Thursday, 26 May 2011

In Zambia, Oxford Uni pulled into anti-gay 'political mudslinging' whilst former president backs gay rights

By Paul Canning

Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata has been attacked by government supporters for a speech at Oxford University - supposedly cover for raising money for his party from British LGBT groups.

President Rupiah Banda accused Sata of lying about the 2 May speech.

Henry Mulenga, the Executive Director of The Gallant Youths of Zambia told the Zambian Watchdog:
“We are very disappointed to hear that Mr Sata has travelled to London to seek money from gay activists for his political campaigns. This is very sad news for a Christian nation like Zambia.”
Dr Nic Cheeseman, a fellow at Jesus who acted as one of the event’s organisers, said:
“The controversy surrounding Sata’s visit demonstrates the deep politicisation of the media in many African states. On the one hand, the opposition media sent reporters and cameramen to cover the trip, and gave Sata’s talks prominent coverage, seeking to depict him as a responsible leader respected in the west.”

“Conversely, the rest of the print media, which is broadly aligned with the government, set out to spread rumours about the trip that were deliberately designed to smear Sata’s reputation.”
Zambia's leadership has been accused of using homosexuality as a wedge issue in that country's 2011 general election. And growing anti-gay activity by church leaders is leading to increased attacks on LGBT people, say local gay leaders, risking Zambia becoming "another Uganda or Senegal."

The Danish Ambassador was forced to deny accusations 12 May that Sata was soliciting for funds from that country in return for Zambia’s recognition of gay rights once the opposition forms government.

Sata told Danish journalists in March that:

"Some people are saying I am talking to you people because I want to bring back gays and I tell them that listen, the laws of Zambia recognise the gays. The laws of Zambia recognise the lesbians."
This led to strong attacks on Sata by Church leaders and government ministers. However some Zambian Church leaders have said that LGBT should not be discriminated against and government-supporting media have been accusing the Catholic Church of 'promoting homosexuality' alongside supporting the opposition.

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda this week again criticised sodomy laws. He was speaking alongside former Botswana President Festus Mugae in Malawi's capital. They are part of a group of African elder statesmen whose 'HIV Free Generation' has increasingly spoken out against such laws for the role the play in exacerbating the HIV epidemic in Africa.
“We can preach about behavioral change, but as long as we confine gays and lesbian into dark corners because of our inflexibility to accommodate them, the battle on HIV and AIDS can never be won,” said Mugae.
Said Kaunda:
“We are not only condemning African leaders who are criminalizing same sex marriage, but we are urging them to start recognising these people, just for the sake of HIV and AIDS.”
Malawi's government has blamed local human rights leaders who support LGBT rights for their loss of foreign aid. Donors have said that the main considerations in withdrawing aid or demanding greater assurances are wide human rights concerns with Malawi, of which LGBT rights form only one part.

Last month the state-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) broadcast an editorial calling on Malawians to 'fight against such activists' saying they are 'not patriotic'. President Bingu wa Mutharika has said that some NGOs are "being used by external forces to destabilize the government." Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Dr. George Chaponda said “these are the people who are being used as agents from the government’s enemies.”

A senior ruling party MP, Ibrahim Matola, rubbished these claims on Tuesday in Malawi's parliament.
“I am worried when I hear government officials telling the nation that donors are pulling out because of gay rights. That is a blatant lie!”

“Is Academic freedom a gay right? Is press freedom a gay right? Is banning of public demonstrations a gay right? Is nepotism a gay right? Is tribalism a gay right? Is victimization of the vice president a gay right?

“Is failure to hold local government elections a gay right? Is financial mismanagement a gay right? Is corruption a gay right? Is threatening a human rights activist a gay right?”

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