Ugandan government minister Nsaba Buturo supports Hang Them campaign

The world is noticing Uganda again, this time due to the outing campaign conducted with deadly intent by the tabloid, Rolling Stone. This CNN report quotes Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo on the subject:

Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister Nsaba Buturo dismissed the activists’ accusations.

“They [the activists] are always lying,” Buturo said. “It’s their way of mobilizing support from outside, they are trying to get sympathy from outside. It’s part of the campaign.”

Buturo said the anti-gay measure will be addressed and passed “in due course.”

“Of course I hope it passes,” he said.

Buturo is referring to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and provides another evidence that the bill has not been withdrawn and at least in the minds of the supporters is very much alive.

According to a comment on editor Giles Muhame’s Facebook page, he believes the standoff between the government and the paper is soon to end:

The deliberations between Rolling Stone, Uganda’s leading investigative newspaper and the Media council are now ‘apetising’. The standoff is soon coming to an end.

According to the CNN piece, the government is not pursuing the paper due to the outing campaign, but because all of the necessary paperwork needed to operate a paper has not been completed.

After the list was published, the federal Media Council sent a warning to Muhame and ordered the newspaper to cease operating.

But the warning was “not related to the list at all,” said Paul Mukasa, secretary of the Media Council. Rather, he said, the letter warned the paper that it was publishing without required permits.

“Until they fill in the required paperwork, they are breaking the law,” Mukasa said.

The secretary said the newspaper has initiated the process “to put their house in order.”

AP reports Ugandan Hang Them campaign, obscures status of AHB

On October 4, BoxTurtleBulletin and I reported (with more here) that a Ugandan tabloid – Rolling Stone – started a campaign of outing gay people with the caption “Hang Them” on the front cover of the rag.

Today, the Associated Press published a story covering the same issue with some new details of the worsening conditions for gays in Uganda. Check this out and compare it to Martin Ssempa’s contention that gays are not in danger in his country.

The AP story did obscure one important point:

KAMPALA, Uganda — The front-page newspaper story featured a list of Uganda’s 100 “top” homosexuals, with a bright yellow banner across it that read: “Hang Them.” Alongside their photos were the men’s names and addresses.

In the days since it was published, at least four gay Ugandans on the list have been attacked and many others are in hiding, according to rights activist Julian Onziema. One person named in the story had stones thrown at his house by neighbors.

A lawmaker in this conservative African country introduced a bill a year ago that would have imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts and life in prison for others. An international uproar ensued, and the bill was quietly shelved.

As I noted on the 14th, the anniversary of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s introduction, the bill remains in committee. If by shelved, these reporters mean the bill has been withdrawn, they provide no direct confirmation of this. To my knowledge, the only source close to the bill who has provided a comment is Charles Tuhaise who told me recently that the bill remains in committee and awaits hearings and a second reading.

On September 13, Peter Boyer of The New Yorker reported without source that the Fellowship was involved in the withdrawal of the bill, writing:

Hunter brought Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the former African rebel who became Uganda’s President, and other key Ugandan leaders into prayer groups. When Uganda’s Parliament took up a bill last year that would have punished some homosexual acts with death, Hunter and his friends in the Fellowship felt they had the standing to urge the proposed measure’s defeat. Museveni appointed a commission that studied the matter and then recommended that the bill be withdrawn.

Since this is the extent of Boyer’s reporting on the bill, it misleads the reader into thinking that the bill was, in fact, withdrawn. Not so, according to the Parliamentary Research Services’ Charles Tuhaise.

The AP article does not source their contention about the bill. Instead, the writers reveal that they were not able to get anyone in Parliament to talk about the bill:

Four members of parliament contacted by The Associated Press for this article declined to comment, and instead referred queries to David Bahati, the parliamentarian who introduced the bill. Bahati did not answer repeated calls Tuesday.

While I do not know what the future holds for the AHB, I am aware that, as recently as the beginning of this month, supporters were still calling for the passage of the measure. As reported here on October 11, Martin Ssempa was still promoting the bill’s passage in a private talk given several days before. If anyone would know about the bill’s status, it would be Ssempa who emerged as the bill’s chief pastoral supporter in Uganda.

