Uganda's eighth parliament officially dissolved; fate of legislation still unclear

Apparently without a motion to continue the 23 bills unfinished, the Eighth Parliament will dissolve at midnight.

A proclamation to mark the official end and dissolution of the Eighth Parliament of Uganda has been issued by Parliament. The Eighth Parliament will stand officially dissolved at midnight Wednesday.The Speaker of the Eighth Parliament Rt. Hon. Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi issued the proclamation before being sworn in as a member of the ninth Parliament.
Meanwhile, the swearing in of new members of the Uganda Parliament has closed Wednesday with a total of 374 members taking oath during the last three days.
Article 81 of the Constitution requires every person elected to parliament to take and subscribe to the oath of allegiance and the oath of Member of Parliament before assuming office. No person shall sit or vote in Parliament before taking and subscribing the oaths. 
MPs will convene at Parliament on Thursday for the first sitting where they will elect the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament from amongst themselves. The fisrt sitting of Parliament will be presided over by the Chief Justice who will oversee the election of the Speaker of Parliament.

Tomorrow begins the Ninth Parliament and it remains to be seen whether or not the new Speaker will allow committees to pick up work on bills unfinished from the last session. For months, observers assumed that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would die if not passed by May 18. However, recent statements from Parliament spokespersons and from bill author David Bahati have led to uncertainty about the procedures. On the AHB, if the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee report becomes the basis for action on the floor, the bill remains a serious threat to the civil rights of all Ugandans, and in particular those who express any same-sex intimacy.

Committee report suggested minimal changes to Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Last week, one of the claims made by supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was that the death penalty had been removed. Some media picked up this claim and reported it without critical analysis. In fact, the bill never made it far enough to have any alterations, and, as noted here, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee report did not, in fact, suggest the removal of the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality.
A paper designated as the final report of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee was leaked last Thursday, just ahead of Friday’s final session. I have good reasons to believe that the report did come from the committee although I cannot say for certain that the report would have been presented on the floor of the Parliament had the bill gotten that far. You can read the report, converted to a .pdf, by clicking here.
To help see what a revised bill would have looked like, I compared the original Anti-Homosexuality Bill with the report. This version makes the changes called for in the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee report (Click the link). In this version the sections crossed out were in the original bill and those underlined are the ones suggested by the committee.
Even after the changes, the penalty for private, consensual  same-sex intimacy would still be life in jail and the death penalty would remain since it is the penalty provided for aggravated defilement in Uganda. Clauses 4, 7, 8, 14, 16 & 17 were deleted but a new penalty for participating in the marriage of a same-sex couples. Presumably, this would discourage ministers from performing the ceremonies. Even if the bill had been amended in the manner suggested by the committee, the bill would have defined homosexual behavior in a way that criminalized the most modest forms of intimacy with either life in prison or death for HIV positive individuals.
Reporters should carefully review  this committee report before taking statements from bill supporters at face value.

David Bahati to become Ethics Minister?

According to the Daily Monitor, Anti-Homosexuality Bill author  David Bahati is on President Museveni’s short list to become Minister of Ethic and Integrity.

President’s shortlist
Vice-President: Gilbert Bukenya or Edward Ssekandi or Margaret Atengo.
Prime Minister: Apolo Nsibambi or Aggrey Awori or Amelia Kyambadde.
1st Deputy Premier/EA Affairs: Eriya Kategaya (he could also stay on as minister for East Africa Affairs only.
2nd Deputy Premier/Minister Without Portfolio: Amama Mbabazi.
Third Deputy Prime Minister/Tourism: Moses Ali.
Oil & Petroleum: Amelia Kyambadde.
Energy: Irene Muloni.
Foreign Affairs: Ruhakana Rugunda.
Security: Betty Bigombe. Teso Affairs: Grace Akello.
Internal Affairs: Kahinda Otafiire.
Kampala:Beatrice Wabudeya.
Ethics: David Bahati.

So the man who brought Uganda the Anti-Homosexuality Bill might move from the back bench to the front bench? If I understand Uganda’s parliamentary procedure correctly, Bahati’s initiatives would not need to go through the private member’s procedure of getting permission from Parliament. However, the upside is that he perhaps would need government support for any bills. At the end of the last session, the government went on record as opposing the AHB as written.
It is hard to see an appointment to the Ethics post as anything but an encouragement of Bahati’s efforts.

