A few days before Christmas 2009 I went onto the BBC Africa website and came across a headline and discussion flagging a programme to be broadcast a couple of hours later that afternoon. The discussion was entitled; ‘Should homosexuals be executed?’  I spend a lot of time on African issues and my blood was boiling. It was clear to me that the BBC had made a terrible mistake and it was important they recognised that immediately.

I was in a position to do something about it. I left my office and literally ran to the chamber, where the final debate before the recess was taking place (in which, traditionally, any issue may be raised by members). If anyone had got in my way I would have knocked them over and that would have been a fair one.

I made this speech off the cuff, condemning the title and nature of the on-line debate and broadcast, the latter of which was underway as I spoke. I contacted the BBC from my seat in the Commons and later had a communication from the Acting Head of BBC Africa that she thought the topic and title were absolutely fine. I thought her reply was the most ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous I’d ever had from a broadcaster – it was clear to me her mind was closed.

So much for public servants’ respect for the House of Commons. I went right back to my office, wrote a blogpost on the subject and tweeted it. The public response was enormous and the next day the then director of the BBC World Service wrote to me apologising for the story and then made a public statement to the same effect.

18 months later, I led the House of Commons debate on the sad death of Ugandan gay rights campaigner David ‘Kato’. Absent from the debate, physically but certainly not in spirit, was my colleague David Cairns – one of the finest people I’ve had the privilege of knowing – who’d campaigned alongside David Kato and knew him well. David Cairns sent me his best wishes and thoughts for the debate even though he was himself gravely ill and, shockingly, near death himself. He died tragically, at 44 a few short weeks later.

When David (Cairns) died, the Archbishop of Glasgow, suggested that his death, from pancreatitis, was due to his ‘gay lifestyle’. Tom Harris MP’s reply, at the link, spoke for decent folk everywhere in the UK.

I’ve done a couple of bad things at the House of Commons, and a whole lot of pointless things. But on gay rights in Uganda and Africa I’ve done the right things, and so have a lot of other MPs. So have folk from all walks of life in the UK.

But let me say one thing about today’s stories about the latest anti-gay rights activity in Uganda, all over the news tonight.

It’s this: We desperately need to find ways to encourage African leaders to learn over time from South Africa on how to implement gay rights, of course, but at the same time we must at almost all costs stop acting like old-world imperialists telling ‘the black folk’ how to live.

I’ve met a lot of African leaders, including President Museveni of Uganda, and discussed issues ranging from gay rights, to the obvious poverty faced by millions in Africa, through to the high aspirations such leaders have for their people.

And people like Yoweri Museveni have done a lot of good, there’s no fair doubt about it. Not everything any African leader, any leader in the world, does is perfect. But there are a lot of good things going on in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa; genuine progress. If you don’t agree with me, go to Kampala or elsewhere in Uganda and take a look. Do that at least, before you condemn millions of Africans in the round; before you demand that aid be withdrawn and sanctions be applied to democratically-elected politicians acting with the support of their institutions and citizens. Think about the consequences of such immediate demands on the poorest Ugandans, and on the attitudes of all Africans. And consider, maybe, about how leaders, president Museveni and other decent African people I could mention here, deserve more praise than brickbats?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Archbishop of Glasgow’s anti-gay comments about David Cairns were made in a modern UK, where may people’s main worries are less about survival and more about, say, whether organic crops are healthier than GM. Even here, though, Uganda-born Church of England Archbishop John Sentamu has often argued against gay equality in the UK, with its own impact in Uganda. The same church still lobbies heavily against significant anti-gay legislation.

Imagine, now, you are a democratically-elected African political leader with the right social and economic intentions and are lobbied by your established church, with the support of the general public, to enact anti-gay legislation. And think about how much power you want your own politicians to hold. The power to tell people what to think overnight, or the power to work to change things for the better over time? Think about why it is that Scotland legislated for equal marriage only this year – the legislation hasn’t actually received Royal Assent yet. In England, gay marriage won’t  come into effect until next month. Ask yourself why the Church of Scotland only began accepting gay ministers (of which, apparently, theres only one) in 2013? Why it was illegal to be gay in the UK until the same year Celtic won the European Cup in football?

