Buzzfeed: State Department Warns Uganda on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Earlier today, Buzzfeed reported on a State Department briefing on Uganda’s efforts to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The briefing should be reviewed in full but the take away is that Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson was in Uganda over the weekend expressing the U.S. opposition to the bill. Carson pressed the point that the bill would violate Uganda’s own human rights standards.

I think the presence of Carson is important and necessary. It is not too late for Uganda’s leaders to step back and reconsider the human rights implications of the bill.

One aspect of the briefing that was interesting to me was the fact that State Department could not confirm the removal of the death penalty. It is important for the media and blogging community to report accurately and maintain some skepticism about reports that cannot be confirmed.

Hat tip: @melanienathan1

Scott Lively and Bryan Fischer Laud Uganda as Christian Nation; Support Anti-Homosexuality Bill

World Net Daily and Scott Lively sang the praise of Uganda’s President Yowari Museveni in an article published November 24. Museveni recently prayed at two events and seemed to repent for Uganda’s sins. His prayer was a recitation of problems with no mention of specific actions on Museveni’s part. However, WND and Scott Lively, who is quoted in the article, believe Museveni’s prayer should be a model for other nations.

This article relates to meetings that occurred in Uganda back in October. The current relevance relates to the fact that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is back in the news. The Parliament may consider the bill this week. On that point, Scott Lively opposes the death penalty but lauds Uganda’s efforts to pass the anti-gay bill.

Sunday, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association tweeted his approval of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and signaled the appearance of Lively on his show on Monday.

I think Lively and Fischer are completely wrong. They defend the indefensible. Uganda watchers recognize Museveni’s prayer as a move to pander to the conservative Christians of that nation.

This is not the first African leader to declare his country a Christian nation. For instance, Zambia’s late president Frederick Chiluba declared Zambia to be a Christian nation early in his rule. His rhetoric was much like Museveni’s but the rest of the story is that Chiluba was tried for corruption in a trial that cost Zambia millions of dollars.

Furthermore, there is a mistaken belief at work here. Lively and Fischer believe that national repentance is possible. They take the verses in the Old Testament directed toward Israel as having application to any nation today. This flaw is responsible for much mischief. In the Bible, God was active in making a covenant with Israel. However, whether it be Uganda or the USA, God has not made a covenant. It doesn’t work the same way for a political leader to declare such a covenant.

When a political leader acknowledges God, there is no guarantee of prosperity or success. For instance, the Confederate Constitution gave recognition to “Almighty God” in a way that the United States constitution does not do. That document begins:

We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.

The Confederacy invoked “the favor and guidance of Almighty God” but this invocation did nothing for them.

Museveni has invoked God’s blessing before and yet Uganda remains a very poor nation with multiple problems. Lively says Uganda will prosper for their stance on gays. However, Uganda has been a difficult place for gays to live for many years without some obvious divine blessing.

Spokesman Says Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Will Not Be Debated Today UPDATE – NTV Report: Committee Endorses Life in Prison

According to spokesman Nsimbe Kassim, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is still in committee and will not be debated today. Kassim told me that the report from the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee will not come before Parliament today but will probably come up next week.  The main business today is more work on the bills relating to the oil industry in Uganda. According to yesterday’s agenda, Parliament must get through two Petroleum Bills, the Accountants Bill, a resolution to encourage a bail out of a steel mill and consideration of a report on the energy sector before debate on the anti-gay bill.

UPDATE: In the category of “I’ll believe it when I see it” is this report from the BBC.  In May 2011, MPs said the death penalty had been dropped when in fact it was still in the bill.

UPDATE: This NTV report lends some credibility to the BBC story above. Committee chair Stephen Tashobya is quoted as saying the report is complete and others speaking off camera say that the penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” will now be life in prison. This report indicates that action on the bill will take place next week.

Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Denies Travel Sanctions over Anti-gay Bill

In an article on the parliament website, Rebecca Kadaga denies that she has been barred from attending the Global Peace Convention over her support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As I noted last night, the State Department denied reports that  sanctions have been threatened.  It is unclear what committee chair Stephen Tashobya was referring to by a letter he said he received from the United States.

Here is the article from the parliament website:

The Parliament of Uganda has noted with concern the information being disseminated by some media houses and other sources that due to concern for her security, the Right Honorable Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has been barred by the American Embassy, from travelling to the United States to attend the Global Peace Convention 2012. This, it is claimed, is a result of the Rt. Hon. Speaker’s pronouncements during the IPU Conference in Quebec in October 2012,  on matters pertaining to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is due to be debated in Parliament of Uganda.

The Parliament of Uganda would like to formally clarify therefore that the United States Embassy in Uganda has not at any one time formally communicated to the  Office of the Speaker or to the Speaker herself preventing her from travelling to the United States of America for the said Convention.

While it is true that the Speaker had been invited to attend the Heads of State Global Peace Convention 2012 which will take place from November 29th to December 1st in Atlanta, Georgia, she declined to attend the meeting due to several commitments at Parliament most important of which was that the Deputy Speaker was scheduled to be out of the country on official business at the time, yet Parliament was in session.  It may be necessary to note that constitutionally, it is only the Speaker or her Deputy permitted to chair parliamentary sittings. They can, therefore, not be away at the same time when Parliament is sitting.

The Parliament of Uganda would like to clarify, therefore, that all reports pertaining to the travel ban on the Right Honorable Speaker are fictitious, and have been treated by the Parliament with the contempt that they deserve.  The public is advised to treat the news with similar regard.

It should be noted, in conclusion, that the leadership and the Parliament of Uganda enjoy cordial relations with both the United States Embassy in Uganda and the United States Department of State.

The Global Peace Conference is sponsored by the Unification Church.

Uganda TV: United States to Impose Sanctions if Anti-Homosexuality Bill is Approved (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Wade McMullen from the Kennedy Center tweeted me to say that the State Department denies that Obama threatened sanctions.

On this clip, we learn that sanctions may be in store for Uganda if Parliament passes the anti-gay bill.

Committee chair Stephen Tashobya is interviewed in this clip. Tashobya has at various times said the bill would not emerge from his committee. However, he would be a pivotal figure in the passage of the bill since his committee must submit a report for consideration by Parliament. Tashobya discloses on this clip the fact that the US has promised sanctions if the bill passes.

Just last week, Tashobya told me he was unable to comment on the bill. However, now he is on camera commenting on the president’s letter to the Ugandan committee.