By Morris Komakech
Why really are the Americans and Europeans punishing Uganda when it hurts the poor people most?
I have always wondered why the U.S. pulled the plug on Uganda following the enactment of the Anti-homosexuality Act on February 24, 2014. For clarity, I am one of those Ugandans who do not agree with the superficial and emotional way the homosexuality issue was handled. I predicted to my own Aruu County MP, Odonga Otto and the Agago County MP, John Amos Okot, in our private conversations that we needed to do more to build consensus on this matter than rush it for political populism.
Many people argued that homosexuality is being sponsored by the West, claiming that our children are being recruited and exposed to acts of homosexuality. If it is the west sponsoring and importing homosexuality to Uganda, then it is also elements from within the West that is fighting the same.
Homosexuality existed in pre-colonial Africa, but the way it manifested was subtle and depended on its culture tolerance. For instance, in Buganda Kingdom, it is said to have been more tolerated during the reign of Kabaka Danieri Basammula-Ekkere Mwanga II (1884 – 1897). At the time, the colonial British found homosexuality objectionable and inserted punitive section in the Penal Code Act, section 145, against sodomy. Most of the laws against sodomy were inherited by post-colonial regimes which resulted in suppression of homosexuality in post-colonial Uganda by design of colonial regimes.
Now, there is this shallowness about the way we like to think about social problems in Uganda. We are always targeting symptoms, never the cause of problems. The debate on homosexuality was shrouded by populism and semantics, thereby, denying the nation a process of building consensus on the matter. The Ugandan government is now backtracking despite bragging that the funding withdrawn by the west would not hurt its economy (see: New Vision of 07/07/14)
America and Europe have no right to punish Uganda for having passed the Anti-homosexuality Act, 2014. The people they are punishing are those who require anti-retroviral drugs and the vulnerable ones who need donor-funded healthcare, given that the Ugandan healthcare system has collapsed. The U.S. and European decision is, therefore, unethical and diabolical.
The irony is that the key funders and proponents of the anti-gay movement in Uganda are Americans and European Evangelicals. These are the people who funded and mobilised countrywide, for the Anti-homosexuality thrust to take shape and they deserve the punishment.
There is fierce Evangelical renaissance going on in Africa and Uganda is rife for proselytising – a forceful conscription of people into this Evangelical cultural movement. These religious groups derive their sentimentalism from the conservatives in the US who try to spread moral platitude across the globe. But their teachings are radical, exclusionist and to a greater extent, in my view, violate the very purpose of God’s teaching in Genesis 1:27 that man was made in the image of God.
Not long ago, David Kinnaman from the Evangelical research, Barna Group published a book “You Lost Me: Why Young Evangelicals are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith”, which describes a steady decline in the Evangelical population in America. It shows age group 18 – 29 year-olds leaving the church and leading to a 43% drop in church attendance across the United States. A feature blog by Tom Lyberg in CNN blog titled: “How Evangelicals won the cultural war and lost a generation”, argued that young Americans are no longer attending church because they object to the manner in which their gay friends are berated by hypocritical evangelical preachers.
Given a steady decline in faith base in the United States and in Europe, most of the evangelicals have descended on Africa with an agenda of cultural imperialism. It is this group that should be punished for sponsoring and fuelling anti-homosexuality laws.
More recently, the documentary movie “God loves Uganda” by Roger Ross Williams, which has won international acclaim, was explicit in its condemnation of the evangelicals. In that movie, it is claimed that the chief proponents of the Anti-gay Bill in Uganda, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati and Pastor Martin Ssempa were mentored and funded by American conservative groups who are behind the evangelical missions in Africa.
If these claims are true, then it reveals how vulnerable the black African has become. This means that we have surrendered our cultural rights and liberty to religious bigots who fuel discrimination and sponsor persecution. This is the group which should have been punished by the American government and their donor allies.
Morris Komakech is a social critic and political analyst based in Toronto, Canada. Can contact via [email protected]