By Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Should we involve Uganda in endless wars with our trade partners on account of this?
“Abaine enaama, baita abatagiine” – meaning the ones who caucus first, can overpower the ones who do not caucus. Ekitetekatekirwe, embwa ekahuunga omukaro – sudden confrontation can lead to surprising outcomes like a dog running away from dried and spitted meat, thinking that it is a stone somebody has thrown at it. Obuyaayo bwaraba aha – a rubble has passed by here which is a riddle (ekiito)that is translated as “soldiers’ without a commander”.
Endimi nyingyi itukuriza obushera – many tongues spoil the broth.
All these proverbs refer to the problem of the dangers of lack of co-ordination and planning. Then there is another different angle that emphasises prioritisation. The relevant proverb says: “owabinga ibiri, imutsiga” – the one who tries to chase two animals when hunting, ends up failing to kill any.
By 1965, Uganda was moving fast towards a failed state on account of the pseudo – ideologies of sectarianism, chauvinism and disorientation. That is when the precursor of the NRM emerged in the form of some chapters of the student movement. The new things these students movement brought were, mainly, two: first of all, patriotism in ideology (anti-sectarianism and anti-chauvinism); secondly, organisational cohesion, discipline and very strict prioritisation. That is how the NRM steadily grew and, eventually, gained the upper hand and dominated the political space.
This ideology of unswerving patriotism and the culture of cohesion and prioritisation are, especially, encapsulated in the NRA/UPDF ways of working. That is why we win victories always. Recently, we had the issue of the homosexuals and the Bill of properties in Marriage. These bills had surfaced in the previous Parliaments. However, knowing the controversies surrounding these proposed laws and policies, we had shelved them on the basis of our time tested strategy of dealing with the unavoidable basics so as to create a stronger base to deal with other issues. That was my immediate reaction when I heard of the issue of homosexuals being pushed by Hon. Bahati in the last Parliament. First of all, we had never discussed this issue in our Caucus. It was not in order for any member of our party to either bring such an issue to Parliament or to even entertain it without clearing it with the Caucus. Since I almost never miss any Caucus, we would; then, have put our collective brain power together in order to see how we can handle this issue.
Gaps in the logic
When we were forced by un-coordinated actions of some elements in Parliament on issues of homosexuals, I found some gaps in the logic of those who were pushing for this law without clearing it through the Caucus. I communicated those views to all of you in my letter to the Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga of 28th December, 2013. My thoughts on the issue were as follows: Yes, there may be some foreigners who are coming here to recruit our neglected or orphaned children into homosexuality. What, then, are the right ways of handling the problem? Is the Bahati way the correct one? Are the’ laws in place not enough? Some of our lawyers were saying the laws were enough. Yes, this Bill was very popular inside Uganda given the strong culture of our people that enabled them to survive the misrule of the traditional chiefs and the haemorrhage caused by the slave traders, the imperialists and the local tyrants. However, there was a strong possibility that it might provoke a lot of hostility outside – especially in Europe and the USA where there are strong lobbies of these homosexual – although I had not had time to study that aspect. I, therefore, indicated that I may not assent to the law and that I needed to meet our Caucus first.
On the substance of the issue itself, I had a number of questions to our side.
Question number I:
If you say that foreigners are “luring” our children into homosexuality, what does that “luring” mean? Does it mean that homosexuality is sweet to our children? If that is the case, does it not mean that we would have lost the argument to those who say that homosexuality is inborn, it is not learnt? If, on the other hand, some of our children go into homosexuality on account of mercenary reasons, in search of money, is that not an indictment on ourselves and our systems that we have failed to create wealth and some of our people have become prostitutes to the foreign homosexuals? Why have I been talking about homestead incomes ever since 1995? Why don’t all the leaders ensure the proper use of the huge sums of NAADS, Entandikwa, PMA, Youth Fund, Micro- finance, NUSAF, PRDP, Restocking Funds etc. to create wealth in the homesteads so that our children are not in that desperation? If some have not done it, why not do it now? How about the religious leaders, who are always rightly giving strong opinions on moral values, not helping their parishioners to get out of poverty using these government programmes? How about the cultural leaders? If we start unplanned wars with outsiders, will it make it easier for us to fight poverty inside Uganda or will it make it more difficult.
Coming to the question of the homosexuals themselves, I, initially, as I pointed out in my letter of 28th December, 2013, to all of you, that, as is normal in nature, you had a few people who were born like that” while some other homosexuals, especially from poor backgrounds in Africa, may be so for purely mercenary reasons. Right from the beginning, I supported the idea of punishing harshly those who lure minors into homosexuality and those who promoted homosexuality.
We should also punish harshly those who engage in homosexual prostitution (homosexual recruiting non-homosexuals for money). My problem, however, were those who were born like that. You cannot punish somebody for the way he was born even when he/she is a deviant. Later on, our scientists argued that all homosexuality was by nurture not nature. On the basis of that, I agreed to sign the bill although some people still contest that understanding. I was also provoked into signing the bill by the arrogant approach of some foreign governments.
