AP reports Ugandan Hang Them campaign, obscures status of AHB

On October 4, BoxTurtleBulletin and I reported (with more here) that a Ugandan tabloid – Rolling Stone – started a campaign of outing gay people with the caption “Hang Them” on the front cover of the rag.

Today, the Associated Press published a story covering the same issue with some new details of the worsening conditions for gays in Uganda. Check this out and compare it to Martin Ssempa’s contention that gays are not in danger in his country.

The AP story did obscure one important point:

KAMPALA, Uganda — The front-page newspaper story featured a list of Uganda’s 100 “top” homosexuals, with a bright yellow banner across it that read: “Hang Them.” Alongside their photos were the men’s names and addresses.

In the days since it was published, at least four gay Ugandans on the list have been attacked and many others are in hiding, according to rights activist Julian Onziema. One person named in the story had stones thrown at his house by neighbors.

A lawmaker in this conservative African country introduced a bill a year ago that would have imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts and life in prison for others. An international uproar ensued, and the bill was quietly shelved.

As I noted on the 14th, the anniversary of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s introduction, the bill remains in committee. If by shelved, these reporters mean the bill has been withdrawn, they provide no direct confirmation of this. To my knowledge, the only source close to the bill who has provided a comment is Charles Tuhaise who told me recently that the bill remains in committee and awaits hearings and a second reading.

On September 13, Peter Boyer of The New Yorker reported without source that the Fellowship was involved in the withdrawal of the bill, writing:

Hunter brought Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the former African rebel who became Uganda’s President, and other key Ugandan leaders into prayer groups. When Uganda’s Parliament took up a bill last year that would have punished some homosexual acts with death, Hunter and his friends in the Fellowship felt they had the standing to urge the proposed measure’s defeat. Museveni appointed a commission that studied the matter and then recommended that the bill be withdrawn.

Since this is the extent of Boyer’s reporting on the bill, it misleads the reader into thinking that the bill was, in fact, withdrawn. Not so, according to the Parliamentary Research Services’ Charles Tuhaise.

The AP article does not source their contention about the bill. Instead, the writers reveal that they were not able to get anyone in Parliament to talk about the bill:

Four members of parliament contacted by The Associated Press for this article declined to comment, and instead referred queries to David Bahati, the parliamentarian who introduced the bill. Bahati did not answer repeated calls Tuesday.

While I do not know what the future holds for the AHB, I am aware that, as recently as the beginning of this month, supporters were still calling for the passage of the measure. As reported here on October 11, Martin Ssempa was still promoting the bill’s passage in a private talk given several days before. If anyone would know about the bill’s status, it would be Ssempa who emerged as the bill’s chief pastoral supporter in Uganda.