Sobering news out of Uganda today: the report last night from Uganda's Daily Monitor stating that President Yoweri Museveni had "blocked" the country's notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, is false.
Daily Monitor reporter Yasiin Mugerwa based that report on "an eight-page letter to Speaker [Rebecca Kadaga] and MPs dated December 28, 2013." Mugerwa's article contained excerpts from the letter, but not the full text of the letter itself.
The Monitor's story (that Museveni blocked the bill) was picked up by Ugandan LGBT activists, LGBT blogs (including this site), and major news outlets like BBC News, Agence France-Presse, Al Jazeera, the International Business Times, and the UK's Independent.
But the full text of President Museveni's letter did not surface until today, when an LGBT activist forwarded it to BuzzFeed's J. Lester Feder. Contrary to the Daily Monitor's earlier report, nowhere in the letter does the President explicitly state that he intends to block the bill.
Details, the full text of Museveni's letter, and what this all might mean for the future of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill, after the jump.
Under Uganda's constitution, the president must do one of three things within 30 days of a bill being presented to him or her:
- Assent to (approve) the bill
- Send it back to Parliament "with a request that the bill or a particular provision of it be reconsidered"
- Notify the Speaker in writing that he or she refuses to assent.
It seems the Daily Monitor may have assumed that President Museveni's letter to Speaker Kadaga constituted a formal refusal to assent, but the text of his letter, as obtained by BuzzFeed (below), contains no such language -- so Museveni has not blocked the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Furthermore, the Ugandan constitution also says that if the president takes no action within the aforementioned 30-day window, the bill becomes law anyway:
Where the President fails to do any of the acts specified... within the period prescribed... the President shall be taken to have assented to the bill and at the expiration of that period, the Speaker shall cause a copy of the bill to be laid before Parliament and the bill shall become law without the assent of the President.
Should Museveni choose to send the bill back to Parliament, a number of different outcomes are possible. Box Turtle Bulletin's Jim Burroway, who's been doggedly chronicling anti-gay activity in Uganda for years, writes:
If he sends it back to Parliament, then it is up to Parliament to pass it again or modify it before passing it again. Notice here that there is no time period specified in which Parliament is required to act. If Parliament sends to back to the President, he again has the option of giving his assent or send it back to Parliament. But this time, Parliament will have to pass it again with a two-thirds vote.
If Museveni sends the bill back to Parliament, it will provide up to two more opportunities for cooler heads to prevail or for the clock to be run out before the current Parliament expires in 2016.
So now the question becomes a matter of when President Museveni's 30-day window expires. If Parliament sent him the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on December 28, the date of his letter to Kadaga, then he has less than two weeks remaining in which to act.
If the bill was presented to the President immediately after Parliament passed it on December 20, however, that 30-day window ends on Monday or Tuesday, at which point the bill would automatically become law.
In short: everything is still very much up in the air, and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is regrettably still alive.
And then there's Museveni's letter itself. It's embedded in full below, followed by a full transcription of the LGBT-related portion by the incredible Jim Burroway.
As Feder notes, the portion relevant to the bill begins on page three, after a lengthy preamble "about East African solidarity and economic development." It's an incredibly fascinating read -- it provides insight into the mind of a man struggling to comprehend something (homosexuality) that he truly does not understand, and working his thoughts out on paper.
Burroway offers this summary:
On the whole, Museveni sees two kinds of gay people: people who are really gay (who he calls the "abnormals"), and those who, according to popular lore in Uganda, are "recruited" into homosexuality for economic reasons. What's interesting is that in the second to last paragraph, he expresses his doubts that the second camp could be, as he put it "'hooked' into homosexuality." As for the former group (the "abnormals"), he suggests, in his own way, that they are more or less born that way (to borrow a phrase that he does not use), and have the same right to exist as albinos, people with epilepsy, infertile women, and other "abnormals" who were also created by God.
Museveni also describes famous Ugandans from the pre-colonial era who were gay and who "did outstanding and really unique service to the respective communities, their private problems notwithstanding." He also noted the British mathematician and cryptologist Alan Turing, "the genius mathematician that cracked the German Enigma code for the anti-Hitler alliance. ... Only the other day, the Queen had to apologize to this sexually abnormal person but much more useful to society than the millions of sexually normal people."
The full letter is below, via J. Lester Feder and Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed; Burroway's incredible transcription of the portion relevant to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (for anyone who wants to copy and paste the text) follows.
