Keep your gays and your aid, defiant Uganda tells West

Mike Pflanz — SMH March 1, 2014

Uganda is willing to give up all international aid to keep its new anti-homosexuality law and ”save gays from damnation”, its Ethics Minister said as the World Bank followed other donors and froze a £60 million ($112 million) new loan.

In an interview with Britain’s The Daily Telegraph, Simon Lokodo said: “We want to rid this country of homosexuality and if that means these people, Obama, Hague, you name them, want to stop their aid, then let them.

“We don’t need [aid], we won’t die poor and we will at least be able to save these gays from damnation.”

Condemnation of the new law by Western nations, which together give Uganda more than £1 billion a year in aid, drew quick criticism from Mr Lokodo.

“Do not come into my house and tell me how to live, what food to cook, what to do, as I do not come to your house and tell you what to do,” he said.

Since the new Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed on Monday, “dozens” of gay people had been threatened with violence, evicted from their homes, or lost their jobs, said Sandra Ntebi, a gay activist in Kampala, the capital. Judges can now jail for life people who have gay sex. Those who “aid and abet” homosexuality, or fail to report suspected homosexuals, face terms of up to 14 years.

Kelly Mukwano, 24, told The Daily Telegraph that his landlord evicted him this week after two years just because he was gay.

“He said people knew I was a homosexual and he could not guarantee my safety; they could come and kill me at any time,” said Mr Mukwano, an IT security consultant in Kampala. “When I left, people were staring, whispering. I did not realise the danger I was in.”

Another man, who gave his name only as Akram, described how his mother and sister threw him out of his family home after his name and photograph appeared in a tabloid story “outing” people as gay.

“I think they suspected something,” Akram said. “They were always asking me where was my girlfriend; I was 26 and by now I should be married … But then, with the newspaper story, they said they had proof. We are Muslims. They said I was disgusting, that I had shamed the whole family.

“I have nowhere to stay. Friends are too afraid of mobs or the police to allow me to sleep at their houses. Last night, I slept in a bar. I am so stressed I have thought this week of committing suicide.”

Mr Lokodo, a former evangelical Christian pastor whose support for the anti-gay laws helped to win him the job as President Yoweri Museveni’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity, was unapologetic.

“We have asked respected experts and scientists and they have found homosexuality is not there by birth, it is learnt, it is chosen, therefore it is nurtured by someone,” he said.

“Those who recruit minors, children, to their homosexuality are intolerable. We will arrest them all, they will be in prison for life.”

The World Bank said on Thursday that it was suspending £60 million in new loans for health services while its experts analysed whether the new law “adversely affects” development strategy.

Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway have halted aid. Washington was “reviewing its relationship” with Uganda over the law, which US Secretary of State John Kerry compared to Nazism and apartheid. Britain has yet to comment on whether it would suspend its £107 million annual aid to Uganda. Some in Kampala cautioned against further aid cuts.

“They will affect all Ugandans but it is us [gay people] that will be blamed,” said Samuel Ganafa, the head of Spectrum, a gay rights group.

Many in Uganda are angered at the West’s decision to cross swords so fiercely with Mr Museveni over gay rights and not over earlier crackdowns against opposition, police abuses or corruption.

“It intensely irritates us, it offends us that [the West] turns a blind eye to years of human rights abuses against all Ugandans, then gets so vocal and animated about the rights of this tiny minority of people,” said Timothy Kalyegira, a popular Ugandan social commentator.

Source

Courtesy Peter Myers

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