There is no better way to describe it, is there? Let us welcome Mr. Barrack Hussein Obama, the President of the United States of America to the orgy. The orgy of pretence. The venue is Uganda. The subject about which we are all pretending is that of Gay Rights in Africa. Let us recap the events.
Obama’s warning shot
On the 17th February 2014, a strongly-worded statement was released by the White House, lashing out at President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda regarding his intention to sign into law a bill that criminalises homosexual and lesbian sexual acts. At the end of last week, Museveni signalled that he will assent to the bill – which he’d earlier rejected – after a presentation by government scientists on whether homosexuality is born or made. The bill, heavily supported by Ugandan public opinion, had suffered a setback when Museveni wrote a letter to the speaker citing reasons why he would not sign it. The Speaker, in 2012, told off foreign diplomats in Canada who had made comments about Uganda’s stand on homosexuality. We shall stop there in terms of its history. Sovereignty is the word on many Ugandan lips now.
Of course we who are claiming sovereignty conveniently forget that we never determined the borders of the country now called Uganda. We also forget that the God in our national motto (For God and my country) is a monotheist God, not the multiple gods of Buganda that the Christian missionaries told us were evil and of the devil. Of course, despite the use of Luganda by a big majority in the country, we still have English, the language of our colonisers, as the national language. I could go on and on. But we want to be sovereign, on the gay rights matter. We claim to be sovereign. Never mind that during the struggle to colonise us one of the sticky issues was that a king of Buganda was gay, and his sexual orientation led him to punishing some Christian converts who denied him sex due to the Christian colonial message that labelled homosexuality as alien.
Of course the British have not yet apologised to Africa for bringing with them a lot of hate. They also sit on some pulpits of pretence to preach tolerance, and threaten to cut aid if African nations do not tolerate homosexuality. As if they did not literally persuade and force Africans into hating homosexuality!
Museveni vs. science
Museveni, for his part, claims scientists told him that homosexuality is not born. But it seems he never read their report at all. (Find it HERE.) The scientists, in their report, write: “many scientists hypothesise that a combination of genetic, hormonal, psychological, environmental and social factors determine sexual orientation.” They add that, “the causes of homosexuality can be traced to biological, social, environmental, psychological or a combination of them.” Does Mr. Museveni not see that his pretence is transparent? Can’t he see that it can be seen through? The scientists ask, Can Homosexuality be learned or unlearned and answer thus: “Homosexuality is sexual behaviour (not a disorder) involving sexual attraction to people of the same sex. It is not clear whether this differing physiological exists at birth or developed after homosexual experience later in life.”
So, Museveni must be pretending about this. In any case, some people have suggested that the orgy of pretence in Museveni’s yard is still on because, indeed, one of his former aides, now a member of parliament, has been vocal against the passing of the bill. He authored a minority report in the Legal Parliamentary committee, with Hon. Otada, against the passing of the Bill. Hon. Amama Mbabazi, the country’s Prime Minister and Secretary General of the ruling party also protested the passing of the bill, because parliament lacked quorum the day it was passed. The word on the street is that Hon. Fox Odoi or Hon. Amama Mbabazi will petition the Constitutional Court, once the bill is assented to, pleading unconstitutionality of the law. Museveni must know this, right? So right now could be pretending, after all he knows that the law will be overturned by the Constitutional Court. See how the orgy is?
Obama’s selective vision
The United States of America and their Barrack Hussein Obama have not released statements as strong as the one they released yesterday when Uganda was busy passing other odious laws. A draconian Public Order Management Bill was passed and assented to by the President in 2013. That Act requires those intending to meet to get police permission. Figure this, you need the police to permit any assembly. This did not catch Mr. Obama’s eye. What a joke. This same law, of course, affects LGBTI activities in Uganda. Of course. Just like it affects all other Ugandan assemblies. But hell no, Mr. Obama did not see this. What an orgy of pretence this is. (See also “Obama’s dismal civil liberties record.”)
“Don’t call us homophobes.”
It does not end there. We Ugandans insist that gay people are abnormal, deserve to be punished for their sexual “preferences”, but we detest being called homophobic and bigots. Once, a colleague at Makerere, on his way to talk to journalists about the coverage of the gay rights debate in the country, was told by a Ugandan to tell the journalists to stop describing Ugandans as homophobes and bigots. So, we do not exactly like gay people and their lesbian cousins, but please we are not homophobes and bigots. We want to be able to say things that homophobes and bigots say without being called so. We do not want to be labelled by our opinion.
Mr. Obama is now part of us. Part of our orgy. The problem is that this orgy of pretence actually hurts some people. Forget the rich and privileged gay Africans. There are some people who are not even gay or lesbian but because of this orgy of pretence on the issue will be suspected of being gay and lesbian, and targeted. And of course someone will occasionally label another as gay and lesbian just to spite them. But of course if indeed this orgy of pretence will play out till the end, the Constitutional Court will nullify the law and Obama will be happy, and Museveni will blame the judges. But why do we have to pretend this much? What do we benefit? Forgive me for pretending to be stupid.
Bwesigye teaches Human Rights at Makerere University and is a research convener at St Augustine International University’s School of Law