If homosexuality is not abnormal, why are Ugandan gays being jailed?

Uganda?s President Yoweri Museveni signs the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on February 24, 2014 in Entebbe. The bill that was first tabled back in 2009 will see offenders, when convicted, serve a life sentence. The findings of a scientific study on homosexuality by Uganda's Ministry of Health concludes that “homosexuality is not abnormal” and “it is not a disease that has treatmentClearly Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni did not read the findings of a scientific study on homosexuality that his government’s Ministry of Health produced before he signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law last week.

The study concludes that “homosexuality is not abnormal” and “it is not a disease that has treatment”.

It acknowledges that “homosexuality has existed throughout history, including in Africa” and that “there are undeclared homosexual Africans who may not even know it because their cultures never give room for expression of such behaviour”.

If indeed homosexuality is not an aberration, and if it has existed since time immemorial, then why this sudden desire to criminalise it?

Bishop Desmond Tutu is right when he says that the anti-homosexuality law is reminiscent of apartheid that criminalised sexual relations between whites and blacks and Nazism that deemed some groups “deviant” in order to justify their extermination.

Hence, blacks, Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals were criminalised, when in fact it was the racists who were the real criminals.

Scapegoating is an old tactic used by dictators around the world to perpetuate their rule.


The chest-thumping and cries of “sovereignty” that have accompanied the anti-gay campaign in Uganda are very much related to the Ugandan leader’s desire to continue with his autocratic rule that has seen opposition groups and the media muzzled and which is facing various graft allegations.

Uganda has recently had to deal with disgruntled Western donors, who have threatened to suspend aid unless corruption is addressed. In 2012, the European Union suspended $300 million in aid to Uganda following loss of funds from a programme under the Office of the Prime Minister.

Perhaps the adoption of this Bill is Museveni’s way of defying Western donors’ arm-twisting.

Ironically, by signing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Museveni is encouraging more donors to suspend aid in the future. President Barack Obama has already expressed his disappointment with the law and it is likely that sanctions will follow. Norway suspended its aid package to Uganda the day the Bill became law.

This is not the first time President Museveni has challenged donors to a duel. In 2005, when Britain withheld some of its development aid to Uganda after the government jailed opposition leader Kizza Besigye, he launched an attack on Western donors, saying, they were meddling in the nation’s internal affairs.

“What Uganda and Africa need most is independence in decision-making, not subservience, satellite status, or dependency status,” he said.

But the chest-thumping rings hollow when one considers that Uganda is among Africa’s 10 top recipients of aid. In 2011, it received $1.5 billion in aid from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, which is slightly more than the aid Rwanda received ($1.3 billion) but much less than the aid given to Kenya ($2.5 billion) and Tanzania ($2.4 billion) Aid to Kenya will be the subject of my column next week.

Surely President Museveni knows that sovereignty is not something you achieve by shouting about it, but by seeking economic independence.

I cannot claim to be independent if the house I live in, the clothes I wear, and the food I eat are donations. I may have my opinions about the donor, but I will not express them openly if it means I risk losing my house, clothes, and food.


President Museveni is seeking to retain power, but he is alienating even those who supported him in the past.

He was, after all, the darling of the West in the 1980s. He has never refused the largesse that has been pouring into Uganda since the 1980s, so it is hypocritical of him to claim now that he does not care about the West and that he is asserting his country’s sovereignty.

Meanwhile, in an effort to garner support from increasingly frustrated voters, other African dictatorships may start revisiting their countries’ anti-homosexuality laws.

It is a quick and easy win, far easier than figuring out how to improve the economy, reduce unemployment, and keep the cost of living down.

Unfortunately, such laws will not help put food on the table of Africa’s poor and middle classes.

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websits. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.

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