Pressure from homosexual lobby
After signing the bill, there was a lot of happiness among the Ugandans as well as other Africans although there was a lot of hostility from the bulk of Western Governments. Some cut off “aid”, etc. etc. We were, of course, not moved because a country like Uganda should not need “aid” if only all our people could wake up and work hard and diligently. In spite of cutting “aid”, our economy grew by 4.7% last financial year, the crisis in South Sudan notwithstanding. That crisis caused more problems for the economy of Uganda than the “aid” cuts. Soon, however, a more serious problem cropped up – the possibility of trade boycott by Western companies under the pressure of the homosexual lobbies in the West. I came to know this when I hosted a huge delegation of Asian and European Companies that are involved in textiles. They pointed out to me what I was already picking from other sources. This is the fact that the wages in China are going up and, therefore, China is becoming less competitive for certain types of factories – e.g. manufacturing of textiles. One of the most convenient places they had decided to go to was Uganda. Why Uganda, I asked them? They answered that Uganda was stable, had the best cotton in the world (Kasese); it also had a good business atmosphere. The other one is Ethiopia and some other countries. They are being referred to as the “East African tigers.”
When I heard this good news from the strong delegation of business people, I told them that I had been looking for such investors for the last 25 years without much success. I even brought in Picfare who did not break into the export sector as seriously as I had thought. They told me that from now on, it would no longer be a shortage of textile investors; but it would be a problem of selecting the good from the bad. I said: “What do you mean by the bad and the good?” They said that, for instance, the textile manufacturers that had their buildings collapsing in Bangaladesh were the bad ones. Those buildings killed workers and nobody would buy from them anymore. The bad publicity would affect the sales. Nobody would buy those brands.
I was, obviously, very excited. This is what I have been fighting to achieve in the last 28 years. Since last year, we had succeeded in getting a very capable investor from Kenya in the names of Bedi Jaswinder. He had already been exporting from Kenya but using Uganda’s very good cotton. Imagine!! One kilogram of lint cotton (when only the seeds have been removed in the ginneries), gives us about US$1. When you make shirts out of that I kilogram, you earn US$ 15!! Therefore, we get US$ 1 for our cotton while somebody else gets US$ 15 from the same cotton in Kenya. This is the same story with coffee, minerals, etc. It is not only money we lose. We also lose jobs. We only perform the ginning jobs (to remove the seeds). However, all the other job levels – spinning, weaving, printing colours into the fabric and, then, sewing into garments are done by the Kenyans using our cotton. By 1969, we were exporting about half-a-million bales of cotton. If we were producing at the same level today, at today’s prices, we would be earning US$ 200 million from 500,000 bales. If, however, all of it was turned into textiles and garments, we would be earning US$ 2.1bn and creating 300,000 jobs. With only ginning, we would create just 5,600 jobs.
I am the one who fought for AGOA with Rosa Whitaker and Congressman Rangel. Kenya earned US$ 336.5 million in 2013 and $1.39 billion total since 2008 with a $231.3 million annual average (2008-2013) from AGOA; South Africa earned US$ 2.6 billion in 2013 from AGOA and a total of $13.39 billion total since 2008 with $2.2 billion annual average (2008-2013); Lesotho earned $320.8 million from AGOA in 2013 and $1.83 billion total since 2008 with a $305.5 million annual average (2008-2013); Mauritius ,earned $187.9 million in 2013, $817.8 million total since–2008 with an annual average of $136.3 (2008- 2013). However, my Uganda has, only been able to earn less than US$5 million in 2013. Why? It was because we did not have the infrastructure (electricity, good roads, the railway, etc.) and also we did not have capable entrepreneurs like the ones we are beginning to attract now.
On account of poor infrastructure, we could not attract capable investors because of high costs of doing business – high costs of electricity, transport, etc.; and, at one time, a total lack of electricity. Why all this? Partly, because of a Parliament that interferes with my work and undermines our future. You remember how recently I had to resist the raising of salaries (last financial year), the creation of new districts etc., so as to save money for the roads and the Energy Fund. I had to resist the dangerous cheap popularity of spending the money we have on consumption rather than on development and production (infrastructure and production – agricultural, industrial, innovation etc).
