Uganda defends Anti-Homosexuality bill in embassy cables

The Guardian has published cables from the US Embassy regarding Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In this, you get an interesting look inside US policy on this issue.

Cable dated:2009-12-24T08:27:00

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 KAMPALA 001413 SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/12/24

TAGS: PHUM, PGOV, PREL, UG

SUBJECT: UGANDA: HOMOPHOBE EXTREMISTS AND HOMOSEXUAL SCAPEGOATS

REF: 09 KAMPALA 01381; 09 KAMPALA 1409; 09 KAMPALA 1396 09 KAMPALA 01024

CLASSIFIED BY: Aaron Sampson, Pol/Econ Chief, State, Pol/Econ; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary: Parliamentary sponsor of the anti-homosexuality bill, David Bahati, told PolOffs on December 15 that he is open to minor changes to his legislation, expressed deep disappointment with Rick Warren and others’ statements against the bill, and said Uganda will not yield to international pressure. On December 18, Bahati and Pastor Martin Ssempa dominated a one-sided “consultative meeting” on the bill organized by the Uganda Human Rights Commission with UN funding. Bahati directly challenged the White House statement against the bill, and said impending oil revenues will soon liberate Uganda from international influence. Members of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee continue to maintain that the anti-homosexuality bill is not a priority and will not come up for debate in committee until March or April 2011. However, domestic pressure on parliamentarians is growing. XXXXXXXXXXXX 

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Bahati Unrepentant

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2. (C) PolOffs met with Bahati on December 15 to provide recent statements by Rick Warren and others against the anti-homosexuality bill. At Bahati’s request, the meeting occurred at the Anglican Church of Uganda’s headquarters where Bahati said he was reviewing the legislation with Anglican Church leaders. XXXXXXXXXXXX Bahati entered our meeting with a document entitled “The 10 Deadly Sins of Homosexuality”, and launched into a lengthy explanation of the current bill, saying it renders existing law more specific by defining homosexuality and attaching penalties for homosexual “recruitment”. He criticized international donors for short circuiting Uganda’s democratic procedures when it is in their interest, said demands to withdraw the legislation outright are unacceptable, and ridiculed recent threats by Sweden to cut its assistance (ref. A). Bahati attributed international criticism to a misreading of the text and a misunderstanding of the “situation on the ground” in Uganda.

3. (U) Bahati described the bill as a “proposal”, solicited recommendations for “improving” the legislation, and appeared moderately open to altering provisions regarding the death penalty and requirements to report homosexual activity to authorities within 24 hours. Bahati said he personally does not believe in the death penalty and that this language was lifted directly from Uganda’s 2007 Defilement Act. He said he is talking with XXXXXXXXXXXX about the bill’s impact on HIV/AIDS programs, but that he does not believe the legislation will negatively impact HIV/AIDS prevention. Although Bahati claimed the bill is intended to further protect minors from sexual predators, he seemed unaware and unconcerned that his bill’s “aggravated homosexuality” provision also condemns to death “serial offenders” twice convicted of the lesser and much more vague infractions of “homosexuality” and “related offenses”.

4. (C) Bahati expressed profound disappointment with Rick Warren’s letter against the billXXXXXXXXXXXX and said Ugandan church leaders are in the process of drafting a response. XXXXXXXXXXXX Bahati hoped Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee will take up the bill in February 2010, but said his overriding goal is to see the bill into law – and he stressed that the bill will become law – by the February 2011 elections.

KAMPALA 00001413 002 OF 004

5. (C) Bahati’s reasoning for introducing the bill alternated between protecting children from sexual predators, eradicating Uganda of homosexuality, and some combination of the two. He claimed to have evidence documenting the homosexual recruitment of children, particularly in same sex schools and churches, and said the bill’s provisions on reporting suspected homosexuality specifically target school masters and religious leaders. When asked to elaborate on evidence of supposed homosexual recruitment, Bahati referred to a XXXXXXXXXXXX pamphlet distributed in Uganda in 2002 that mentioned same-sex attraction, vague activities of unnamed foreign NGOs, and “networking” among foreign diplomats. At the end of the meeting, Bahati noted that he is also the Chairman of the Uganda Boy Scouts and is working on another bill – the second of his short Parliamentary career – updating Uganda’s 1963 Scouts Act. We did not ask if this bill will also target homosexuality.

