Sunday 11 September 2011

Ugandan President's wife behind 'Kill gays' bill: Wikileaks

Janet Museveni
By Paul Canning

According to a newly released US diplomatic cable, the wife of the President of Uganda, Janet Musceveni, "is ultimately behind" the Anti-Homosexuality (AHB, 'Kill gays') Bill.

The cable is amongst those newly released unredacted by Wikileaks. It is signed by the US Ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier.

It quotes a 2009 private conversation with Senior Presidential Adviser John Nagenda, who had just published a column in The New Vision newspaper comparing the AHB to McCarthyism and the Inquisition. He told an Embassy Political Officer:
"President Museveni is "quite intemperate" when it comes to homosexuality, but that the President will likely recognize the dangers of passing the anti-homosexuality legislation. He said First Lady Janet Museveni, who he described as a "very extreme woman", is ultimately behind the bill."
"He added that the bill's most vociferous public supporter, Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo, is a "very bad guy" responsible for a campaign of mass arrests - known by the Swahili term 'panda gari' - during the early 1980s under the Obote II regime while serving as Kampala's District Commissioner. Nagenda said Buturo is using the anti-homosexuality legislation to redefine himself and "will do anything in his power to be a populist." He advised the U.S. and other donors to refrain from publicly condemning the bill as this fuels the anti-homosexual and anti-western rhetoric of the bill's proponents."
Nagenda has today confirmed the comments are accurately reported to The Daily Monitor.

Update, 23 September: Janet Museveni has denied Nagenda's claim in an article for the government newspaper New Vision. She wrote:
"This ludicrous claim is not only an insult to Hon. Bahati, the originator of the bill but also to me, because it implies that I need to hide behind someone else in order to introduce a bill in parliament."
The leaked cables also contain allegations by a ruling-party insider, Mike Mukula, who was described by Lanier as a "disgraced former Ugandan Health Minister and current National Resistance Movement (NRM) vice-chairman for eastern Uganda", that he had been made the "fall guy" in a corruption scandal. This involved the alleged stealing of $1.5 million from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) where "most of the missing GAVI funds were used by First Lady Janet Museveni."

Family feud?

Mukula also said that
"Even though there were rumors that Janet Museveni had presidential ambitions, she preferred to be in the background and didn't have the "stamina and focus" needed to run a serious presidential campaign."
Fredrick Masiga, writing today in the Daily Monitor, points to new comments by Nagenda that Janet Museveni "is the lone voice of opposition at Cabinet meetings and seems to stand up to the President."
"Nagenda believes she might just be the ‘chosen one’ to “bell the cat” after all and perhaps, in not so far a future, engineer change at the top."
But according to Masiga:
"There has been more talk about Museveni grooming his son, Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kaineruba, for the seat than the First Lady’s ambitions of becoming Uganda’s first female president."
In another Cable, the Ambassador writes that the First couple’s allegedly “frosty relations are no secret in Kampala”.
"Mr Museveni, the envoy said in his cable, named his wife, Janet, for the first time to cabinet during the February 15, 2009 reshuffle, to allegedly broaden her access to state “resources and perks” while hoping on the downside that the Karamoja docket [making her Minister for the impoverished Northern Ugandan region] would present the First Lady an “intractable problem” to allegedly weaken her growing popularity."
Cables released earlier this year had already said that:
"An embassy source points to the first lady, Janet Museveni, as the greatest defender of the [AHB]."
But they also contained reassurances to American diplomats by President Yoweri Musceveni that he would "handle" the AHB and to lay off public pressure.

The newly released cables also quote Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa saying in January last year that he believed the AHB will ultimately "die a natural death." This was followed up with a meeting with Minister for International Affairs Henry Okello Oryem and more reassurances.
"Asking his note takers to leave subsequent statements out of the Ministry's official record, Oryem assured the Under Secretary that Cabinet is moving to quietly shelve the bill without agitating core members of the NRM caucus. He described the January 20 Cabinet meeting on the bill (ref. C) as a "free for all" that revealed the previously unknown positions of several Cabinet members. "Now we know who is who," said Oryem, " and how to deal with it. It will be worked out.""
'Pastor wars'

Janet Museveni has made few public statements but last year she preached at a youth convention against promoting tolerance of homosexuality.

Jim Burroway details Janet Museveni's links to the American-based right-wing Christian evangelical Dominionist movements

Museveni, has been named in an ongoing Ugandan court case as a participant in a homophobic smear campaign known as the 'Pastor wars'.

Mrs Museveni was referred to in evidence as a backer of smear tactics using sodomy accusations against Robert Kayanja, a 'prosperity evangelist' Christian Pastor, TV star and younger brother of John Sentamu, the Anglican Archbishop of York. It is alleged to have been organised by three competing clerics - Martin Sempa, Solomon Male and Bob Kyazze - all key promoters of the AHB.

Sempa, Male and Kyazze, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with their agents David Mukalazi and a state house employee, Deborah Anitah Kyomuhendo, face charges of conspiring to injure Kayanja’s reputation.

Meeting LGBT human rights defenders

The newly released cables also contain one reporting a meeting between the Ambassador and six LGBT human rights defenders, three from LGBT groups.

The Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Livingston Ssewanyana, said the AHB "is a government "gimmick" to divert attention away from other assaults on human rights and democratic freedoms that will ultimately undermine the integrity of the 2011 elections."

Julius Kaggwa, Director of the Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development, said that "the bill's proponents are scapegoating homosexuals for political reasons."

Director of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) Frank Mugisha said threats have increased. He:
"Alleged that some homosexuals have been arrested and detained by authorities and homophobic extremists eager to build legal cases in advance of the legislation's ratification. He said state-sponsored homophobia is filtering down even to low level government officials in rural areas."
Val Kalende, the Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), said:
"Members of Parliament who privately oppose the bill fear losing their seats if they speak out against the legislation, and therefore support the bill in public and will vote for it should it ever reach the parliamentary floor. Kalende said Bahati is blaming homosexuals for the spread HIV/AIDS, pornography, and increasing incidents of rape and defilement, and that the legislation is a diversionary ploy intended to steer attention away from real issues like corruption and the 2011 elections. She noted that the bill is already a political tool, as some have accused presidential aspirant Olara Otunnu of being gay."
Mugisha and Kalende said they and other activists have been forced to switch telephones and restrict electronic communications to avoid harassment and eavesdropping.

HIV/AIDS activist Major Rubaramira Ruanga:
"Attributed overwhelming domestic homophobia to a general lack of civic education. He said the Ugandan leaders at the forefront of the anti-homosexuality bill are using the issue to build populist, xenophobic support. Ruranga dismissed claims that homosexuality is an un-African, foreign import, noting that he witnessed homosexuality among cattle herders as a boy in rural Uganda. He warned that reporting requirements in the bill will result in increased HIV/AIDS rates and an explosion of Ugandan LGBT asylum seekers."
Hassan Shire Sheikh, the Director of East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project:
"Hailed Kalende's courage for speaking out publicly against the bill and remaining in Uganda - despite increasing threats and harassment - to defend GLBT rights. He recommended that the State Department dedicate a section of its annual human rights report to the specific acknowledgement of critical human rights defenders in each country, as this would increase the legitimacy and visibility of their work and perhaps also afford some level of protection.
There were contradictory reports last week about the possible reintroduction of the AHB to the Ugandan Parliament after it ran out of time during the last parliamentary session. 
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