Uganda is set to pass new anti-gay legislation with provisions calling for the execution of gay people under some circumstances. The rumor of the death penalty clause being removed seems grossly exaggerated. Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who has followed the legislation closely, indicates that some Western media are erroneously reporting that the death penalty clause has been removed. He writes that "the bill is the same bill it has always been. It cannot be amended until the committee report is presented to the floor of the Parliament." Even with the amendment the legislation remains a gross travesty of justice.
The "intellectual" fuel for this grotesque law came from Christian fundamentalists in the United States. According to The New York Times:
Much of Africa's anti-homosexuality movement is supported by American evangelicals, the Rev. Kapya Kaoma of Zambia wrote in 2009, who are keen to export the American "culture war" to new ground. Indeed, American evangelical Christians played a role in stirring the anti-homosexual sentiment that culminated in the initial legislation in Uganda.
American fundamentalists operate in Africa both openly and covertly. They conduct public "crusades" to covert African Christians to their extremist views but also run a plethora of "charitable" projects operated "under the umbrella of nongovernment organizations (NGOs), which provides them with access to grant monies from various overseas agencies," according to "Globalizing the Culture Wars," a report by Political Research Associates (PRA). Because none of this is reported, PRA acknowledges that "it is difficult to quantify the exact amounts going to Africa," but all of it contributes to their influence.
Churches in Africa have been lobbied by American fundamentalists to drop ties with mainstream Christian groups and promised funding if they do. PRA says that African leaders, especially "presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Sam Nujoma of Namibia have all used homosexuality to distract people from the issues facing their countries and churches by claiming that homosexuals are responsible for moral decay in Africa. They have linked homosexuality with child molestation, ritual child murder, corruption, opposition parties (in Uganda), pornography, and other social ills. Yet these same leaders are silent about human rights abuses and undemocratic tendencies in their countries." (Also see Zimbabwe: The Death of a Dream.)
American fundamentalist Rev. Rick Warren, featured by President Obama at his inauguration, traveled to the region to meet with political leaders. His public message in Uganda was, "Homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right." Whether Warren cares to admit it or not, that statement expresses tacit approval of laws against LGBT people, because, by his theory, no violation of rights is involved.
This repressive measure was born out of American Christian fundamentalism and corrupt politicians using anti-gay campaigns to divert attention from their own misrule. But how do these regimes survive? What keeps them in place? The sad answer is that the U.S. government has poured billions of your tax dollars into Uganda.
International security expert Peter Bergen wrote in The New York Times that Obama "has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades." As part of that new aggressive foreign interventionism, the United States has been arming the government of Uganda and training the military.
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton met with Museveni to discuss new U.S.-Uganda military cooperation. This started during her husband's term as president under the so-called African Crisis Response Intiative, seen by some as merely an excuse for the American military camel to get its nose under the tent. The Obama administration has escalated U.S. involvement with Uganda's military.
Voice of America reports that the purported reason for the escalation of support to Uganda has been the "threat of the Lord's Resistance Army," but they also report that Paul Omach, professor of security studies at Makerere University in Uganda, says that that is not the primary reason that the United States is involved in Uganda. He notes that the LRA is only "several hundred" in number.
Mobhare Mitinyi, who wrote for Tanzania's The Citizen, also found Obama disingenuous. He asked:
Why has Obama taken this rather unexpected step at this time when the LRA is already reduced to merely 500 active fighters? In fact, five years ago Ugandan forces pushed Kony out of Ugandan territory for the first time although they couldn't wipe his group out. On top of that, the brutal messianic leader is on the run trying to dodge the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant. So, why now!
He quotes Obama as saying "that deploying these US armed forces furthers US national security interests and foreign policy." It's part of what Bergen called Obama's aggressive foreign interventionism. Mitinyi says new U.S. legislation "launched a satellite intelligence program with Uganda along with RQ-11 Raven miniature unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance and helicopters," which has "completely changed US intelligence and logistical capabilities."
The AP reports, "Already this year, the Pentagon has poured more than $82 million into counterterrorism assistance for six African countries, with more than half of that going to Uganda." This military aid supports Museveni's government. Prof. Omach warned:
The paradox of external military assistance in authoritarian states is that it ends up supporting authoritarianism, either intentionally or unintentionally. The countries with military means at hand will always use military means to resolve political disputes, even at home. So that is possibly one of the unfortunate impacts of the U.S. military involvement. I think it has given the government and Museveni's leadership a lease on life.
Even while the Ugandan government is preparing legislation that will allow it to arrest anyone who supports gay rights and give it the power to execute people for homosexual acts, the U.S. government is willing to continue funding the regime so as to have military access to Africa in order to fight this undefinable and unstoppable "war on terror."
This is not the first time gays were thrown under the "war on terror" bus. In Iraq the United States set up a regime that has allowed gay Iraqis to be hunted down and murdered. While that regime was put in power by the U.S. and relied upon it for support, the U.S. has said nothing to them about the killings. One Iraqi gay activist who escaped to London says that as many as 750 gay men have been executed by radical Islamists and government forces alike.
American money propping up the Museveni regime is significantly more than what is given militarily. In the last four years the U.S. has lavished almost $1.8 billion in aid to Uganda. Ostensibly, this government-to-government aid is supposed to help economic development, support infrastructure, provide health issues, etc. In reality much of ends up in the pockets of the ruling elite and their bureaucrats.
Uganda is considered so corrupt that many other major donors have already pulled funding. The Guardian reported in November that Britain "has suspended all direct aid to the Ugandan government with immediate effect." Some concerns arose from the fact that funds from Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden "had ended up in accounts belong to the prime minister's aides" instead of going to projects for which they were intended. Uganda's increasingly heavy-handed authoritarianism has also come into play. The Guardian says that Museveni's reputation has "dimmed in recent years because of his heavy-handed tactics in dealing with political opposition and following accusations that he has been arming troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
Uganda's New Vision newspaper reports that in addition to Britain, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Ireland had decided "to halt payments in the wake of a scandal involving theft of donor's funds."
Corrupt regimes in Africa use the plight of their people -- often the result of the government's own policies -- to extract aid from wealthier countries and donor organizations. The Daily Monitor, a Uganda-based newspaper, bluntly editorialized that "corruption thrives at a large scale in government. The implication is that a considerable percentage of the money which comes into the economy as aid is the same money that is embezzled." Member of Parliament Gerald Karuhanga charged that "Uganda continues to ask for foreign funding but when the money comes, it goes in the wrong hands. If fact, very little foreign assistance would be required today if all of our leaders were clean and ready to serve."
In The Politics of American Aid and Conflict in Northern Uganda, Sophia Boehm makes an important point about foreign aid in the case of Uganda: "Rather than facilitate development in Uganda, US aid has instead legitimized and propped up a government that relies on undemocratic practices to maintain power."
Uganda's "kill the gays" bill would be reasons enough to end U.S. financial support, but we should also consider the fact that such aid does not reach the people for whom it is intended, instead lining the pockets of corrupt government officials. American taxpayers are funding the government that is pushing this legislation and enriching the officials responsible for it. Our military is helping the Ugandan military keep this corrupt regime in power. Like it or not, every American taxpayer is funding the "kill the gays" legislation.
If you would like to see the United States withdraw all aid to the Ugandan government, please sign this petition.