By Melanie Nathan, September 13, 2023, (Source The Citizen)
While the real trading has been in the exporting of homophobia to Uganda...
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said he remains unfazed after U.S. companies that buy textiles from his country canceled orders, citing the enactment of anti-gay legislation in May. The purchases were to be made under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), a duty-free pact which gives eligible African countries favorable access to the U.S. market.
Several companies in the United States under the Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) have stopped buying textiles from Uganda, citing enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.
In March 2023 Uganda's Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, (AHA 2023) , otherwise known as The Kill the Gays Bill. it was attested to and signed into law by Museveni in May. It prescribes harsh penalties against people who are LGBTI to include the death penalty for so called "aggravated homosexuality." The first person, a 20 year old accused of being gay, has been charged under the death penalty clause. (read here)
PRESIDENT YOWERI MUSEVENI “The homosexual in the US are interfering with our export of textiles. Some of the orders have been cancelled by the homosexuals there." Melanie Nathan comment: That is a twisted lie: Museveni fails to escape the constant scapegoating of LGBTI people. Here he goes again. It is not the homosexuals who have cancelled anything. It is the human rights infractions engendered by unconstitutional legislation that Museveni himself signed, while under notice of global sanctions, as well as all the violence it has served to license in the hunting of gays in Uganda, that has resulted in this obvious and predictable outcome.
The great irony is that he thumbs his nose at human rights trying to justify his human rights abuses suggesting that the 'Kill the Gays Bill' follows Ugandan values and that hence his country’s sovereignty permits it, without Western interference. And all the while he fails to acknowledge that America is also entitled to its values and sovereignty. Which means the American corporations and government have every right to sanction based on its own set of human rights values, just as it has done. So no it is NOT the homosexuals who interfered – it is the Ugandans who knowingly defied the Universal Declaration of Human rights and their own constitution.
Museveni added that he has is unconcerned and Uganda is not impacted negatively: “But I am not concerned about that because the money you have been squandering with the second hand clothes , importing other people’s fabrics, is much more than what we are going to earn from the sales to the US.” AGOA is an initiative of the US Government which began in 2000 where eligible countries export textiles and agricultural products to America tariff and quota free. In return, the beneficiary countries open their markets to second-hand clothes mainly from the US. The value of Uganda’s annual exports under this trade incentive had grossed $200m USD (Shs 741b).
Ellen Masi, the public affairs counsellor at the US Mission in Kampala, said that Washington had made it clear that the enactment of the anti-gay law would affect Uganda’s economic prospects. On March 28, more than 35 major multinational companies, including those with operation and employees in Uganda, released a statement highlighting the negative repercussions that the AHA 2023 would have on their ability to do business in Uganda. She noted that nine out of every ten of the Fortune 500 companies maintain non-discrimination policies on the basis of sexual orientation.
So the enactment of the AHA 2023 would deter foreign companies from doing business. Mr. Museveni our AHRC message – this is not homosexuals calling for sanctions. This is popular US company policy that your country chooses to abstract itself from. Uganda’s choice entirely. One cannot escape the responsibility of the simple fact and that is that Ugandan parliamentarians and their president who ought to legislate in the best interests of their country and people, have CHOSEN laws that are actually not good for the country. If one were to weigh the harms to Uganda based on this choice, one must look at the basis for the AHA. It is based entirely on misconception, falsehood, lies and failed due diligence on the part of this government. No, Gays are Not grooming your children. That is lie and myth. No, gays are not pedophiles by nature. That is lie and myth. No, gays are not recruiting students, That is lie and myth. No, you should not legislate based on extremist interpretation of Bible as fed to you – ironically by – The American Evangelicals such as Sharon Slater, Lou Engle, Rick Warren, Scott Lively, et al. So when weighing the harm you have caused Uganda by permitting this law – one is weighing a nothing-burger versus billions of lost Ugandan shillings. Uganda chose to lose the billions! In truth your inability to weigh the risks while finding the truth, that is failed governance. Uganda's governance turns out to be weighted by lies and myth. President Biden ordered a review of US relations with Uganda. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called a review of Uganda’s AGOA status. Other than visa restrictions on the Speaker Anita Among, a fervent anti-gay proponent whose bias was evident in the parliamentary process, and some members of Parliament, US Government has to date failed to impose any other sanctions on Uganda. All the while Museveni banned the import of second-hand clothing – saying they are the clothes of dead people. Maybe he missed they were also likely the clothes of gay people!
The Ugandan Constitutional Court has now agreed to hear three petitions challenging the constitutionality of the new law. Imagine if the Court declares the law unconstitutional. If it does it will be ruling against a law that has a 97% public popularity - which we asses at 85% given how many people are secretly against the Bill but too terrified to go public, including government officials and Parliamentarians. The Ugandans have constantly declared that this new law is based on their values. On their Christian values. If it is declared invalid based on these merits, the Ugandan Court will in effect be telling the Ugandans that the Constitution overrides their asserted values. Such ruling will be in direct conflict with declared values. The question then becomes is that NOT what Constitutions are for? To protect minorities from the majority belief system that harms. Let us hope that this pans out the way it should.
African Human Rights Coalition continues to participate in the extraction and safe sheltering of LGBTQI Ugandans fleeing this odious and horrific law. Unfortunately there is not much hope for a future for LGBTI people in that country. If and when the law is declared invalid, the backlash will be enormous. No matter which way one looks at this, the entire climate for Uganda's LGBTI community is one of terror and persecution. That will not let up for decades to come, regardless of which way the law goes. What is needed is an African solution to this - one where myth and lies are extinguished. The first point of awareness will be for Ugandans to understand that they have been the victims of ongoing colonization. The British introduced the first set of penal codes criminalizing homosexuality and now the American Christian Evangelicals have brought a new wave of colonization. Hence the first admission by Uganda will have to be that no, it is not homosexuality that has been exported by colonialists - the export has been homophobia. Donate to AHRC Safe Shelters HERE
Melanie Nathan is a country conditions expert witness in the US Immigration courts for LGBTQI+ people from African countries seeking asylum, to include Uganda.