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One-Sided Human Rights Debate

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6. (C) On December 18, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) organized – with support from the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights – what turned out to be a one-sided debate on the anti-homosexuality bill. XXXXXXXXXXXX Prior to the debate PolOff received a text message from XXXXXXXXXXXX expressing concerns for the safety of XXXXXXXXXXXX representatives scheduled to attend the event. Bahati’s late arrival delayed the event for more than an hour, and the UHRC failed to seat any representative of those opposed to the legislation at the head table, despite seating Bahati and – for unexplained reasons – Uganda’s most outspoken anti-gay activist Martin Ssempa. A comment by an audience member later prompted the UHRC to correct this imbalance by inviting a clearly hesitant and nervous SMUG leader, David Kato, to sit beside Ssempa on the dais. Ssempa proceeded to shake Kato’s hand while striking absurd poses for the assembled press corps.

7. (C) Bahati’s remarks mirrored his private statements to PolOffs. Bahati also attacked the White House statement opposing the bill, saying that he admires President Obama, that President Obama ran on a platform of change, and that Uganda’s message to him is that “homosexuality is not a change but rather an evil that we must fight.” At this point the room erupted in loud applause, led by Ssempa pounding his hand on the head table, and Bahati observed that oil revenues will free Uganda of foreign entanglements. At other points in Bahati’s tirade against homosexuality, Ssempa registered his support by issuing audible sounds of disgust.

8. (C) Kato delivered a well-written speech defending the rights of gay and lesbians in Uganda. However, his words were nearly indecipherable due to his evident nervousness. Throughout Kato’s speech, XXXXXXXXXXXX UHRCXXXXXXXXXXXX openly joked and snickered with Bahati and Ssempa XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX representatives left shortly after Kato’s speech, fearing that Bahati had instructed the Inspector General of Police to arrest Kato. After a break, Ssempa showed graphic x-rated photos of what he described as gay sex, and several audience members rose to ask why authorities did not arrest Ugandan homosexuals when they had the chance. XXXXXXXXXXXX

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Buturo – He’s Back

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KAMPALA 00001413 003 OF 004

9. XXXXXXXXXXXX

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Parliamentary Debate in March or April

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10. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX reaffirmed that Bahati’s bill is not a priority and that debate on the legislation will likely not begin until March or April 2011 (ref. C). Key bills on election reform, political party funding, and the International Criminal Court are already pending before XXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX said pressure to move the anti-homosexuality bill to the front of the line is “disturbing” committee members, but XXXXXXXXXXXX and take a skeptical view of anti-homosexuality legislation.

11. (C) Bahati tried to shift the bill from the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to the more favorable Presidential and Foreign Affairs Committee on December 15 but failed as there is no provision in Parliament to re-assign legislation from one committee to another. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the bill “has no place in our modern world”, and XXXXXXXXXXXX

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Opposition Concerns

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12. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX told PolOff XXXXXXXXXXXX. In September, Otunnu accused state security services of running a smear campaign about his sexual orientation and HIV status to discredit a potential presidential bid (ref. D). XXXXXXXXXXXX speculated that Uganda could run a similar smear campaign against Besigye, forcing him to curtail presidential campaign activities.

KAMPALA 00001413 004 OF 004 

13. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX said the opposition FDC fears Uganda will use the anti-homosexuality legislation against Besigye, and recalled government efforts to hobble Besigye’s 2006 presidential campaign by arresting him on spurious charges of rape, terrorism, and treason. XXXXXXXXXXXX speculated that Uganda could disrupt Besigye’s 2011 campaign with phony homosexuality allegations.

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Comment: Homophobic Demagogues

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14. (C) Recent condemnations by Warren and other U.S. based individuals have further isolated Bahati. His homophobia, however, is blinding and incurable. Bahati, Buturo, and particularly Ssempa’s ability to channel popular anger over Uganda’s socio-political failings into violent hatred of a previously unpopular but tolerated minority is chilling. XXXXXXXXXXXX described Ssempa as an anti-homosexuality “extremist.” XXXXXXXXXXXX said he opposes the legislation not because he favors homosexuality, but because legalizing persecution of homosexuals is the first step toward state sponsored persecution of other minority groups. On December 22, XXXXXXXXXXXX asked PolOff if the U.S. could provide an expert speaker to reinforce arguments exposing the human rights ramifications of Bahati’s legislation in advance of parliamentary hearings. Helping those attempting to counter Bahati, Buturo, and Ssempa to better craft their arguments – perhaps through a digital video conference or some other venue – is worth pursuing.

LANIER

GOProud says the World Net Daily report is not true

Today GOProud denied that their organization had been banned from the CPAC convention in 2012. Via Twitter message to me, GOProud said “The WND report is not true.”

