On 24th of February 2014 the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni signed the anti-gay bill as Uganda’s development partners were threatening to cut its development aid. The World Bank immediately postponed loans in excess of $90m followed by Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
Before he signed the bill, President Museveni was warned by the US President Barack Obama that doing so would complicate the friendly relationship between the two countries. Obama argued that the united States are standing for the fundamental freedom and universal human rights and that homosexual’s rights should therefore be respected.
The signing of the bill was on the other hands celebrated not only across Uganda but also Africa. The majority of Africans say that homosexuality is against their culture. Many were even angry on how Uganda’s development partners mingle themselves in the politics of a sovereign state. As a way to show his authority, Museveni responded to Barack Obama by saying that countries and societies should relate to each other on the basis of mutual respect and independence in decision-making.
Several high ranking personalities across the continent praised President Museveni when he defied the threat from the donor’s countries. One of the comments that went viral on social media is that of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. In an article that appeared in The Herald in July last year, the controversial Southern-African leader questioned whether the US president was born out of homosexuality.
“Then we have this American President, Obama, born of an African father, who is saying that we will not give you aid if you don’t embrace homosexuality”, Mugabe said according to the Herald. He went on saying that Africans need continuity in their race and that only come from the woman, and not to homosexuality.
The bill was indeed signed but Uganda is faced with many governance challenges and suppressing gay rights is not going to solve them. Corruption comes on top of ills that cripple Uganda and Museveni’s government had been accused by NGO’s of turning a blind eye on the vice. The Human Rights Watch released a 63-page report titled “Letting the Big Fish Swim: Failure to prosecute High-Level Corruption in Uganda”.
The report argues that corruption scandals have had direct human rights in Uganda over many years. Example of corruption scandals that involved high ranking officials in the report are that of US$ 12.7 million that were stolen in the office of the Prime Minister in late 2012, a US$ 4.5 Million donor money diverted from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2005 among others.
Maria Burnett a senior researcher at the Washington based NGO said that scandal after scandal, the government patronage politics and lack of political will undermine the fight of corruption in Uganda.
In a cartoon that appeared in the East African portraying that the fact of signing the anti-gay bill was not in itself a solution to governance problems that are crippling Uganda. The cartoonist showed an official that was coming to report corruption scandal to the president and the latter responded that he will sign the anti-gay bill as if signing the bill will tackle the vice.
The question that keeps coming up in my mind is how cutting development aid will defend gay rights. Development aid is intended to help the most vulnerable people in the society. It should in any case be used as a tool to threaten African countries to sign bills that the majority of their citizens support. If this is the case what is democracy then?