More on Martin Ssempa’s “meeting” with gay leaders

Last Thursday, I reported a statement from Martin Ssempa regarding his views of the Hang Them campaign initiated by the Ugandan tabloid, Rolling Stone.  Ssempa said he

…spent three hours with leaders of homosexuals along with Bishop Ssenyonjo-explaining to them his position as a father.

I understood the statement to refer to a meeting specifically set up to meet with gay leaders. However, there is more to this statement according to others who were involved. First, here again is Ssempa’s statement in full:

STATEMENT ON THE ROLLING STONE ARTICLE.

Dr. Martin Ssempa would like to disassociate himself from the “Hang Them” article which appeared in the ‘Rolling Stone’ Newspaper October 02-092010 issue. While he has been opposed to homosexuality as a sin, a cultural taboo, and an act that breaks the laws of Uganda, he does not support violent efforts of “hang them” as indicated in the Rolling Stone-a new sensational tabloid. Being an outspoken preacher on the subject, he was interviewed by a writer from the paper but his language and tone of message was unfortunately not portrayed.

Pastor Ssempa does not believe that outings in Newspapers is an appropriate method. Pastor Ssempa is counselling homosexuals and victims of homosexuality whose confidence he has kept until they have been willing to go public.

At a meeting last week, Dr. Ssempa spent three hours with leaders of homosexuals along with Bishop Ssenyonjo-explaining to them his position as a father. Homosexuality is a sin and God’s grace is there for all who need redemption. He shared how he counsels university boys and girls who are suicidal because they were raped in single sex boarding schools and no one was there to defend them. It is this that drives his passion for educational and legislative reforms to protect Africa’s Youths. The meeting ended on a pleasant note with Pastor Ssempa taking a group photo with the team.

I called Bishop Ssenyonjo to get his perspective on the meeting and he told me that the “meeting” was a series of speeches given by people of various points of view regarding homosexuality sponsored by a research group from Makerere University School of Law. The sessions were held over several days from September 29 through October 2nd. Bishop Ssenyonjo said he spoke about “The God who does not discriminate.” According to the Bishop, there were few gay people in attendance, with most being people invited to speak by those organizing the sessions. Bishop Ssenyonjo heard Martin Ssempa’s session which he said lasted about an hour. In it, Ssempa said he favored the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill but did not want the dealth penalty included. According to the Bishop, Ssempa called for restrictions on free speech, via bans on what he called “promotion” of homosexuality.

In short, the meeting with homosexual leaders turns out to be a series of sessions where many people spoke, many of whom were not homosexual. Apparently, the series of meetings was organized by unnamed researchers from Makerere University.

Martin Ssempa reacts to Ugandan tabloid’s “Hang Them” campaign

On Monday and Tuesday, I posted screen captures of a new Ugandan tabloid called the Rolling Stone (no relation to the rock and roll magazine) which claimed to out gays and called for their death. Martin Ssempa gave an interview to the magazine and was touted for his anti-gay activism.

 The tabloid claims to have another four parts to the outing campaign, with more pictures, names and addresses to come. Some of the Ugandan contacts I have corresponded with over the last 20 months have not been answering emails. This is concerning.

Since Canyon Ridge Christian Church has taken on an intermediary role with Rev. Ssempa, I asked Mitch Harrison at CRCC if he would determine whether or not Ssempa gave an interview to this magazine and whether he stood for the approach. This evening, Rev. Harrison provided a statement from Martin Ssempa about the tabloid and more. Here it is in full:

STATEMENT ON THE ROLLING STONE ARTICLE.

Dr. Martin Ssempa would like to disassociate himself from the “Hang Them” article which appeared in the ‘Rolling Stone’ Newspaper October 02-092010 issue. While he has been opposed to homosexuality as a sin, a cultural taboo, and an act that breaks the laws of Uganda, he does not support violent efforts of “hang them” as indicated in the Rolling Stone-a new sensational tabloid. Being an outspoken preacher on the subject, he was interviewed by a writer from the paper but his language and tone of message was unfortunately not portrayed.