Yesterday, World Net Daily reported that GOProud would not be welcomed back next year, but cited no sources for their report.  I have asked CPAC for comment and will report that when it comes.

Will GOProud be back at CPAC next year?

World Net Daily says they won’t be, citing “sources.”

However, tonight on From the Right radio, GOProud leader Chris Barron told host Ben Howe that he hoped that GOProud would be back. Howe asked Barron directly if GOProud would be back and there was no mention of being banned.

AFA divided over Bryan Fischer’s views on Native Americans

First, Elijah Friedeman stepped up and distanced himself from the supremacist views of Bryan Fischer about Native Americans. Friedeman’s rebuttal to Bryan Fischer’s now-removed column (you can read it here) saying Native Americans were “morally disqualified” can be read on his blog.

Now, AFA General Counsel, Patrick Vaughn has weighed in with a comment on my Crosswalk article reporting a statement from the Native American Rights Fund. There Vaughn wrote:

Bryan Fischer’s blog runs on the AFA website. His blog does not speak for AFA. His statements about Native Americans were wrong and disturbing. I am posting this as an individual, but provide my job description to illustrate that Bryan’s views were not those of AFA as a whole.

Patrick Vaughn

General Counsel

American Family Association, Inc.

The AFA does not appear to be a group that promotes diversity of viewpoints but on this issue, the organization has sought some distance from Mr. Fischer. Some organizations are known for their freedom of thought and expression (e.g., colleges and universities – academic freedom) whereas others (e.g., advocacy groups) are more often on ideological script. In this case, it appears that Mr. Fischer has found an issue which has generated genuine disagreement among his peers.

Bahati sidesteps questions about threats to BBC reporter

Last week, BBC reporter Scott Mills said he felt threatened by Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill author, David Bahati. Mills interviewed Bahati in Uganda for the program, The World’s Worst Places to be Gay. After the interview, Mills says he revealed his gay orienation to Bahati and then according to Mills:

The 36-year-old was filming a show called The World’s Worst Place to be Gay? (on BBC3, of course), when he confessed his sexual orientation to British-educated politician David Bahati – who Scott said “went mental”.

He explained: “He was scary. He ordered us to cut the cameras then brought a security guard.

“We ran off and he rang one of our guys saying, ‘Where are they staying? What are the registration plates? I want them arrested. They won’t get far’.”

Fortunately Scott’s colleague lied about their location, and armed police arrived at the Sheraton – where they had been falsely told the team were staying.

The DJ continued: “I’d heard horror stories about people getting arrested and roughed up and who knows what. I was scared.”

I wrote David Bahati and asked for his version of the events and he sent back the following message:

…the most important thing to me at the moment is to ensure that my president and party win elections on 18th feb but not to engage in immaterial issues of a journalist trying to make ends meet.

In this interview (click the link), Bahati says he would not have done the interview for the documentary if he knew Mills was gay.

On one other occasion, MP Bahati scared a gay BBC journalist who was filming a documentary. While I cannot reveal the identity of the journalist, I have independent confirmation of the fact that Bahati considered police intervention when a reporter revealed his sexual orientation.

Here is a brief clip of Mills with Solomon Male.

 

And then his witchdoctor treatment:

As Bahati noted, Ugandan elections are this coming Friday. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is one of many bills slated to be considered after the elections.

Bryan Fischer explains why the AFA pulled his column on Native Americans

I don’t know where the hole is going that Bryan Fischer is digging but it got a little deeper this afternoon.

As of mid-afternoon today, no decision had been made by AFA leaders to address the controversy over the column about Native Americans (you can read it here) according to Cindy Roberts, Director of Media and Public Relations.  Then late today, Mr. Fischer posted his explanation:

On Tuesday, I posted a column on the settlement of America by Europeans. The column generated so much intense, vitriolic and profane reaction that it threatened to take on a life of its own, and serve as a distraction to the fundamental mission of AFA, even though when I blog I am speaking only for myself and not for the organization. So we took it down. 

But the issue I addressed in the column is an important one, and at some point, a rational discussion and debate about it must be held. 

The template that the left has generated is that the displacement of indigenous tribes by European colonists and settlers was irredeemably evil. All the land which now comprises the United States was stolen from its rightful owners. Our very presence on this soil is a guilty, tainted presence. 

So the question is whether that template is right, or whether the displacement of indigenous nations was consistent with the laws of nature, nature’s God, and the law of nations and history. 

A lot is at stake here. If Americans believe that the entire history of our nation rests on a horribly evil foundation, then there is nothing to be proud of in American history, and our president is correct to identify America as the source of all evil in the world and to make a career out of apologizing for her very existence. 

