Uganda's Parliament Responds To President's Rejection of Anti-Homosexuality Bill

In light of the rejection of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by Ugandan President Yowari Museveni, I asked Parliament spokeswoman Helen Kawesa about Speaker Kadaga’s reaction to Museveni’s characterization of the bill as “fascist.” In an email, she said:

The official position is that Parliament passed the Bill. Its now in President’s hands to assent or not. Parliament did its part and can only wait for the President’s position then the process can take its course.

If Museveni makes good on his stated intentions, the bill will be returned to Parliament with Museveni’s suggested changes. Parliament may consider it or leave the matter alone. This process could extend into next year when the Parliament ends.
Apparently, Museveni does not have the amended bill to review as yet. When he receives it, he will have 30 days to send it back to Parliament.

Update on Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill; President Will Not Assent to "Fascist" Legislation

Late last week, Uganda’s president Yowari Museveni spoke out against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill but stopped short of declaring in his letter to Parliament what he planned to do about the bill.
According to a press release from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights dated Jan. 18, Museveni will not sign what he termed as “fascist” legislation.

(18 January 2014 | Kampala) A delegation from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) met with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni today at State House in Entebbe, Uganda to discuss the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by Uganda’s parliament on December 20, 2013. Last month Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote to the President to express their concern over the bill, requesting further discussion on the matter.
The delegation – comprised of Ms. Kennedy, Santiago A. Canton, Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, and Wade McMullen, Staff Attorney for the RFK Center – expressed their grave concern over the legislation that would further criminalize homosexual conduct, censor freedom of expression, and ban civil society organizations working on LGBTI issues in Uganda. Archbishop Desmond Tutu who joined the conversation via telephone similarly expressed his concern, stating the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reminiscent of oppressive laws passed under apartheid in South Africa.
President Museveni pledged to reject the bill as currently drafted, calling the legislation “fascist.” The President stated that he will consult with his party and plans to introduce a new piece of legislation aimed at protecting minors from being coerced into sexual activity.

Today’s Daily Monitor brought this news to Ugandans. This is significant development in Uganda’s political landscape. Museveni will now suggest legislation which will actually address what many parliamentarians tout as their main concern — children. All LGB groups in Uganda oppose crimes against children.
Uganda’s Civil Society organization also spoke out against the bill, noting what the lack of quorum and notice on the order paper.


Full Text of Letter From Uganda's President Museveni to Speaker of Parliament Kadaga Regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

I have been out most of the day and so I am just now seeing this letter from Uganda’s President Yowari Museveni to Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga. The letter was sent to me by an activist from Uganda.
I hope the viewer below works for you; otherwise, click the link to read it.

It is not clear what the next move is. Given that the letter is dated December 28, 2013, Museveni would have until January 28 to formally send it back to Parliament. Otherwise, it would become law.

Uganda's President Rejects Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Says Parliament Broke the Law By Passing It

According to the Daily Monitor for Friday, January 17, President Museveni sent Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga a December 28 letter scolding Parliament for passing the Anti-Homosexuality bill without a quorum.
Museveni will apparently not assent to the bill and advised Kadaga that  “the NRM Caucus will find a scientifically correct position on the proposed anti-gay legislation” according to the Monitor.
Museveni apparently called gays “abnormal,” but added that legislation would not stop people from becoming homosexuality.
If Museveni formally returns the bill to Parliament, debate will take place. If the requested changes are not made, the President can send the bill back another time. A 2/3 majority would be required at that point to pass the bill. According to one MP, Museveni is committed to softening the bill.
If this is true, then perhaps Sen. Inhofe can express appreciation for stalling the bill when Inhofe meets with Museveni next week.

