Museveni signs anti-gay bill, defying donors, Washington
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[February 24, 2014]
By Elias Biryabarema
ENTEBBE, Uganda (Reuters) — Uganda's
president signed a new law imposing harsh penalties on gay people on
Monday, defying protests from rights groups, Western donors and a
warning that it would complicate links with major ally Washington.
The new bill punishes anyone convicted of having gay sex with jail
terms up to life, according to a draft of the legislation.
It also makes it a crime to fail to report someone for breaking the
new law, again according to drafts.
Officials broke into loud applause as President Yoweri Museveni
signed the bill into law in a ceremony in front of foreign
journalists at his State House in the lakeside town of Entebbe
outside the capital.
"There's now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social
values. We're sorry to see that you (the West) live the way you live
but we keep quiet about it," he said.
Gay and lesbian organizations in Africa fear the ripple effect from
the anti-gay bill could spread beyond Uganda to other parts of a
continent where conservative societies tend to view homosexuality as
"It's a gloomy day not just for the gay community in Uganda but for
all Ugandans who care about human rights because this law will
affect everybody," said Julian Peppe Onziema, a gay rights
campaigner in Uganda.
Amnesty International said the law was "wildly discriminatory" and
amounted to a grave assault on human rights.
The veteran leader's signature will please many voters opposed to
homosexuality in the staunchly conservative east African country
ahead of presidential elections in 2016, but risks alienating
Western aid donors.
The law comes a week after U.S. President Barack Obama said the
legislation would be "a step backward for all Ugandans" and warned
it would complicate relations.
A senior Obama administration official had said the United States
would review U.S. relations with Uganda if the law was enacted.
Washington is one of Uganda's largest donors, sending more than $400
million a year in recent years.
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While African leaders broadly court Western donors with promises to
tackle human rights abuses, many have taken a hardline stance
against homosexuality, describing it as "un-African" behavior, often
winning popular support.
"kudos to #Museveni for refusing to bow to #Obama demands on the
homosexuality law," said Kenyan Twitter user @Chabbuh.
Another tweet by user @jkstephen78 read: "Bravo Museveni, it's an
abomination in Africa." Other Twitter users criticized Museveni.
The anti-gay bill was introduced in 2009 and initially proposed a
death sentence for homosexual acts. It was amended after an
Days after Obama's statement, Museveni said he was putting the bill
on hold to give scientists a chance to prove that homosexuality
could be triggered by genes and was not a "lifestyle choice".
It was not immediately clear if he had received the go-ahead from
any scientists before signing the bill on Monday.
Uganda is a key Western ally in the fight against Islamic extremism
in Somalia where Ugandan troops have formed the backbone of the
African Union peacekeeping force battling al Qaeda-aligned
(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; editing by Richard Lough and Andrew
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