I understand very well why a lot of people in the UK are angry about the anti-gay situation in other parts of the world. But it has to be put in context. We live our pretty cosy lives according to choices we’ve made over time as a developed state. People here in the UK need to think carefully about the effect of demanding that Africans accept immediately and without question our (minority) norms on pain of sanctions which would, by the way, hit only the poorest. And ask themselves why there’s been no similar outcry over the huge swathes of the world where homosexuality is illegal. India? Saudi Arabia? Dozens of countries where western secular liberalism isn’t de rigeur? We’ve got too much to risk there, right? So we pick on a developing, and thoroughly encouraging, African state for special treatment?

Really – why should people in Uganda and Africa as a whole do what we tell them? We put the original anti-gay legislation on their statue books. Western religious organisations campaign for it to stay that way. Now we’re demanding they do what we tell them or else, and pronto? How would you respond to a threat like that from Ugandans? Think about it.

The truth is, the line taken by many people in the UK now – attacking Uganda and Ugandans –  is not only unfair on Ugandans (who will come to their own decisions over their own destiny) per se – it will in any case have the opposite effect from that intended.

So If your aim is to feel good about yourself, then crack on. But if you want to do something decent for all folk, including gay folk, in Africa then tread very, very carefully. Ugandans will decide for themselves on the gay issue and many others. Like we have done. And, you know what? That’s a good thing in itself. Surely to God.






95 Responses to Condemning ‘anti-gay Ugandans’ – be careful what you wish for
  1. WoW! Eric Joyce, I have always contested you have a brain far endowed than the ordinary! When the West tells Africa to adapt Western culture, it’s always absurd. Look:

    What would happen if we- Kenyans- were powerful enough to compel the West to adapt the Maasai culture – where they drink a concoction of blood and milk for breakfast?

    While we must respect the choices of so called homosexuals, we must let nations do as they wish. The same free-will that grants rights to the gays is the same that should- for nations that reject the practice. At least, that’s what the rule of law is all about.

  2. This is indeed what most Ugandans/Africans feel is the way to go. After lots of criticism and threats since the law was signed; putting into account the main principal that Africans still hold dear and close to there hearts..CULTURE. Africans don’t seek to discriminate or hate on anyone but value what they believe in and where they come from. If that cant be taken into account… I’m afraid shoving it down their throats will simply complicate issues.

  3. True. In this world of information,the west should know that Africans are empowered to decide on issues that they feel pertinent to cultural development. museveni did what his subjects demanded.

  4. Thanks Eric Joyce,

    With all the controversies this law has caused the past few days … and on the news the world over, it takes a cool level head to have such a write-up and thinking in the middle of all the storm.Unfortunately not many see it this way.

    It’s a good eye opener and I hope lots and lots get to read this.

    • Thanks, Robert. I see one or two Ugdandan newspapers have published the blogpost, too, so I’m glad to help play a part. Best, eric

  5. You say we aren’t going after other nations? Speak for yourself. I have spoken out against Indian and all the other nations who have implemented anti-gay laws. I speak out for all of them as loudly as I can. I also speak out for the UK and the US to take responsibility for the part we played in making this mess. Every person who dies in any of these nations’ death is on the heads of the killers, their leaders, the UK, and the US.

    • Erica, I know you’ll be speaking heartfelt and with genuine concern for folk. But too many lobbyists have been far too aggressive with the Ugandan government. The effect has been to push the right of Ugandans to make their own sovereign decisions to the top of the political agenda. The interface between religion and politics represents an important expression of personal values for many Ugandans. It’s for Ugandans to negotiate that all for themselves, not for us to threaten them, surely.

    • By the way, ‘speak for yourself’ is peculiarly aggressive and unfair, isn’t it? You did read the piece?