Pastor Ssempa does not believe that outings in Newspapers is an appropriate method. Pastor Ssempa is counselling homosexuals and victims of homosexuality whose confidence he has kept until they have been willing to go public.

At a meeting last week, Dr. Ssempa spent three hours with leaders of homosexuals along with Bishop Ssenyonjo-explaining to them his position as a father. Homosexuality is a sin and God’s grace is there for all who need redemption. He shared how he counsels university boys and girls who are suicidal because they were raped in single sex boarding schools and no one was there to defend them. It is this that drives his passion for educational and legislative reforms to protect Africa’s Youths. The meeting ended on a pleasant note with Pastor Ssempa taking a group photo with the team.

In that interview, Ssempa is quoted as saying that “the war has just started.” If this is what he said, the tone and language are quite clear. I believe he should ask for a retraction and space in that paper to make his position clear. Telling an American audience is one thing; relating it back home is another.

The disclosure of a meeting with Bishop Ssenyonjo is interesting. I hope to hear from the Bishop about his reactions to it. Martin Ssempa should have found a receptive audience for his concerns about childhood molestation since all the gay advocacy groups issued a statement opposing recruitment and child molestation back in January of this year.

I hope this statement does not mean that Canyon Ridge is going to stick to the story that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is about the molestation of the boy child. The laws in Uganda already allow for prosecution of those who molest children so if that is what drives him, then he can rest in his campaign since these laws are on the books.

Did Martin Ssempa give an interview to Uganda’s Rolling Stone?

Here are more pictures from the recent outing campaign in Uganda conducted by the tabloid, Rolling Stone, edited by Giles Muhame and Joseph Bahingwire.

Note the headline:

Hang them: They are after our children!!

Also note that according to the article, Pastor Martin Ssempa gave this crew an interview, saying:

We shall fight on until we rescue our country from the hands of evil. A lot of money from gay organizations is filtering in to destroy the morals of our kids. The war has just started.

There is also an allegation that Ssempa helped get a lesbian deported. Since Canyon Ridge Christian Church is helping Rev. Ssempa with his media statements, I have asked them if these are accurate quotes and will report their reply.

This continues the story from above.

The headline asks a question because there may be much in this tabloid that is not true. If Ssempa did not give this interview, then he should immediately offer a public statement that he no longer believes in these tactics and fulfill his word to his supporting church, Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas.

Martin Ssempa’s campus group dropped from AIDS grant in 2007

 Back in June, I posted several articles which described events in 2007 which were prologue to the introduction of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. One August, 2007 article described an anti-gay rally organized by Martin Ssempa and his views on gays and AIDS programs:

“Homosexuals should absolutely not be included in Uganda’s HIV/AIDS framework. It is a crime, and when you are trying to stamp out a crime you don’t include it in your programmes,” Ssempa said.

These events led to an article by Scott Long, Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch detailing the threats to HIV treatment and human rights in Uganda. Ssempa then responded to the article in an editorial where he said:

First you [Scott Long] talked about our church, Makerere Community Church, as a recipient of PEPFAR HIV/AIDS funding. The fact is that Makerere Community Church has never received funding.

I found that to be a curious statement since his church is listed as a subpartner on the PEPFAR website for 2004 and then again in PEPFAR grant documents for 2006-2007. Based on these sources, I wrote the following in my June post:

Ssempa said in this editorial that he did not receive PEPFAR funding. However, according to this letter from USAID, his Campus Alliance to Wipe Out AIDS was a subpartner to the Uganda Youth Forum and was subsidized for abstinence based publications. World Magazine identifies a 2004 grant as being $40,000 which came as a subpartner to Population Services International, according to the PEPFAR website. Children’s AIDS Fund reveived 131,666 in Fiscal Year 2007 for work in Uganda. CAWA was one of the subpartners, receiving $50,000 to publish (pg 20) and distribute the newsletter, The Prime Timer. Altogether, groups controlled by Ssempa received at least $90,000 from PEPFAR, according to government records. It is baffling why Ssempa would say otherwise.

