President Museveni’s utterances last month at a Young Achievers Awards Ceremony in Kampala, that: “I hear European homosexuals are recruiting in Africa…You should discourage your colleagues [involved in homosexuality] because God was not foolish to do the way he arranged;” were interpreted to be an endorsement of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill tabled by Hon. Bahati in Uganda’s Parliament.
Some basic Internet research on state inspired homophobia in Uganda clearly shows that Bahati is taking the rap for his President and for fundamentalist right wing idealists. While I could not find any anti-homosexuality sentiments attributed to Bahati prior to the tabling of the controversial Bill last September, I was able to find such reports attributed to President Yoweri Museveni. I have previously stated that the covert purpose of the Bill is political rather than moral. It is an instrument for mobilization of the masses, that is meant to detract from government’s policy failures and eventually it will be used to persecute opposition politicians.
A Human Rights Watch Report states that as early as 1998 President Museveni told a press conference, “When I was in America, sometime ago, I saw a rally of 300,000 homosexuals. If you had a rally of 20 homosexuals here, I would disperse it.”… In September 1999…President Museveni told a conference on reproductive health: “I have told the CID [Criminal Investigations Department] to look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them.” Several people were jailed in the wake of this mandate.
At the time the only quoted voice in opposition of the President’s pronouncements came from renowned African Scholar Ali Mazrui. He spoke at an International Conference on Constitutionalism in Africa organized by Makerere University and stated that: "The governments of Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe attacking homosexuals sound as though they are more concerned with homosexuality than corruption… That shouldn’t be a matter for the president to make pronouncements on homosexuals and gays shouldn’t be used as scapegoats. Intrusion in the private lives of individuals is unconstitutional,"
Later President Museveni’s links with the US far right ideology became evident in his policy preferences for curbing the spread of HIV AIDS and his attempts to criminalize the spread of HIV AIDS. In mid 2004 President Museveni made a controversial speech at an International HIV Conference in Bangkok, Thailand. His remarks drew the attention of AIDS activists but not the wrath of the LGBT community as the current outrage has done. At the time we focused on how the Bush Administration was influencing Uganda’s HIV AIDS policy and driving it towards emphasis on the A and B (Abstinence and Be-Faithful) while detracting from the C (Use condoms) in the ABC policy; in conformity with far right ideals in the USA. We were also concerned that US funding was undermining the widespread use of cheaper generic drugs in the fight against HIV AIDS.
When he visited the USA in November 2007, Human Rights Watch drew the attention of President Bush to President Museveni’s proposed criminalization of HIV transmission and the Global AIDS Alliance released a statement that said: ‘Museveni announced that because Uganda "has no homosexuals," HIV is not spread through homosexual contact there. However, Uganda not only has homosexuals, but Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented that homosexuals have suffered systematic abuse at the hands of the government.’
In 2008 at a service for the consecration of a Bishop of the Church of Uganda, The President once again described homosexuality as ‘mtumbavu’ the Swahili word for ’stupid’ and saluted the Church for resisting this decadent culture.
Hon. Bahati is a sitting duck for the LGBT community because he has become the face of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda after he tabled it and his name will forever be linked to the international outrage that Uganda has attracted for proposing to execute gays and lesbians for what the Bill calls aggravated homosexuality. But rights activists need to focus harder and higher on the real source of his inspiration and not just on the Ugandan President but also the fundamentalist interests in the US that sponsor radical right wing idealism in our country.