Society

Obama Warns Museveni About Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill

| by Allison Geller

President Obama issued a warning to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni about the severe anti-gay law that is still under consideration in the country. Criticizing the law's international implications, he said that passing the measure would hurt relations between Uganda and the United States.

The draconian legislation, which would make homosexuality a crime punishable by life in prison as well as prosecuting those who fail to report gay people, received an international outcry. But right on the edge of signing the bill into law in mid-January, Museveni decided not to approve it when a team of scientists told the him that “there is no definitive gene responsible for homosexuality.”

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A spokesperson for the president, Ofwono Opondo, said that Museveni was bucking strong public pressure by refusing to sign the bill.

Calling homosexuals “abnormal,” Museveni decided that he could not sanction sending them to prison for life.

“Maybe society can resent them but they cannot be persecuted because of their problem,” another spokesperson, Tamale Mirudi, told AFP at the time.

Now, the BBC reports that the Obama administration is exerting pressure on the Ugandan president to  permanently halt the bill’s passage. Obama said the bill would endanger relations between Uganda and the U.S.

"As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda," Obama said in a statement from Southern California, where he was vacationing for the weekend.

Obama added that people should be treated with equality and  "have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

Uganda has something to fear from the president’s warning:  the U.S. is one of the top contributors of foreign aid to that country, donating about $400 million a year, according to Reuters.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice posted on Twitter that she'd had a lengthy discussion about the bill with Museveni Saturday night. The ambassador told the Ugandan head of state that the law would be “a huge step backward for Uganda and the world.”

Sources: AFP, BBC, Reuters