I learned last week that I need to make a correction in what I wrote above. Rev. Ssempa did indeed get PEPFAR money via CAWA but not at the level reported on PEPFAR program documents. I spoke last week with Anita Smith, Executive Director of the Children’s AIDS Fund. Since 2005, CAF has implemented the “Preserving African Families in the Face of HIV/AIDS Through Prevention” grant. The grant planned nearly 10 million dollars for abstinence and fidelity education (the AB components of Uganda’s ABC approach) to be spent over five years. One of the subpartners for this operation was Martin Ssempa’s Campus Alliance to Wipe Out AIDS (CAWA). CAWA was slated to get $50,000 as I pointed out in my June post. The funds were proposed for the monthly publication of a magazine directed at college students, called the Prime Timer, for the purpose of promoting abstinence.

However, the group did not get anything close to that, according to Ms. Smith. Why not? According to Smith, CAF ceased their relationship with CAWA due to “lack of performance.” Ms. Smith told me that Martin Ssempa signed the contract in July, 2006 and agreed to produce one magazine per month. However, Smith said she remembered “only one publication that was produced in January, 2007.” 

According to Smith, they were paid $3,950 for the expenses of that one magazine and then the contract was ended in January, 2007. Thus, if World Magazine’s report is accurate and Ssempa’s Global Alliance for Prevention (referred to on the PEPFAR website as Makerere Community Church) received $40,000, then the amount of PEPFAR funding would be $43,950. Here is what World’s Emily Belz said about the use of the funding:

As one result, PSI is no longer fronting abstinence programs in Kampala, and GAP within the last year secured $40,000 in U.S. abstinence-education money. That’s a small sum compared to the $12 million PSI received in the first round of funding, but it’s enough for Ssempa to publish a newspaper promoting abstinence. He distributes the paper on Kampala’s high-school and university campuses.

PSI is Population Services International which was Makerere Community Church’s partner in 2004 according to the PEPFAR website. In any event, it appears that at least some small amount of PEPFAR money was given groups headed by Ssempa.

Ssempa said to the BBC back in February that he receives no funding from the United States (at about 6:10 into the clip). We now know that is a misleading statement since his living expenses and staff salaries are funded by Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas. It seems unlikely that he could have devoted the time and resources to his campaign if he did not have the backing of the church. It is not clear to me why Rev. Ssempa would be sensitive about the funding issue. My guess is that it would undermine some of his appeal to African values which has been one core aspect of his campaign for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Las Vegas AIDS support group silent on partnership with Canyon Ridge

In June, Canyon Ridge Christian Church ended the silence regarding their mission partner, Martin Ssempa, saying that the church leaders met with the chief pastoral supporter of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill in March.  Church leaders said they regarded some of Ssempa’s methods to be “offensive” but continued to support him. Pastor Kevin Odor said the church hoped to maintain a relationship which would allow CRCC to influence their Ugandan mission partner.

However, Pastor Odor misrepresented the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by saying the bill was designed to close gaps in Ugandan law by providing penalties for child molesters and those who intentional spread HIV.  In fact, the bill provides life in prison for those convicted of homosexual intimacy and death for “repeat offenders” or those who engage in consensual relationships while HIV positive. The bill also provides criminal penalties for those who know someone who is gay but do not report this to police.

In the sermon where Pastor Odor described the church’s response to Pastor Ssempa, he reminded the congregation that they walked in the local AIDS Walk as an illustration of the church’s commitment to helping those suffering with AIDS. That local AIDS group is Aid for AIDS Nevada (AFAN).

On April 25, AFAN hosted the AIDS Walk with numerous community groups and individuals participating. Canyon Ridge organized a team which is listed on the AFAN website and is open to public members. According to a walker who declined to be named, a group of church folks wore t-shirts displaying the church name and marched in the April event. The church team raised $1385 for AFAN.

