Resistance rises to Africa’s anti-gay laws
(GIN) — Tough new laws criminalizing Africa’s LGBT community are getting some push back from Africans themselves who argue more important issues are being swept under the rug during this relentless anti-gay crusade.
In Uganda, opposition leader Kizza Besigye attacked the new laws signed by President Yoweri Museveni. He disputed the claim that homosexuality was “foreign” and said the issue was being used to divert attention from domestic problems.
“Homosexuality is as Ugandan as any other behavior, it has nothing to do with the foreigners,” said Besigye, dissenting from foreign Christian evangelical groups who preach against gays.
Besigye is one of the first Ugandans not from the gay-rights community to criticize the law openly.
“Homosexuality has been documented in Uganda long before any foreign interference with our country,” he said.
Two weeks ago, President Museveni signed a bill which threatens to jail “repeat homosexuals” for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to denounce gays. Museveni — in power for 28 years — faces re-election in 2016.
According to Besigye, the government is using the issue to divert attention from other issues, including Uganda’s military backing of neighboring South Sudan’s government against rebel forces.
But he also clashed with donors including the World Bank, which threatened to freeze or redirect aid money to Uganda.
“They should have cut aid a long time ago because of more fundamental rights…,” Besigye said. “The right to life is violated left and right with impunity and (the donors) are mum.”
Hudson Tucker, coordinator for Dignity Association, said members of the LGBT community simply want to exercise their rights. “All we want is for recognition of two consenting adults to exercise their rights based on their sexual orientation,” Tucker said. Dignity Association is a gay rights advocacy group in Sierra Leone.
In Nigeria, where a new anti-gay law prompted fierce beatings of alleged gays, leading Nigerian authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jackie Kay spoke out forcefully.
Kay, a Scottish-Nigerian poet, warned: “It is dangerous for any country to legalize a witch-hunt of an already oppressed minority; it will lead to an unprecedented hysterical homophobia that will set the clock back to the fearful past… It will lead to people fleeing for safety, to informers, to pitting one African citizen against another.”
Adichie called the new law “un-African,” adding that it goes against the values of tolerance and “live and let live” that are part of many African cultures.
Prize-winning Nigerian novelist Helon Habila said: “The Goodluck Jonathan administration is trying to distract attention from the situation at home… “Instead of talking about the $20 billion (in oil revenues) which is missing, they are happy to persecute gays, to stone them in some places, and to harass them.”
“I hope all Africans, gay and straight, will join Chimamanda, Desmond Tutu and Binyavanga on the repeal road to make Africa a confident continent that welcomes its own very African gay people,” said Kay. “One thing is for sure. It is not an option not to speak out. Every African who values democracy must speak out or we will be in danger of fulfilling the memorable words of Angela Davis: ‘If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the night.’”