American Psychiatric Association representatives issue statement against Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Earlier this evening, the American Psychiatric Association’s legislative body formally condemned the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. Their action will now go to the APA Board of Trustees where it is expected to become official APA policy.
Although the bill appears to be finished for this Parliament, it may be back during the next one. The APA reps wanted to make clear to mental health professionals in Uganda that the proposed bill was counter to professional guidance. Here is the action paper:

Action Paper  
Title: Ugandan Anti-homosexuality Bill
Whereas:  The Hon. David Bahati, a member of the Ugandan Parliament, has introduced an Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the Ugandan Parliament calling for:

  1. Seven years of imprisonment for anyone who attempts to engage in homosexual contact
  2. Life imprisonment for anyone who engages in sexual penetration of a member of the same gender;
  3. Death for “aggravated homosexuality” which includes repeated offenses of homosexuality or engaging in a homosexual act while HIV-positive.
  4. Imprisonment of up to three years for failing to report violations of the statute within 24 hours of awareness of the offense

Whereas:  The bill is based on a misguided attempt to “protect” the traditional heterosexual family from corruption and to prevent the corruption of traditional Ugandan concepts of morality by Western influences;
Whereas: the bill is predicated on the assertion that “same-sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic” and that Ugandans can be seduced into homosexuality if Western thought takes hold;
Whereas:  the Ugandan National Association of Social Workers has issued a position paper supporting the concept that homosexuality is pathological drawing from religious concepts and from “scientific” studies of 50 years ago that have long since been discredited by the scientific community;
Whereas:  the death penalty is mandated for HIV positive gay people who engage in same sex contact but a similar penalty is not mandated for HIV positive heterosexual people who engage in sexual relations despite the fact that, in Africa, the primary mode of HIV transmission is through heterosexual sexual contact;
Whereas:  the Ugandan tabloid, the Rolling Stone, called for gays to be lynched and published a list of people alleged to be gay;
Whereas:  at least one gay activist in Uganda has been murdered after being listed in the Rolling Stone — which Ugandan police have attributed to a robbery;
Be It Resolved: That the American Psychiatric Association reaffirms its position that there is no credible scientific evidence that same sex attraction is pathological, chosen, needs “cure,” or entails threat to heterosexual families or to children;
That the American Psychiatric Association condemns societal scapegoating and stigmatization of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people anywhere in the world;
That the American Psychiatric Association condemns criminalization of homosexual behavior and calls upon the Ugandan legislature to reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Refer to:  Council on Minority Mental Health and Health Disparities
Author or Authors:
David L. Scasta, M.D., DFAPA, AAOL for the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists

I helped work on this paper and believe that, once official policy, the APA will use this statement to reach out to Uganda’s mental health and medical communities in the coming months.

Uganda's Monitor provides post mortem on 8th Parliament

Uganda’s Daily Monitor provides some insight into the end of the Eighth Parliament and the unfinished business they left behind. According to this article, over 20 bills were not completed.
On the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the Monitor reports:

The eighth Parliament officially closed business on Friday, leaving behind a number of high-profile Bills that had been expected to pass – among them the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The Bill has garnered widespread international condemnation, notably criticised by Western leaders and human rights activists who have called it ‘inhuman’.
A private initiative of Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, its original form introduced the death penalty for “serial offenders” or HIV-positive people engaging in same-sex acts, as well as imprisonment for those who do not report those suspected of being gay, among others.
Adhering to international pressure, President Museveni set up a commission to investigate the implications of passing the Bill and recommended that it be withdrawn.
But Parliament being independent of government, the Bill was retained. It has since been amended to have the death penalty removed.  As soon as the Bill was listed on the parliamentary order paper, pressure in the House was high as activists filled the gallery in anticipation.

But in the end, it was not debated – along with 21 others, including the HIV/AIDS Prevention & Control Bill, 2010 the Regional Governments Bill, 2009 and the long-awaited Marriage and Divorce Bill.

If the report from the Legal and Parliamentary Afffairs committee that I have is the final and official report, then it is not accurate to say that the death penalty was removed.
The article does give some insight into why the women MPs walked out of Parliament on Wednesday, leading to the loss of the quorum. This action may have kept the Anti-Homosexuality Bill from getting a vote.

Jane Alisemera, chairperson of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association, accused Attorney General Khiddu Makubuya of “killing” the Marriage and Divorce Bill, which she says has been on the backburner for 45 years.
“During our interactions with him, he said he had no problem with the document,” Alisemera said. “When Speaker Ssekandi suggested that it be debated on Wednesday, he said he was not ready for it.”

Mr Makubuya informed Parliament last week that the Marriage and Divorce Bill would not be tabled in Parliament as government was still consulting on the matter, prompting women legislators to storm out of the House. If the Marriage and Divorce Bill is passed and becomes law, it would abolish forced marriage and allow women to divorce their husbands on the basis of cruelty, among others.