I contacted AFAN before I found this information on their website. When I did, one staffer I spoke with declined to comment but forwarded my request to the director, Jennifer Morss. I then wrote Ms. Morss two additional emails asking for comment on the relationship with Canyon Ridge and the recent action of Southern Nevada Health to sever ties with the church.

To date, I have gotten no answer. Last week, I went on the Facebook group for AFAN and left a comment on their wall asking for a PR person from AFAN to contact me. Initially, that comment was answered with a recommendation that I contact Terri Maruca, Vice President at Kirvin Doak Communications. When I contacted Ms. Maruca, she replied that someone from the staff would contact me next (now this) week. In the mean time, Michael Bussee also left a request for public comment on the AFAN Facebook group wall. Sometime in mid-week last week, both of those comments were removed by the owner of the AFAN group. Currently, Mr. Bussee has another request for public comment on the AFAN wall.

This silence is puzzling. The partnership is minimal but real. All such partnerships provide benefit to both groups. AFAN gets donations and connections to diverse constituents and CRCC gets a reputation for community involvement and concern for those with HIV. Furthermore, I do not mean to diminish this, those who walk and donate are probably motivated by a sincere desire to help.

However, the dissonance is jarring. CRCC seems to be involved in commendable activities but in this case has partnered with Martin Ssempa to mislead many people about the real nature of the Ugandan bill. Just over the weekend, the Ugandan Daily Monitor made it crystal clear what Anti-Homosexuality Bill author, David Bahati, believes about how the state should react to homosexuals:

Bahati accuses the rich for trying to influence the world with their homosexuality agenda, which he calls a great threat to society and the future generation.

“This habit is learned and can be unlearned,” he adds, quoting the Bible: “Homosexuality is an abomination punishable by death.” When I asked him how, as a Christian, he can advocate for a death penalty, he replied, “It is in Leviticus. Go and read – the penalty for homosexuality is death.”

I suspect it would be quite offensive to many walking in the AIDS walk to know that a church that provides cover for the AHB campaign is a recognized partner of the group hosting the event. Such an event could not happen in Uganda if the bill passes.

From the beginning of this story, I have been interested in how Americans respond to the AHB. Thus far, I cannot discern the stance of AFAN since they have been silent. While I don’t believe AFAN supports the AHB or even CRCC in any direct manner, the silence and removal of comments is surprising.

UPDATE: Mr. Bussee’s most recent comment was deleted.

Martin Ssempa didn’t like the article on gays in Uganda

Sunday, the Uganda Observer published an article on July 22 titled, “Inside the world of sexual minorities.” The article quotes local physicians with an informative article regarding various terms for sexual minorities. The article seems to make an effort at balance and information rather than opinion and moralizations.

Well, that did not sit well with Martin Ssempa who wrote a letter to the editor published today:

Wednesday, 04 August 2010 17:50

I am responding to the story ‘Inside the world of sexual minorities’ (The Observer, July 22-24, 2010). I view the two pages of extensive research you presented in such a national newspaper as any outcry of sympathy and acceptance of homosexuality and the people involved in the evil practice. It is a betrayal of readers’ loyalty and the family values in Uganda.

Your stories created the impression that:

•Homosexuals are a minority group, which should be accepted in society.

•Families can still survive even after one spouse turns gay, probably with the other spouse getting another lover too and ‘they live happily ever after.’

•The definitions given of the various forms of homosexuality are meant to encourage the young minds to explore the vice.

•The pictures that ran with the story give an impression of happy, blossoming relationships, which is not the actual case with homosexuality.

•It is okay for children to turn to homosexuality and that their parents can just seek counselling and everything will be fine.

On the other hand, the stories missed out the following facts:

•Homosexuals are 100% more likely to contract HIV/AIDS compared to normal heterosexual couples.

•Homosexuality has a negative impact on the body’s external organs and is a health hazard.

•Homosexuals are very depressed people who face gender identity disorders.

