The future is now: Ugandan pastors investigated over homosexuality accusations

Under the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, it would be a crime to know about a homosexual and not report it to authorities.

Here is the relevant section of the bill:

14. Failure to disclose the offence.

A person in authority, who being aware of the commission of any offence under this Act, omits to report the offence to the relevant authorities within twenty-four hours of having first had that knowledge, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years.

A person in authority is defined very broadly in the bill:

“authority” means having power and control over other people because of your knowledge and official position; and shall include a person who exercises religious. political, economic or social authority;

It most certainly would include a pastor, missionary, teacher, a parent or even a friend, if the friend was in a position of authority. This sounds like the definition of a mandated reporter of child abuse in the US.

One can imagine the witch hunts that would occur under this bill. Family members would be under pressure to report their loved ones. Missionaries would face expulsion from the country. AIDS workers would be in conflict between ethics and the law. The work of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) would be significantly hindered by this requirement.

One such scenario is being played out in Uganda now. Bringing irony to the situation is the involvement of Martin Ssempa, a major supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009. AllAfrica reports:

Uganda: Police Quiz Pastors Kyaze and Kayira

Steven Candia, 26 October 2009

Kampala — Two pastors at the centre of homosexual allegations against their colleague, Robert Kayira, were yesterday interrogated by the Police on charges of criminal trespass.

Pastor Michael Kyazze and his assistant Robert Kayira of Omega Healing Centre were interrogated at the Kampala Central Police Station.

They were, however, released on Police bond at about 3:00pm and asked to report back today at 11:00am.

Whereas both of them were charged with conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, Kayira was also charged with criminal trespass.

Deputy Kampala Police spokesperson Henry Kalulu was reluctant to talk about the matter.

“What I know is that interrogations are going on,” he said at the weekly press briefing.

The pastors said the sudden turn of events was a travesty of justice.

Kyaze laughed off the charge of criminal trespass, saying it could not stand in relation to a church, which is a public place.

“A church is open to all at all times. I find it funny that someone can be charged with that offence,” Kyazze said.

The pastors were accompanied by Pastor Martin Ssempa of Makerere Community Church and Solomon Male of Arise for Christ.

“I am wondering which is the greater offence, is it the allegation of homosexuality or criminal trespass. What became of the allegations of homosexuality against Kayanja?” Kyazze wondered.

Police sources said Kayira was arrested in April at Kayanja’s Rubaga Cathedral with a laptop, allegedly on a mission to pick incriminating evidence that would pin pastor Kayanja on the homosexual allegations.

Kyazze rubbished the allegations, saying his assistant was not found on the premises of the cathedral.

Ssempa wondered what more proof the Police wanted on the homosexual allegations before they act.

“Did they want the boys the pastor is alleged to have sodomised to first get pregnant before they can believe?” he wondered.

He called for an independent inquiry by Parliament, saying the Police lacked the impartiality to investigate the matter.

Kayira and Kyazze have been at the forefront of the homosexual allegations against Kayanja.

Recently, the Director of Public Prosecution dismissed the allegations against Kayanja and instead directed the Police to investigate the pastors.

It appears that these pastors believe Rev. Kayanja is in need of some jail time. Now clearly if Kayanja has abused children, then he should be brought to justice. However, the young man who initially alleged the abuse has now recanted. And yet, the pastors, Ssempa included, press ahead with the allegations. It is easy to see how “persons in authority” could manufacture charges regarding enemies. In the case above, Ssempa and company are doubting the ability of the police to investigate these cases. What will change if this bill passes?

In this current case, the shoe is on the other foot. I wonder how it fits.

More on the situation is here (the accuser arrested) and here (an interview with Ssempa).