Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Uganda's anti-gay laws blot jubilee

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (C) attends celebrations for Uganda's 50 years Golden Jubilee at Uhuru Grounds in Kampala on October 9, 2012. The event celebrates the day of Uganda's independence. AFP PHOTO/Peter Busomoke

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (C) attends celebrations for Uganda's 50 years Golden Jubilee at Uhuru Grounds in Kampala on October 9, 2012. The event celebrates the day of Uganda's independence. AFP PHOTO/Peter Busomoke 

By Njeri Rugene MIDRAND, SOUTH AFRICA [email protected]

The hardline stance that Uganda has taken against homosexuals sparked heated debate in the otherwise languid Pan African Parliament as the House took time off to pay tribute to the country as it celebrated 50 years of independence Tuesday.

Dr Moussa Idriss Ndele from Chad moved the motion in recognition of Uganda's big day which was seconded by his Kenyan counterpart Mr Gideon Mung'aro and unanimously adopted by the House.

MPs praised President Yoweri Museveni, saying his leadership had seen Uganda move from a dictatorship to democracy.

They also praised the Uganda's health policies and progress made in the fight against HIV and Aids as well as in the empowerment of women.

But a remark by South African opposition MP Santosh Vinita Kalyan challenging Uganda government's hostility towards homosexuality momentarily changed the momentum of the debate.

Ms Kalyan, the Democratic Alliance's party whip had started off by showering praises on the Museveni government for placing health 'on top of its agenda'' citing the fight against the Aids pandemic as an example.

However, she said, homophobia was "a blot'' in the progress the Ugandan government had made.

"Uganda has a blot in terms of its stand and attitude towards homosexuals. Regrettably, they want to criminalise homosexuality,'' Ms Kalyan said while supporting the motion on Uganda.

The issue,she said, was not about "whether one supports homosexuality or not'' but it is about their human rights. She praised her country's constitution saying it allowed gays and lesbians their rights.

However, Ugandan MP Cecilia-Atim Ogwal defended Uganda's anti-gay position she was proud that her country was at the fore-front in rejecting "the promotion'' of homosexuality.

"We want to tell Africa that Uganda has decided to uphold our value and culture and wwe are not stepping on anybody's values. We cannot be allowed to practice polygamy in foreign countries and yet they come here and try to make us accept what is not natural. '' she said.

"We abhorr homosexuality and value our God, culture and there is no way we shall allo a man to step on top of another man or a woman to lie on top of another,'' said Ms Ogwal, the leader of Uganda's delegation to the continental Parliament.

The MP who received a thunderous applause by the House urged her colleagues in the Pan African Parliament to pass a resolution "to uphold the value of God and values, of Africa.''

Ms Ogwal received support from Bostwana MP Walter Masisi and Kenya's Mung'aro, the Malindi MP.

Said Mr Masisi said although homosexuality was not a pronounced issue in Bostwana, leaders were setting themselves up to reject its recognition "because we know it is coming.''

"We shall refuse it and punch them hard (advocates). we believee in our own values and we want to start denouncing it in parliament, in meetings and in other forums even in the countdown to our elections,'' said the MP in reference to the country's 2014 elections.

Mr Mung'aro suggested that African "be specific'' in their constitutions on the rejection of homosexuality. In seconding the motion on Uganda's anniversary, Mr Mung'aro summed up the sentiments expressed by MPs who spoke during the hour debate.

"For the last 50 years, the Ugandan people have shown exemplary progress in so-economic development of their country and the region as a whole in line with the principle objectives of the African Union and the Pan african Parliament.''

The achievements cited include, women empowerment through representation in parliament, fight against HIV/Aids, and ensuring peace and security in northern uganda in particular.

Special tribute was also paid to the Kenya Defence Forces, the Ugandan Forces and their other UNISOM colleagues in stabilisation and liberation of Somalia.

A United Nations agency earlier also paid glowing tribute to Uganda parliament for pushing its government to appropriate enough money for the support of maternal, new born and child health as well as family planning services.

Mr Bunmi Makinwa UNFA's Africa director recalled that Uganda'srecently declined to approval the 2012/2013 budget proposals unless there was an additional money for health.

"By this action, they secured 25 per cent of their demand, sh49 billion Uganda shilling and got some additional 6,130 health workers and a four-fold salary increase for medical doctors,'' said the UNFPA boss.

In 2010, the same Parliament had refused to approve a $100million dollar wworld bank loan until an additional $30million was added as funds for maternal health.

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