Breaking: Ugandan Parliament stalled on technicality, fate of anti-gay bill uncertain; Parliament adjourned sine die

Read my concise rendering of today’s events and those leading up to today at Huffington Post.
For details, read on…
Despite being called to business today by Speaker Edward Ssekandi, Uganda’s parliamentary session has been stalled today and may adjourn (it did adjourn, see update below) without taking any action on pending legislation, including the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. According to parliamentary spokeswoman, Helen Kawesa, Parliament is stalled on a “technicality.” She said there is no Cabinet in place because it was dissolved in preparation for the end of the 8th Parliament in advance of yesterday’s Presidential inauguration. It is unclear who raised the issue of the necessity for Cabinet to be place for business to be conducted. However the effect is that the session is winding up, with members discussing how to proceed before the end of the 8th Parliament on 18th.
According to this report, Speaker Ssekandi ordered Ministers on Monday to “vacate their seats” yesterday, the same day as the inauguration of President Museveni. However, at that time, the Speaker seemed to indicate that business could be conducted.

He said the directive to vacate the front bench seats which are only a reserve for government ministers and shadow ministers (opposition) does not mean affected members should stop attending and transacting parliament work.
He said the Eighth parliament runs till May 15, a day before the members of the Ninth parliament’s swearing-in-ceremony commences. The ruling NRM ministers and shadow ministers known occupy front bench seats in the parliament chambers while transacting parliament business.

The order paper on the Parliament website shows no bills on the agenda which indicates that the matter of the missing Cabinet must have come up prior to convening the session. The fate of the AHB is still not clear and may not be resolved until the last day of Parliament. Ms. Kawesa said the MPs were discussing a motion to continue all business until the next Parliament perhaps next week, when a new Cabinet is in place.
UPDATE: Apparently, there will be no more business but it is unclear whether a motion to continue was entertained. This announcement just appeared on the Parliament website:

Emotional farewells as Eighth Parliament closes
The term of office for Members of Parliament elected to the Eighth Parliament of Uganda has come to an end. Speaker of Parliament Rt.Hon.Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi announced to MPs, in an emmotional (sic) sitting , the end of the term of the Eighth parliament urging MPs to appreciate and embrace the multiparty political system.
“This Parliament was different from all parliaments before it. But my assessment is that people still long for the movement political system other than the multiparty system. The two systems are different and what you must know is that under multiparty system, Mps on the government side came with one manifesto that the executive is trying to implement,” he told MPs.
Speaker Ssekandi announced that the official proclamation for the end of the Eighth Parliament had already been signed and would be gazetted on May 18, the day the ninth Parliament would commence.

If he was quoted properly by the Uganda Razor, he said earlier in the week that the Eighth Parliament went to the 15th and business could be conducted without a Cabinet. Today, at a session that he called, he said business could not be conducted and announced that the proclamation ending the Parliament had been signed.
UPDATE: I have confirmed with Helen Kawesa that Parliament was adjourned sine die, meaning that the Speaker could call the members back to session if needed. In this way, there is always a legislative body, even when not in session. The proclamation to close the Parliament is signed but will only go into effect on the 18th.
When I asked spokeswoman Kawesa whether or not the AHB could come up next Parliament without the continuing motion, she said she knew of no means, but would not rule it out. I also asked her why the Speaker called the members back to session knowing that there was no Cabinet. Kawesa said she did not know.
As is stands, with no further action, Bahati will have to ask Parliament permission to move AHB-II as a private member’s bill. If they give him that permission then he can introduce the same bill or a modified one and the process will begin again. Today, however, is a good day for freedom of conscience.
The AP has a report on the matter…

Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuk said there is no time to take up the bill this session, which ends Wednesday, leaving the bill’s future uncertain. Kiwanuk adjourned the parliament Friday and set no date for the body to return.

Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Is the death penalty off the table or not?

Earlier today, I received a report from a source in Uganda which appears to be the report from the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee on the AHB. I did not write about it because I could not confirm that the report was indeed a final report from that committee. Given the time in Kampala, I won’t be able to confirm it until tomorrow. However, if the report is the committee’s final report then the death penalty may not be off the table. Let me add that the report looks like other committee reports I have seen and matches up with what I have heard it contains with the exception of the claims about the death penalty.
For now, I am going to focus on section three of the report which is where the death penalty can be found. Here is section 3 from the bill:

3. Aggravated homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the
(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;
(b) offender is a person living with HIV;
(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;
(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;
(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;
(f) offender is a serial offender, or
(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,
(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.
(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

Note especially #2 above and then read the recommendation for section three in the committee report:

1.   Clause 3 (2) is amended by substituting for the words “…suffer death’’ with words “…the penalty provided for aggravated defilement under Section 129 of the Penal Code Act”.