President Museveni's Letter on Anti-Homosexuality Bill by Chris Geidner
Transcription, by Jim Burroway:
...Recently, we had the anti-homosexuality Bill. This is, again, something we advised to shelve until we had studied it in depth. Some elements, however, insisted and, even without quorum of Parliament, "passed" it. How can you "pass" law without the quorum of Parliament after it has been pointed out? What sort of Parliament is this? How can Parliament be the one to break the Constitution and the Law repeatedly?
Coming to the substance of the homosexual debate, I would like to ask: "Who is a Homosexual?" My answer is that a homosexual is somebody who is abnormal because the normal person was created to be attracted to the opposite sex in order to procreate and perpetuate the human race. The same goes for other species -- cattle, pigs, etc. Indeed, my Bishop of North Ankole, Rt. Rev. Muhanguzi, was partially right in one of his sermons when he asked the following question: "Ruhanga nabaasa okwehakanisa? -- How can God contradict himself by saying in the Book of Genesis that Adam should be given a wife, Eve, and then also create homosexuals?"
Since I have not concentrated my mind on this subject, Bishop Muhanguzi's question sounded logical. However, now that I have been forced to concentrate my mind on this issue by the actions of a small group of our MPs, led by the Rt. Hon. Kadaga, I can see the fallacy in Bishop Muhanguzi's position. Who creates albinos? Is it not the same God that creates other people -- Black Africans and Europeans? Do albinos create themselves? No. Simply, nature goes wrong in a minority of cases. Fortunately, our indigenous science has since millennia detected and described these abnormalities. Albinos are called nyamagoye. Homosexuals are called ebitiingwa or ebisiyiyagyi (Luganda). Epilepsy is called entsiimbo. A barren women [sic] is called enguumba (in the past it was not widely known that men could also be enguumba ). There is another abnormality known as "epa" -- where a woman does not achieve puberty by not developing breasts (amabeere), pubic hair (enza), hairs in the arm-pit (ebyakyeeri) or menstruate (okuzira). There are Mongols (ebigoori-goori), etc., etc. In Runyankore some of these are called amahano. In the pre-colonial times, I think, some of these were killed, especially epa. So were even lighter cases of, for instances, pre-marital pregnancy, ebinyandaalo. These abnormalities are different from disability, obumuga or oburema. The other is eihano (abnormal) and the other is ekimuga or ekirema (disabled). The difference is that a disabled person is a normal person but who got disabled in some aspect. Eihano is abnormal fundamentally mainly because the hormones malfunctioned.
The question at the core of the debate of the homosexuals is: "What do we do with an abnormal person? Do we kill him/her? Do we imprison him/her? Or do we contain him/her?"
In the traditional society, it is not very clear whether they would kill these abnormal people. What is clear is that they would try to contain these abnormalities by being particular about the person they married (okushweera) or got married to (kushweerwa). They used to kutaasha (report on the qualities of the intended bride). Unfortunately, this has been interfered with by the concept of "falling in love at first sight" grabbed by our "modern" women and men. This is a big mistake. What do you know about problems (blemishes -- emizze) of the person you have fallen in love with at first sight?
I suspect this has been the problem in Europe and the West. Even there, they had the same principles in the past -- of careful selection. They, however, abandoned these in preference for money initially and, eventually, for just, freelance bonding. It may be this that has increased the phenomena of the abnormal sexual conduct. The abnormal people have increased.
Apart from the people who are born abnormal, it seems there is a larger group of those that become homosexual for mercenary reasons -- they get recruited on account of financial inducements. This is the group that can be rescued. Possibly many of our youth fall in his [sic] category. How about the women lesbians? Apart from the ones that are abnormal and the ones that may become lesbian for mercenary reasons, there may be those that go into that practice because of sexual starvation when they fail to get married. Women are normally more than men for reasons I do not know. In the past, this imbalance could have been addressed by polygamy. Some of the religions de-campaign this traditional practice. What happens, then, to these surplus women? I normally separate spiritual matters from social issues, ever since the 1960s. Some confuse the two: If socially you behave in a given manner, then you are not spiritual, they seem to say. My private view, which I never seek to impose on anybody, is that people can have different social arrangements but be very spiritual. Can't a Moslem who is polygamous be as spiritual, as godly, as a Christian who is monogamous?