Besides, homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda. Therefore, unless you are promoting a crime, I do not see why you presented homosexuality as a scientific normality.

As loyal readers of The Observer and parents, we demand an apology and counter coverage on the pro-family issues.

Dr. Martin Ssempa,

Kampala.

Who knows where Rev. Ssempa gets his statistics. I am not sure what external organs he is referring to but I am sure many readers will take issue with his “facts” as I do. He is however, welcome to provide supporting documentation here if he would like to.

I may be missing some of the article given what Ssempa refers to in his letter. If anyone has a more complete version, if it exists, please let me know.

Have gays been arrested in Uganda? Ssempa says no, Mbale says yes

In his appearance on Michael Brown’s Line of Fire show, Martin Ssempa said that homosexuals have not been arrested or killed under current law. Canyon Ridge Christian Church provided a transcript of a short portion of the show (oddly calling it an “unedited interview”) where Ssempa responds to charges from Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin:

Brown reads a written challenge from Jim Burroway posted on Box Turtle Bulletin, and Martin responds regarding death penalty provision and allegations of gays being killed or imprisoned.

One aspect of Burroway’s challenge was for Martin Ssempa to post the bill. Ssempa told Brown he would do it but did not. Ssempa goes on to discuss his view of government and says that his pastor’s group does not favor the death penalty. He calls the bill “a draft” which is not true unless you think of all bills as drafts. The bill published in the Uganda Gazette is a bill, which can be amended but it is clearly more than a draft. Drafts cannot be read in Parliament, drafts are not sent to committee where they await committee report. Bills can be amended, but they can also be voted on. But I digress.

Ssempa ends his placation of critics by saying this:

I just want to let you know in the history of Uganda for the last 50 years we’ve had this law, since we’ve had a law against homosexuality, no homosexual has been arrested or killed for homosexuality.

Ugandan activists have contested this claim and said that often they are brought in on trumped up charges as a pretense to harass them for their sexual orientation. I have been tracking a story from Gulu of a woman who was burned to death because she made a pass at another woman but cannot as yet offer conclusive evidence. However, this clip from a recent British documentary, Africa’s Last Taboo, documents in detail the arrest and detention of two gay men in Mbale under the existing sodomy law.

Please note that this situation is ongoing and was initiated prior to Martin Ssempa’s statement that such things do not happen in Uganda. I have another clip where Julius Oyet tells a homosexual that he will be arrested when the law takes effect. Martin Ssempa told Line of Fire there would not be a witch hunt. When it becomes a criminal offense to remain silent if you know homosexuals, what do you think the effect of that will be? If this can take place under current law, what could happen under this new law?

Additional footage showing the attitudes of the crowd toward the Mbale gays.

The last half of this clip features the appearance by Lou Engle. I will have a brief post about that soon…

Has Martin Ssempa’s Facebook page been removed?

It seems like a distinct possibility.

Over the weekend, various Facebook users (e.g. here) reported that Martin Ssempa’s Facebook page had been removed. Sure enough, it is not available.

 I contacted Facebook and asked if any statement could be made about the removal. Facebook spokesperson Simon Axten wrote to say he could not comment on specific users but in response to my inquiry said:

We take our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities very seriously and react quickly to reports of inappropriate content and behavior.  Specifically, we’re sensitive to content that includes bullying, pornography, direct statements of hate, and actionable threats of violence. Facebook is highly self-regulating, and users can and do report content that they find questionable or offensive.  When reported content is removed by one of our professional investigators, a warning is sent to the person who posted it. In rare cases when a person repeatedly violates our policies, we may disable that person’s account.

If Ssempa’s page has been removed, he would have an opportunity to appeal. Axten explained:

We always provide the ability for people whose accounts have been disabled to contact us to appeal the decision.

I am guessing videos like this one now removed from the Facebook page pushed the “direct statements of hate” button.

It is possible that the removal is a glitch such as effected the Facebook group which opposes the AHB earlier this year or that perhaps Rev. Ssempa did it himself. However, given the reaction of those who attend his church, it may indeed be an action of Facebook.