If, however, there is a moral and ethical basis for our displacement of native American tribes, and if our westward expansion and settlement are in fact consistent with the laws of nature, nature’s God, and the law of nations, then Americans have much to be proud of.

Someone at the AFA must have determined that attacking Native Americans was out of sync with the AFA mission but that finding fault with the Medal of Honor and opining that Jesus would have allowed a home to burn down over failure to pay a fee is a part of their mission.

On the substance, it appears that shades of gray are missing from Mr. Fischer’s palette. I reject this reductionism and appeal to naturalism (“laws of nature and nature’s God?!).  In his column, Mr. Fischer tries to frame obviously evil acts as noble ones. However, evil does not become noble because the evil served an outcome that cannot now be undone.  

I disagree with the President on many issues but I don’t believe Fischer is correct in his assessment that Obama blames America for “all evil in the world.” Fischer expresses no regret for his offensive and supremacist generalizations about Native Americans and only makes things worse by engaging in all or nothing argumentation.

Would the GOP nominate Ronald Reagan today?

Reading today’s Politico made me doubt that Reagan would make the cut in 2012.

Indeed, by the end of the weekend, a dozen potential presidential hopefuls will have auditioned for the role of activist hero at CPAC, which is organized by Cardenas’s group.

So far, though, every leading contender seems to have a potentially fatal flaw.

Mitt Romney has a reputation for flip-flopping, which he acquired during the 2008 campaign and for his record on health care as governor of Massachusetts. Meanwhile, there are doubts about former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s readiness for the national arena. And while Pawlenty remains a cipher to most Republicans, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is entirely too well-known.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, meanwhile, alienated the GOP’s social conservative wing by calling for a “truce” on cultural issues. And Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is an admitted creature of the Washington establishment who has called ideological purity a “dead-dog loser.”

In the wake of the Republican Party’s sweeping victory in 2010, conservatives have less patience than ever for that message. They’re hoping for a nominee who’s a “full conservative,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins — someone who can completely satisfy the economic, social and foreign policy wings, all at the same time.

By “full conservative” Perkins means someone who is sufficiently anti-gay. The Family Research Council pulled out of the CPAC convention, going on now, because a conservative gay group, GOProud, was allowed to take part.

Now consider that former CA Governor Ronald Reagan publicly opposed the 1978 Briggs Initiative which would have allowed school districts to fire and refuse to hire gays teachers and those straight teachers who spoke favorably about homosexuals. The measure failed and Reagan was given some credit for the defeat by gay groups. He had nothing to gain politically and a lot to lose in that he was gearing up for a run at the White House – which of course he won.

What if Reagan approached the GOP race today opposing discrimination against gays as a point in his resume? Can you imagine how he would be treated by the social conservative camp?  I suspect the social conservative establishment would see it as a disqualification.

Three cases in point; for several years former MN Governor, Tim Pawlenty, has been distancing himself from a gay rights employment  measure he supported in 1992.  Some social conservatives will not forgive Mitt Romney for his stance on gay issues when he was MA’s chief executive. And Mitch Daniels is a non-starter for some social conservatives because he has called for a truce on social issues.

Clearly, the bar is high. Out of reach, in my view because the country is moving toward a more moderate position on gay issues, while tilting right on matters that get people elected to Congress. Conceivably, Reagan would play about right in today’s electoral environment but he might be rejected by the current crop of social conservative advocates. Back to Politico:

Calling the 112th Congress the “most conservative” in memory, Perkins argued that there’s now a tougher standard for self-described conservative candidates: “Folks are going to be looking for what we just saw elected to Congress.”

Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, whose group is vetting presidential candidates based on their records on economic issues, agreed that the 2012 crowd has a “higher hurdle to clear.”

“There’s a heightened level of scrutiny that began during the 2010 cycle that’s carrying over into 2012,” he said. “There’s not an obvious choice right now that would be energized by our membership — not to say they couldn’t get energized.”

I submit that Reagan’s role opposing the Briggs Initiative would place him in similar company as Mitt Romney or Mitch Daniels today. With that in mind, I applaud CPAC for keeping the conservative tent a Reagan-friendly one. Now what will the GOP do?

AFA removes article at odds with Bryan Fischer on Native Americans; Update: Original article also removed

I have written a couple of posts about Bryan Fischer’s supremacist views relating to Native Americans. As far as I can tell, I am only one of two conservatives to respond negatively to it. The other one, however, is noteworthy in that he did so on the website of the American Family Association.