The groups that can be rescued, therefore, are those who are homosexual or lesbian for mercenary reasons or on account of frustration -- failure to get legal partners. The rescue for these mercenary deviants is, first and foremost, economic -- rapidly industrialize Uganda, modernize agriculture, etc. Do not delay any project of factory, services or infrastructure. By so doing you are exposing those unemployed youth or impecunious students to these risks and temptations. If you do not do this and you only talk about legislation, you are a quack social doctor. Even with legislation, they will simply go underground and continue practicing homosexuality or lesbianism for mercenary reasons. By providing for UPE, USE, Government scholarship, the student loan scheme, etc. we are trying to rescue our youth from extreme need. However, these do not cover their other financial needs -- pocket money, necessities like videos, poor parents, unemployed siblings, etc., etc. Do we not have legislation against prostitution? Why has it not stopped prostitution?
In addition to working on the social-economic issues of our youth with great vigour (instead of behaving as if we are doing a favour to the investors who bring projects here), yes, we should legislate harshly against these people with money, from within and without, who take advantage of the desperation of our youth to lure them into these abnormal and deviant behaviors. I would support a life sentence for the one who lures normal youth into these disgusting behaviours -- especially homosexuality. On this one I would agree with the Bill passed by Parliament.
The unanswered question, however, is: What do you do with the really abnormal people? In the Ankole-Kigezi-Buganda-Tooro-Bunyoro-Karagwe area, in the last 200 years, I am aware, through rumours, that there have been, at least, three very prominent persons who were homosexuals. Two were kings and one was a prominent chief. Some of these did outstanding and really unique service to the respective communities, their private problems notwithstanding. Only the other day, I saw on television that Dr. Allan Turing, the genius mathematician that cracked the German Enigma code for the anti-Hitler alliance, at Bletchely Park in the UK, was a homosexual. This man, along with the discovery of radar, gave an unfair advantage to the anti-Hitler group and enabled them to win the war. Yet, the British chemically castrated him in 1952, where-upon he committed suicide, apparently. Were the British correct in handling that issue like that? The British no longer think so. Only the other day, the Queen had to apologize to this sexually abnormal person but much more useful to society than the millions of sexually normal people.
Therefore, the challenge is how to correctly handle the sexually abnormal on the one hand and those who use money or any other influence to recruit sexually normal people into this abnormal and disgusting behaviour. When we meet in the NRM caucus, we shall, I am sure, find a scientifically correct position.
Three final points. One is the reason given for the hurry in rushing some of these legislations: "There is a lot of homosexuality in schools, etc." Yes, that may be so. What, then, does it mean? Does it mean that homosexuality is more attractive? OR is it because of the bad economic conditions for the families of these children that drive them into homosexuality for mercenary reasons? Is it not the same economic conditions for the rural families that I have been talking about since 1995 when I made a countrywide tour after successfully experimenting with socio-economic transformation in the Nyabushozi area? Who do we not, all of us, put more vigour in the struggle for homestead incomes using the resource the Government has been sending to the rural areas? With the Army officers and Hon. Kataike, we have been able to distribute more than 5 million seedlings of coffee since September, 1 million seedlings of tea, 235,000 seedlings of fruits, etc. If we all supervised NAADS in our respective areas of representation, we would have gone much further in putting incomes into the homesteads so that we eliminate the poverty that makes our youths vulnerable.
The second point is that people who become homosexuals for mercenary reasons will get "hooked" to homosexuality. I doubt very much. What is there in homosexuality that would attract a normal human being? A man to fail to be attracted by the beauties of a female body and is attracted to the anus (I now understand) of another man can only represent terrible sickness. Let us cure the economic conditions so that we can rescuer our youth and, then, see how to deal with the few abnormals that may be there among us.
Finally, I do not agree with the position of the Western countries that homosexuality is an alternative sexual orientation to heterosexuality. You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people. Nevertheless, you cannot say that because the abnormals are manym, they constitute an alternative way of life. My acid test for rejecting that position is that nature is purposeful. One of the main purposes of man is to perpetuate life. You cannot perpetuate human life without copulation of opposite sexes for the majority of animal species. Even many plants rely on cross-pollination. It is only a few that rely on self-pollination. Therefore, homosexuality and lesbianisn, if not mercenary or out of social frustration (for sexually starved women), is an abnormality and must be treated as such.