international protests played a role in stalling or stopping the bill this week. It was reported that Ugandan government offices were flooded with messages from around the World, however there has been little to no reporting within Uganda of this. Such reporting would be expected if the bill was playing a 'distraction' role for President Museveni, who is being strongly criticised for repressing protest and his security forces attacks on the opposition, amongst other issues, as many had said it would.

Because the reporting on the machinations within the Parliament has largely been from a distance, as of now, no evidence exists that the international protests actually did stop the bill. Further, the issues with information on Ugandan Parliament procedures and Ugandan politics was most sharply demonstrated on Thursday when Throckmorton posted that the President is unable to veto a bill voted for by Parliament - he can send it back for another consideration but cannot veto. A veto had been the central demand of petitions with over two million signatures (and was something I discussed in a Wednesday article about what could happen if the bill passed).

However, as I examined in depth in that article, the international pressures and the consequences, on aid and trade for example, of passing the bill are extremely serious. This must have been considered by Museveni's office and the government generally this week. Museveni himself has spoken about the pressures in the past. But exactly how that played out this week and whether it played a role in the bill's stalling/death we don't know.

What I also discussed was the determination of the anti-gay forces. They have a lot invested in anti-gay actions, and that includes a financial investment as being an anti-gay Preacher in Uganda can be very lucrative. Because of that, I seriously doubt that the bill is dead, just halted., who were the first to release a call to action last Sunday, which ended up with over half a million signing their support, made clear in their message to supporters that "the fight isn’t over yet."

They also say that now "is a time to celebrate" - and this was what activists said they were doing Friday in Kampala. said that the two million+ actions from them and Avaaz, plus the messages individuals sent plus the clear message from many governments to the Ugandan government "shows the impact that we can have when people from every corner of the planet and of every identity come together to build a world in which everyone can live freely and be embraced for who they are."

That's true, but as we stop and look back at the last week 'we' also need to look at the issues its events have shown up.

This video was released by on Friday 'to show out how it all happened'.

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