The current international outrage against bashing the Gay and Lesbian community in Uganda falls into the designs of Ugandan authoritarian ruler Yoweri Museveni by whipping up the very sentiments that it is trying to combat: Homophobia.
In her presentation at a public dialogue on the Anti Homosexuality Bill at Makerere University, Nov. 18th 2009, Dr. Sylvia Tamale points out that ‘Anyone who cares to read history books knows very well that in times of crisis, when people at the locus of power are feeling vulnerable and their power is being threatened, they will turn against the weaker groups in society.’
Uganda is in fact on the verge of a political crisis created by the conflict of an authoritarian police state trying to pass for a quasi modern democracy. This conflict which has been in the making since Uganda’s 1995 Constitution necessitated holding of elections every five years to legitimize the mandate of a government is coming to a climax in 2011. The very government which commissioned the drafting and promulgation of the Constitution has spent the last decade tinkering with it and amending it to ensure that the status quo remains unchanged. This tinkering has included the unabashed amendment of the 1995 Constitution to remove a two term limit on holding the presidency. As a result the incumbent ruler, Yoweri Museveni, remains in power 13 years after the Constitution was promulgated and he has started campaigning for his next term with the amended Constitution wrapping him in some semblance of legitimacy.
Each time we draw close to an election period the incumbent President with the help of well paid sycophants strategically placed in the media, parliament, judiciary, security apparatus right down to the local councils; whips out a subject that will divert attention from his government’s failure to deliver on campaign promises. Each election cycle the incumbent has announced a pet project—from agricultural policy reforms, Entandikwa, Universal Primary Education, to Bonna Bagaggawale [Prosperity for all] and Universal Secondary Education], to sweeten the deal for his re-election. However, at the same time, knowing that the failure of his pet initiatives will compromise his reelection bid he also creates a diversionary subject that whips up deeply rooted, conservative phobias in the people’s culture or subconscious.
Any phobia that has sexual connotations will succeed in creating the desired effect because in Ugandan culture, like in many cultures worldwide; sexual relations of any kind are a tantalizing taboo topic guaranteed to overshadow any real time pressing demand for delivery on promises of public goods and services. Most Ugandans are quasi Christians that conveniently hold onto customary practices that justify permissive lifestyles like extramarital sex or Moslems that prefer the permissive interpretation of Sharia laws relating to multiple marital partners. Moreover there are a good number of agnostics and practitioners of customary beliefs that are not overly concerned with the teachings of Mohammed or Christ on conjugal relations.
So it is not by accident that as 2011 approaches Ugandan politicians led by the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni are suddenly obsessed with homosexuality and appear to be starting a homophobic cult that is being given an aura of legitimacy through a private members Bill that seeks to further criminalize homosexual acts.
The reaction of the international community at this time is anything but focused on the politics behind the president’s homophobic drive. Those against the legislation and those supporting it have chosen a religious approach that is focused on the legislative rather than the political intent of the Anti homosexuality Bill.
Like all legislative attempts at policing the bedrooms of adults the Bill will have no real impact on our private lifestyles. However, the Bill whether it is passed or not will create a lively debate that will serve a very sinister political purpose. Those who follow Ugandan electoral cycles will not be surprised by this diversion because they would have witnessed the same drama around HIV/AIDS in 2001 and rape in 2006. In 2011 the diversion that will whip up our base, conservative and even primitive sexual prejudices will be homosexuality.
Deputy Secretary Regional and International Affairs
Forum for Democratic Change