Eclectic Rant: Time for the U.S. to Cease Support of the Museveni Regime in Uganda

By Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday February 15, 2011 - 08:37:00 PM

Last October, a Kampala, Uganda tabloid newspaper ran a diatribe identifying 100 individuals it described as "Uganda's top homos." The article was accompanied by a front-page picture of David Kato, the most outspoken gay rights advocate in Uganda, saying "Hang Them." On January 26, 2011, David Kato was beaten to death at his home outside Kampala. No one really believes the murder of Kato was not related to the article and Uganda's governmental animosity towards homosexuals. 

Uganda already punishes gay intimacy with life in prison. Now Uganda wants to wipe out gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Ugandans with passage of the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.” The Bill would penalize anyone who “attempts to commit the offence” with up to seven years in jail. Additionally, a person charged will be forced to undergo an invasive medical examination to determine their HIV status. If the detainees are found to be HIV+, they may be executed. 

With passage of “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009,” the 25-year-old Museveni regime, supported by the United States and many European governments, would disavow many international treaties on human rights. This proposed law would allow for extradition of homosexuals living in other countries back to Uganda--violating current international norms. 

How did this draconian Ugandan law come about? In March 2009, American anti-gay activists traveled to Uganda for a conference that pledged to “wipe out” homosexuality. Seven months later, in October 2009, David Bahati, a Ugandan lawmaker and a member of the "Family," sponsored the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.” The legislation is still pending. 

The "Family" or the "Fellowship," by the way, is a secretive, privately-funded group and one of the most powerful, well-connected Christian fundamentalist movements in the U.S. This organization used its influence and funds through the Family’s African outreach programs to support the proposed Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill. Previously, the Family had converted Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to its anti-gay brand of Christianity. Doug Coe, the Family's leader, called Uganda's President Museveni the Family’s “key man” in Africa and the Family and other anti-gay groups have long viewed Uganda as a laboratory to experiment with Christian theocracy. 

The Family’s membership includes congressmen, corporate leaders, generals, and foreign heads of state. The Family engages in backroom dealings effecting both domestic and foreign affairs with little or no public accountability. Their activities possibly violate the Open Government Act. Because the Family chose not to register as a lobby group, their domestic and foreign activities are purposely kept secret. At the very least, we as Americans should challenge our elective officials as to their membership in the Family, what they do for the organization, and how the organization shapes their views. See "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power" and "C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy" both by Jeff Sharlet for more information on The Family. 

Museveni was once the poster child for African democracy. Today, Museveni is just another ruthless thug. Consider, that according to the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights Report on Human Rights Abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 1993-2003, Museveni and his army collaborated in the genocidal massacres of Rwandan Hutu refugees and Congolese Hutus in the DRC. Museveni’s own army uses child soldiers with a recruitment age of 13. And Museveni was the first dictator in the Great Lakes Region to be guilty of using targeted rape, including male on male rape, to spread HIV to decimate the indigenous Acholi region of Northern Uganda. 

Ugandans will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on February 18. No one expects the election to be fair. Kizza Besigye, Uganda's top opposition leader in the upcoming elections, stated that if elected he may work to decriminalize homosexuality. And opposition members in Uganda are threatening Tunisia- and Egypt-style protests if the presidential election is rigged so that Yoweri Museveni can extend his 25-year grip on power. 

We understand that half of Uganda’s annual budget comes through international aid. On May 24, 2010, for example, President Obama signed The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act into law. Under the Act, within 180 days of that time, President Obama is required to report to Congress on a strategy for tackling the problem of the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony, who is now operating in the DRC, Central Africa Republic, and Southern Sudan. However, in addition to offering funding for desperately needed long-term reconstruction and transitional justice mechanisms, the Act also opens the door for renewed military action in the region, which has historically come at the expense of civilians. A number of Africa advocacy organizations in Washington voiced numerous concerns about this possibility. Past military operations against the LRA resulted in backlash attacks on civilians and the displacement of thousands. Instead of relying on military action, advocacy groups want the United States to prioritize a non-violent approach to demobilizing, disarming, and reintegrating the LRA fighters. Unfortunately, in November, 2010, Obama presented his plan to Congress, and as the advocacy organizations feared, the plan is long on military action against the LRA and short on reconstruction and humanitarian aid. Again, Uganda's civilians will pay the price for Museveni's expected military excursions against the LRA. 

Why does the United States keep giving money and weapons to the Museveni regime? The answer may be the influence of the Family and the United States deployment of Ugandan mercenary troops in Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and, as needed, elsewhere on the African continent. 

Clearly, it is time for the United States to cease its support of the Museveni regime.