Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality Bill update

Within a few months of the last Datacide going to press, the Anti-Homosexuality (AH) Bill was passed into law by the Ugandan government. In that issue, the article Confessions of an Accidental Activist cited a senior government insider suggesting that the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, was using the bill as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the ‘international community’ (i.e. Western donor nations). He could use his control over the AH Bill as part of international negotiations on economic and geopolitical issues, such as control of oil revenues, regional conflict and the security of his tenure. At the same time, expressing support for the Bill domestically would help secure fundamentalist-religious voting blocs ahead of the 2016 elections, which will mark 30 years of rule by Museveni’s National Resistance Movement. The president will thereby be seen to be standing on a platform of ‘traditional African values’ opposed to the decadent, domineering Western imperialists who are forcing homosexuality on Africans under the guise of human rights. The rabid homophobia rhetorically subsumed under these ‘African values’ is, ironically, an import from the US evangelist movement, whose influence on the population of Uganda is perhaps as significant as that of the Western donors.

Here was a skilful post-colonial balancing act for the president: appearing internationally as the guardian of order over an intolerant and fractious society, while pandering domestically to the most cynical demagogues of that same society. So, many were surprised that Museveni had finally tipped the balance and allowed the Bill to pass into law. How had the president achieved this without alienating the liberal donors? [Read more →]