One of AFA’s other columnists, 17 year old Elijah Friedeman posted a column criticizing Fischer’s views.  However, you’ll have to read it on Friedeman’s blog since it has been removed from AFA’s. Here is how he started it:

Native Americans were so immoral that they deserved what happened to them? I find the idea repulsive.

Yesterday, Bryan Fischer posted a blog about how American indians disqualified themselves from any claim to land in America by their sexual immorality and violence. I want to officially reject and distance myself from that viewpoint.

His other columns are still available and you can find the link to his rebuttal in the search engine but when you click the link, it fails to appear.

UPDATE: Bryan Fischer’s article has now been removed from the AFA website. However, you can read it in the Google cache for now and here permanently. I wonder if he will explain why it was taken down.

Native American group: Bryan Fischer’s article “not worth dignifying”

Curious to learn how some Native American groups viewed the anti-Native American article penned Tuesday (now here) by the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, I contacted the Native American Rights Fund.  NARF advocates for Native American interests and is described on their website as

…the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide.

In his article, Fischer suggested that Native Americans were “morally disqualified” from maintaining their land due to depravity and failure to convert to Christianity. After reviewing the article, NARF’s spokesman, Ray Ramirez, sent this response.

NARF declines to comment because the article is not worth dignifying with a reply.

Of course, this is more than a “no comment.” On one hand it is not worth dignifying with a reply. Fischer’s article is historically challenged and uber-offensive. One of AFA’s other columnists, 17 year old Elijah Friedeman posted a column criticizing Fischer’s views (you’ll have to read it on Friedeman’s blog since it has been removed from AFA’s).

Native Americans were so immoral that they deserved what happened to them? I find the idea repulsive.

Yesterday, Bryan Fischer posted a blog about how American indians disqualified themselves from any claim to land in America by their sexual immorality and violence. I want to officially reject and distance myself from that viewpoint.

On the other hand, the source of these views is what has raised the profile. Another Native American leader who did not want to be quoted expressed hope that Mr. Fischer’s views are not true of most Christians. However, what is stunning is that we are here dealing with an organization in the AFA that is considered mainstream by so many GOP politicians and which is making a serious bid to split the conservative world.

You can watch Fischer in action here appealing to Jefferson, Washington and the Old Testament for his supremacist views. Obviously, the Founders got a lot right, but they were fallible men and were wrong at times.

UPDATE: Fischer’s article has been removed from the AFA website (2/10) and another website where he blogs. However, you can read it in the Google cache for now and here permanently. I wonder if he will explain why it was taken down.

The response even on the AFA website was intense and negative. I did not get a copy of all of the comments, but this blogger did. AFA must have taken the column down quietly with hope it would all go away. Taking it down just looks like damage control unless they actually say something about it.

1984 Press Conference: Ronald Reagan opposed discrimination against gays

In a post earlier today, I referenced a Baltimore Sun article where Democrat Presidential nominee Walter Mondale said he heard President Ronald Reagan speak against discrimination against gays. I found a transcript of that June 14, 1984 press conference in the Reagan archives which supports Mondale’s statement. Here is the brief answer to a reporter’s question about gay rights in employment:

Employment Rights for Homosexuals

Q. Mr. President, there is a move afoot in the Congress that has the support of many of the Democratic Presidential candidates to change the Federal civil rights law to prohibit job discrimination against homosexuals. Is that something that you would favor?

The President. Now, I was so — you’re going to have to start again here for — first few words. I missed them. I was so confused about three of you — —

Q. There’s a measure before the Congress to change the Federal civil rights law to specifically prohibit job discrimination against homosexuals. Is that something that you would favor?

The President. Well, I just have to say I am opposed to discrimination, period. Now — —

Q. Well, would you support the measure, Mr. President?

The President. What?

Q. Will you support that measure, putting it into — —

The President. I want to see — I want to see what else they have there.

A few months later, Mondale told a Tupelo, MS crowd that he held essentially the same position as Reagan.

But the issue arose last Thursday when Mondale was asked at a Tupelo, Miss., appearance, why he supported “perversions” such as “gay rights.”

He answered: “I saw Reagan on a news conference a couple of months ago and someone said that about homosexuals.

He said, I wouldn’t discriminate against them.

That’s my position.

Does that draw a distinction between us?”

Reagan’s words in 1984 are consistent with his actions in 1978, opposing discrimination in CA by campaigning against the Briggs Initiative. When Reagan said that he wanted to see what else was in the bill referenced by the reporter, it seems clear that he was unfamiliar with the specific piece of legislation. However, on the broader question, Reagan expressed opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation. Will those who now seek congruence with Reagan’s policies follow his lead?