What has all this to do with homosexuality? It has got everything to do with it. This is because the global market is US$ 101.8 trillion. US$ 16.8 trillion of that is in the USA; another US$ 17.4 trillion is in the EU. India accounts for US$ 6.7 trillion; China for US$ 16.1 trillion; Africa for US$ 2.5 trillion (but growing very fast); Brazil US$ 3 trillion; Russia US$ 3.5 trillion; and Japan US$ 4.6 trillion (List of Countries by GDP – PPP, by the World Bank (2005-2013). Of all this, it is the USA and the EU that politicize access to their markets. However, of all these,
it is the USA that has given the best and most expansive good terms for Africa to access that market. They have offered us quota-free access to their market for 6,500 products, including textiles. The textiles market of the USA is US$ 105 billion (Source OTEXA, 2012). It is only the USA that has given protective-tax against the non-Agoa textiles of 16% -32%. EU tax is only 4.5%. Besides, it is only the USA that imports textiles on such a big, scale. The other countries – India, China, Indonesia, Brazil etc – manufacture their own textiles. They do not import so much. The textile market of the EU is US$ 92 billion; the market of China is US$ 90 billion; that of India is US$ 40 billion; that of Russia is US$ 45 billion; that of Brazil is US$ 35 billion; that of Japan is US$ 37 billion; and that of Africa is US$ 5 billion (but growing very fast). The total global demand for textiles is US$ 708 billion.
Therefore, to carelessly and needlessly open unnecessary wars with such useful customers is irresponsible to say the least. When I signed the bill, as already pointed out, I took into account two factors. First, the opinion of the scientists who said that it was nurture and not nature that made people homosexual, a factor that some scientists are still disputing. Secondly, it was in order to assert our Sovereignty by telling everybody that nobody should think of using “aid” to dominate us. The latter point has been amply made because Uganda is growing in spite of the “aid” cuts and in spite of the crisis in South ‘”’Sudan. Besides, all partners are now more careful with us. That is why you do not hear anybody giving public lectures to us on anything, the homosexual issue inclusive. Privately, however, our partners still raise it, all the time. That is how mature people should conduct affairs among adults and equals. The issue now, therefore, is not what other governments are telling us. It is about us deciding what is best for our country in the realm of foreign trade which is such an important stitmulus for growth and transformation that it has no equal.
Importance of trade
It is manufacturing and trade that has completely transformed countries like South Korea, China, India, Mauritius, in just one generation. This is what the NRM meant when, in point No.5 of our 10 Points Programme, we were talking of “building an integrated, independent and self-sustaining economy”. We cannot do that without trade. Those countries that neglect that fail. There are plenty of examples; for purposes of diplomacy, I will only quote Burma; but there are many others. Even if the Governments of the West did not blacklist us on account of the homosexuals’ issue, the homosexual lobby can intimidate potential buyers from buying from us. They have already started. Therefore, this is not a mere Government to Government issue, but also a people to people issue and business to business issue. It is now an issue of: “omusota oguli muntamu” – “a snake which entered a clay pot for cooking”. “We want to kill the snake but we do not want to break the pot”. We want to protect our children from homosexuality, but we do not want to kill our trade opportunities.
That now forces us to disassemble this whole issue. What are’ the elements involved? There, are three types of homosexuals according to my research ever since I was forced to focus on this issue. There are homosexuals that recruit under age children into homosexuality.
These should be severely punished. The Western countries seem to have no problem with this. Secondly, there are homosexuals who lure the youth, whether under age or above eighteen, using money. These can be punished using the prohibition of prostitution. I do not think the Western countries would have a problem with this. That leaves the third category, the ones who are homosexual out of choice and conviction – they are not coerced, they are not after money. They are just attracted to fellow men or fellow women, according to what they say, difficult though it is for me to imagine. This is a group we need to handle. Should we endlessly involve Uganda in endless wars with our potential partners in trade on account of this group of voluntary homosexuals even after we have protected our children as per no. 1 and 2 above? That is what we need to debate and resolve. Then there is the issue of promotion and exhibitionism of homosexuals. I have told all the Western leaders that exhibitionism is not allowed in Africa, even for hetero-sexuals. Indeed, all family issues are never discussed in public. That is why we say: “eby’omunyumba tebi totolwa” – meaning household issues are not discussed in public. Therefore, this is also easy to deal with.
All this, however, came from the failure to know that “ezibuuka zitalagannye, zekuba empwawa” – birds which fly off without co-ordination, do not avoid their wings hitting each other. “Abaine enaama, baita abatagiine” – the ones who caucus, overpower those who do not.
As a matter of principle, I joined those who started this move without listening to our advice to guard Uganda’s sovereignty on account of the public lectures that were emanating from certain quarters abroad. I was also influenced by the scientists who said homosexuals were so on account of nurture, not nature. We were not influenced by “aid” cuts. However, when it comes to trade, we should remember that other peoples are also sovereign. They can choose whom to trade with and whom not to trade with.
It is us to determine the destiny of our people in all matters – big and small; and trade is a big one.
When I met these delegations of business people and heard what they were saying, I rang up Hon. Bahati, the author of that Bill, linked him up with them to discuss and see how to resolve this issue. By the time I went to the USA, I was told that they had not concluded. It is now with all of us following the Court ruling. What is the way forward?
Yoweri K. Museveni is the President of the Republic of Uganda.