The justification for this change is given as follows:

To harmonise the provision with the penalty under the Penal Code Act

Now at issue is “the penalty provided for aggravated defilement under Section 129 of the Penal Code Act.” What is it? Here is Section 129 of the Penal Code Act. Read this and find the penalty:

Defilement of persons under eighteen years of age
129. (1) Any person who performs a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years, commits a felony known as defilement and is on conviction liable to life imprisonment.
(2) Any person who attempts to perform a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years commits an offence and is on conviction, liable to imprisonment not exceeding eighteen years.
(3) Any person who attempts to perform a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years in any of the circumstances specified in subsection (4) commits a felony called aggravated defilement and is, on conviction by the High Court, liable to suffer death.
(4) The circumstances referred to in subsection (3) are as follows—
(a) where the person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of fourteen years;
(b) where the offender to his or her knowledge, is infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome(AIDS);
(c) where the offender is a parent or guardian of or a person in authority over, the person against whom the offence is committed; or
(d) where the offender is a serial offender.
(5) Any person who attempts to perform a sexual act with another person below the age of eighteen years in any of the circumstances specified in subsection (4), commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to imprisonment for life.
(6) In this section unless the context otherwise requires—
“serial offender” means a person who has a previous conviction for the offence of defilement or aggravated defilement;
“sexual act” means penetration of the vagina, mouth, or anus, however slight, of any person by a sexual organ or the use of any object or organ by a person on another person’s sexual organ
“sexual organ” includes a vagina or penis.

Note that the penalty for “aggravated defilement” (underlined in bold above) is death. Now note that the AHB only refers to the penalty for aggravated defilement and not any of the offenses. The recommendation does not seem to be a substitution of defilement laws (which by the way covers both boys and girls), but rather is simply another way of wording the death penalty.
Those who are saying the death penalty has been removed have some explaining to do. No one should accept those claims after reviewing this report.

US State Department condemns Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

From CNN:

Washington (CNN) — The State Department Thursday condemned a proposed bill in the Ugandan parliament that could make engaging in homosexual acts a capital offense punishable by death. The bill may be debated Friday by the Ugandan parliament.
“No amendments, no changes, would justify the passage of this odious bill,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. “Both (President Barack Obama) and (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) publicly said it is inconsistent with universal human rights standards and obligations.”

Possible amendments to Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

UPDATE: (4pm) – Apparently, President Museveni cannot directly veto the AHB. I confirmed this with two sources today and read through their Rules of Procedure and Constitution. He can send it back or refuse to assent to it (although it would be the first time he has ever done so) but he cannot directly stop it. If he refuses to assent to it, Parliament can either turn around and pass it or they can wait 30 days for it to become law. It can either pass or fail tomorrow. If it comes up and fails then it is done in present form. If it doesn’t come up tomorrow, then a MP can make a motion to continue all business forward. In addition, I heard today, but cannot confirm that if no motion is passed to continue all business, then the new incoming Speaker could direct the committees to pick up where they left off with unfinished bills from the last Parliament. We apparently could be monitoring this particular AHB until at least May 19.
This morning I listened in while Ugandan MP David Bahati was speaking with NPR’s Tell Me More program (live at 11am; if not in your area, click the link to listen to the broadcast at noon) and he described some of the suggested changes to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Bahati said they are now focusing on recruitment, promotion and providing care for the victims of homosexuality. Thus, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee will suggest removing the death penalty and the sections regarding “attempted homosexuality” (e.g., touching) and the 24-hour reporting requirement (if you know someone who is gay, you must report to police or face jail/fines).
However, penalties will remain, although these were not disclosed. And it is important to remember that the bill has not been changed as yet. If the bill comes up tomorrow, the committee will make recommendations, and the MPs will discuss them. One will not know what is in the final version until it is read a third time. On the NPR program, Bahati emphasized that the proposals about “promotion” remain. “Promotion of homosexuality,” section 13, of the AHB reads:

13. Promotion of homosexuality.
(1) A person who –
(a) participates in production. procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality;
(b) funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities;
(c) offers premises and other related fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality;
(d) uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality and;
(e) who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices; commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a line of live thousand currency points or imprisonment of a minimum of five years and a maximum of seven years or both fine and imprisonment.
(2) Where the offender is a corporate body or a business or an association or a non-governmental organization, on conviction its certificate of registration shall be cancelled and the director or proprietor or promoter shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for seven years.

Please note the restrictions on free speech and assembly. Just using a cell phone to meet a date could get you in trouble.
There are no changes that could make this bill acceptable, but the perception of the Uganda supporters is that they have listened to the world and offered a reasonable response. Given this headline in the LA Times yesterday, I am concerned that media will focus on what is altered and not on what remains and what is the intent of the bill.
I was asked on the show what comes next if the bill passes tomorrow. It seems to me that the focus will turn to the President. One day after his inauguration, he will have to decide whether to send the bill back or not. Armchair Uganda watchers out there, what will he do?

NPR's Tell Me More discusses Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

David Bahati will be on at the top of the show, Tell Me More. I will be on sometime after that to discuss the recent happenings in Uganda regarding the AHB.
To listen, go to the website (or here to listen live) and find where it airs in your neck of the woods. It will be archived later today as well.
There is also an interesting article out this morning at the Daily Beast  quoting yours truly.