Was The Death Penalty Really Removed From Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill? (UPDATED)

UPDATE – 1/14/14: This morning, I received an email from Charles Tuhaise, researcher for Uganda’s Parliament. Charles provided clarification about some of the issues I raised in this post. Thanks to him for the information. I am placing his comments in advance of yesterday’s post because they address some of my questions below. Regarding the manner of handling bills in Uganda, Tuhaise wrote:

Over here, the original Bill remains intact throughout the debate period until the Bill comes up for second reading. At second reading, usually on the same day, the entire Parliament constitutes itself into a “Committee of the whole House” and then effects amendments to the Bill clause-by-clause. After that, the Bill is “read” the third time and is passed by Parliament.
The rules of procedure do not provide for any other way of amending a Bill, after it is printed, other than the above procedure, when the Bill appears for 2nd reading in Parliament’s plenary sitting. That’s why the same copies of the AH Bill are provided whenever you request them. Even if it is a Private Member’s Bill, the Bill’s proponent cannot alter anything in the printed Bill, but must wait to propose such amendment at the Bill’s 2nd reading.
After a Bill is passed by Parliament with amendments, the Clerk’s office undertakes to produce the revised Bill that incorporates the amendments agreed by Parliament. This revised copy of the Bill is never availed to the public but is sent to the President for assent. If the President assents, it goes to the Printers and is next seen by the public as an Act of Parliament, (no-longer a Bill).
I hope this clarifies the issue of Bill amendment. The first time we know which amendments were agreed on in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, is when it appears as an Act of Parliament (i.e. if the President signs it as passed). Alternatively, one can go to the House record of the debates (the Hansard) to see the amendments agreed when Parliament constituted itself as “Committee of the whole House” – (after the Hansard Department publishes the day’s proceedings – not sure if a copy is already available.)
But, Parliament’s Public Relations Department covered the day’s proceedings and wrote an article that indicates what was agreed on that day.

The article indicates that an act of homosexuality could lead to 14 years in jail with life in prison for repeated offenses. I have also been told that the 30 day period for Museveni’s assent (or not) does not begin until he gets the amended bill. If that is true, then his time for consideration may not have started since he may not yet have the amended bill. I asked Charles to clarify that point and will add that information when I get it.
……………. (Original posts begins below)
After the passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill on December 20, all news coverage of that event claimed that the death penalty was removed from the bill.
On one other occasion prior to the adjournment of the 8th Parliament, the public was told that the death penalty had been removed. However, later, it was learned that the death penalty was in fact, still in place. And if the committee report that supported the enactment of the bill in December is the same report as offered in May 2011, then the death penalty could very well still be in the bill being considered now by Uganda’s president Yowari Museveni.
I have asked Parliament several times for a copy of the amended bill. Recently, when I asked Parliament’s media relations for a copy of the bill passed in December 2013, I received a copy of the bill tabled in June, 2011. In that bill, there are no changes from the original bill; the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality is still in place.

The date stamped on this bill is June 30, 2011 which was when the bill was tabled in the 9th Parliament. Click the link to read the bill sent to me and described as the bill passed by Parliament. The description of “aggravated homosexuality” is the same.

The death penalty is still in there (UPDATE: but as noted above, the death penalty is supposed to be removed. I still want to see the language myself due to the incident in 2011).
Now it may be that amendments were made and the bill as amended is being kept a secret. However, with the deadline looming for Museveni’s decision, it is worth asking what is actually in the bill. The world was told once upon a time that the death penalty was taken out and that other changes were made. However, the committee report in 2011 revealed otherwise.
Life in prison is bad enough and as this Cameroonian fellow proves, any time spent in prison could be a death sentence, so the removal, if true, is not reason for relief.
As I understand it, the bill becomes law if Museveni does nothing by next Monday (please see above — this may not be true). As of now, in my mind, there is still some doubt about what that law will look like.

