The reemergence of the draconian Ugandan anti-gay legislation isn’t just a tedious clarion alarm. It shows that as the world’s economy improves, vital human rights concerns subside from the limelight.
It also shows how lasting wrong-minded movements once elevated to celebrity status in Africa can survive, as compared, say, to America.
Despite many of your complaints about my sarcasm and cynicism, I truly believe in America and get my sustenance from the ultimate outing of truth, here. But that’s not the case in many places in the developing world like Africa. Once launched into the heavens, it’s much more difficult to bring an errant issue down to a safe earth landing in East Africa than here.
David Bahati is the poster child for Church Street (sorry, I mean “K” street). He’s the puppet Ugandan legislator that does the gofer work for American conservatives who found an entry into Uganda after Bill Clinton’s many overtures to the country more than a decade ago.
His travel to and from America, hosting in America, and coaching as a politician came right from America’s extreme right. He introduced a bill in the Ugandan parliament in 2009 that was ultimately withdrawn because of its draconian provisions including execution for some prosecuted gays.
It is simply the American right using Uganda as a place to do what they can’t do, here.
The bill was withdrawn because of a huge public outcry worldwide. But last week Bahati reintroduced the bill, and immediately thereafter as if scripted from source, the Ugandan government supported the bill by reducing the greatest possible punishment from execution to life imprisonment.
That is the margin that the American coaches think will win the day. And they might be right.
The world’s state of happiness is improving, exception the Greece affair. The nearly two million signatures on on-line petitions against the 2009 bill set a precedent that already we know won’t be achieved this time around.
A coalition of East African clerics hopes to achieve a petition with a measly “5,000 signatures.”
Even as Uganda itself has achieved little additional political stability, its economy is no longer dive bombing. What I’d really like to see are Bahati’s emails and phone records, as I’m absolutely sure his moves are being orchestrated from here.
The right in America is on a roller-coaster right now, and each time Santorum’s head appears above the rising waters, they gloat, and I’ll bet, pick up the phone and tell Bahati, just as they would tell Santorum, it’s now or never.
They’ve got a better bet going with Bahati.
And unfortunately, Ugandan activitists are being clobbered not just by American righties but South African righties as well. Same dynamic: can’t do it at home, do it where you can when you can.
Jon Qwelane was appointed South Africa’s ambassador to Uganda last year. He was subsequently convicted of hate speech (anti-gay) in South Africa, but his ambassadorship continues. South Africa has a long tradition of gay rights, and it’s embodied in its constitution. I wouldn’t doubt an “evil axis” of K-street and aberrant South African diplomats.
So this time the Ugandan putsch is without finesse. Last time it went through Parliament several times like a ballerina pas-de-deuxing through a china shop, as quietly as possible then finally petered out after a huge international outcry.
This time several days ago, only a week after Bahati reintroduced the bill, the Ugandan Minister for Ethics and Integrity initiated a massive public campaign to arrest gays.
In fact he personally marched into a convention of presumed LGBT and took over the podium, announcing arrests as activists ran to the corridors.
Since 2009 the Ugandan parliament has been riveted with controversy, descent and wide movements of subservience to a growing executive followed by courageous acts of trying to assert their increasingly diminishing power. But the net result, today, isn’t good.
I think this time the anti-gay bill will pass. Fortunately, it won’t mandate execution for being LGBT, just life imprisonment.
Santorum won’t win. Bahati will.