Uganda's President May Not Sign Anti-Homosexuality Bill; Ssempa Involved in Stealth Plan to Pass Bill

According to Uganda’s New Vision, Ugandan president Yowari Museveni may not sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He told the NV that he would read it before he decides what to do.
While it may seem like such a course should not need to be stated, Museveni has not returned a bill to Parliament during this Parliament. Thus, his statement is a signal that he may depart from his usual practice.
Museveni could slow the bill down by sending the bill back to Parliament with suggestions. The Parliament could then send it to committee where it could remain indefinitely. If the Parliament returns the bill, Museveni can send it back again if he doesn’t like it. Eventually, if the Parliament returns it to him after a two-thirds vote (the second time around), the bill will become law. However, the Parliament could elect to allow the bill to remain in committee until the Parliament closes thereby allowing it to expire. For a detailed examination of the bill in the context of Uganda’s constitution, see this summary at Box Turtle Bulletin.
For a fascinating examination of the events surrounding the passage of the bill, view this video.
For more context of the passage of the bill, see this article in Uganda’s Observer. Note the role of Ugandan minister Martin Ssempa in hatching a plan to pass the bill in stealth mode. I hope the bill is challenged in court there and this information used to indicate how Parliament violated rules of procedure in order to prevent opposition from having their voice.
While I have yet to see the bill, the amendments are describe in the Observer article. I want to see the actual language before I concede that the death penalty has been removed, but it certainly seems likely that it has been. However, life in prison is practically a death sentence in Uganda.
UPDATE: Andrew Mwenda speaks out against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on NTV last night.

Uganda Watch: President Says There is No Discrimination Against Gays in Uganda

Speaking to a delegation from the Robert F. Kennedy Center, Uganda’s President Yowari Museveni sounded moderate tones in discussing homosexuality yesterday.
Contrary to numerous reports of discrimination and violence, Museveni said that in Uganda, “there is no discrimination, no killings, no marginalization, no luring of young people using money into homosexual acts”. Perhaps he means there shouldn’t be such actions, but the country’s Parliament needs to put away the Anto-Homosexuality Bill before his words can have any credibility.
Currently, Parliament is on recess to get constituent feedback on the contentious Marriage and Divorce Bill. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill remains at #3 on the list of items to be considered.

Museveni backs wife to take over as Uganda’s President

Yowari Museveni will apparently not provoke a Constitutional crisis and remain in office after age 75 but he is backing his wife as the NRM standard bearer when he retires. This according to the East African:

Apparently, First Lady Janet Kataaha Museveni has emerged as the preferred successor to the president, with the full backing of her husband, who is also chairman of the ruling National Resistance Movement.

Senior security sources told The EastAfrican that the president dropped the name of his wife, who is also Ruhaama MP and Minister for Karamoja Affairs, a few weeks ago while meeting top army generals, who form a critical power base of the regime, and whose support will be key to whoever succeeds the incumbent.

The source added that the generals did not expect this twist in the succession saga.

“There was a loud silence in the room. Army chiefs were all in disbelief [that he could name his wife for successor]. I don’t know how it will end because they [generals] have remained quiet, instead of coming out in support of Mzee’s choice,” said the source.

Janet Museveni has been rumored as more conservative than her husband and was named as being behind the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda.

Museveni says gays not persecuted; forgets persecution last week

What a short memory.

Uganda’s President says gays aren’t persecuted in his country just days after his Ethics Minister raided a GLBT conference and chased activists out of the hotel fearing arrest.

Note to the rest of the world – The President of Uganda wants you to subscribe to his version of reality where disrupting and threatening a peaceful assembly is not persecution.

Uganda's President says gays should not be harassed

He said this in the context that he would not bow to British pressure. However, he seems to be saying live and let live.

The President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni says he is not moved by the threats issued by the British Prime Minister James Cameroon regarding the reduction of foreign aid to countries that have laws punishing homosexuality.
Museveni, while meeting the Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe at State House Entebbe says Uganda shall not promote such acts of homosexuality under any circumstances.
Early this week, the U.K Government stated that it will deduct the aid to Uganda because of its intention to pass a law that will be against homosexuals’ rights.
Museveni however says his government shall not harass homosexuals because they have lived well in Uganda for ages even before colonization. He says they should practice their acts in private and not in the limelight.
Meanwhile, the Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe says Togo is a homosexual free state.
Gnassingbe has ended his 4 day state visit to Uganda by hailing Uganda for its economical development.

Yesterday, I spoke with a Parliamentary Spokesperson who told me that the Business committee had not met to decide the agenda for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.