  6. Wonderful post Joyce!, Uganda is a country with one of the largest numbers of refugees from Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya etc It occurs to me that by targeting Uganda being centrally located in Africa, the western world will spread homosexuality much faster on the continent just like it was with HIV Aids. I also wonder why Uganda in particular is being pointed out when over 10 countries in Africa (Algeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Sierra leone, Tanzania, Zambia) Ug inclusive have a 10 yr and above prison sentence for homosexuals. For Sudan, Somalia, Mauritania and Nigeria homosexuals can be put to death. I highly doubt the western world can win the mind of an ordinary folk in Ug when its them that have continuously turned a blind eye on the grave human rights abuses by the police, state organs and the very corrupt politicians many Ugandans have learnt to live with. Homosexuality per se is not inborn but a learnt behaviour and so can also be unlearnt. There are not many gays in Ug as the world would want to believe but just a small number that continously feeds on financial support from powerful gay lobbyists to spread it in Ug and they know that Ugandans are super quick to catch the western cold.

    • Sasa, I love that you highlight how Uganda helps many of your neighbours. You know, quite a lot of good folk in the UK know about Uganda while knowing little about the rest of Africa. The reason for that is the progress in Uganda has made it possible for British folk to visit and experience Uganda. I met your president in the UK simply because he took the time to get around a lot of people to talk to them about Uganda. At the time that wouldn’t have made the news in Uganda, but he was beavering away on Uganda’s behalf all the same. It all makes a difference. But, clearly, there’s an awful lot more work to do in the UK, US and elsewhere….

  7. Hon Eric, u deserve being more than an MP – u can even lead UK well. U must have done a research on both the West and Africa and know that u shouldn’t copy from West & paste onto Uganda but allow for a process. The West is a light year ahead of Africa in term of dev’t hence even your founding fathers would not accept this thing being imposed on us. The Law is not about President Museveni but the general population – and if he didn’t ascent to it, trouble would loom his political door. I’ve come across some of these converts (gays) and honestly majority of them live in total pain as a result of shattered asses – imagine an adult having to put on diapers like a baby! They aint yet willing to report to Authorities coz their partners (husbands) from abroad who finance their luxurious lifesytles intimidate them. This Law is a cousin of Anti-Porn Bill where the local population in Mbale I hear have started ‘cooperating’ with Police – by lifting skimpily dressed gals to Police posts. They ask Police to charge suspects there and then Shs.7 – 10m=. Last Saturday, while buying food stuff in a city market (Nakawa), I witnessed a younger woman being rescued from women (market vendors). Her crime was very short dress (mini-dress) – the vendors hauled insults at her but one insult which caught my attention most was HUSBANDS’ SNATCHER. Donors’ reaction to cut aids doesn’t seem to bother the very population which needs it most coz this same lot says should keep their aids if the price has been irked to sons marrying sons and daughters having affairs with fellow gals. They even say USA should dedicate this year’s green cards to all gays/lesbos from Uganda. By the way, people know most of the gays in Uganda but have tolerated them; the problem now is that these gays are big tym attention seekers who can climb roof tops to pronounce their new found faith. Sex in Africa is a private affair for procreation but these gays record in CDs their sex acts and go around to leak it to the media before sending the CDs for ‘accountability’ to the West. We know that gayism is a minority and financially strong movement driving politicians the world over wild but Politicians should relate with respect not intimidation. For, we also know very well that even the US President (tough on our President as he is now) himself will not allow his very own daughters to marry fellow women.

    • Tony, the way I see it the attitude towards gay folk in Uganda is much the same as the UK’s in the 1980/90s – i.e. most people would rather not think too much about it but if it’s going on behind closed doors then so be it. It was legal to be gay from 1967 here, of course, but that wasn’t how most people truly felt about it. Indeed, most of my constituents don’t like to dwell on the issue even today. What’s happened over time here is that people have come around to a ‘live and let live’ sort of attitude. I think that’s a good thing and of course I agree with it, but that’s a choice we’ve made. You guys have to make your own choices. I hope you make the same choices, or at least similar, that we’ve made on the whole, because I think the UK and Uganda have a lot in common. But I feel, really strongly, that the days of Africans being told what to think, what to value, what morals to hold, by the UK and US are long gone. And that’s a good thing, mate.

      • Did the UK have laws on the books calling for capital punishment? What people think, behind or outside closed doors, is still limited in its expression by the law.

  8. […] Eric Joyce MP has written a long post on Uganda and their antigay laws where the harsh penalties have been set for homosexuals. It is obviously about Africa but it has wider interest following closely on the back of the SOCHI 2014 Winter Olympics  where both the UK and  USA media coverage of the games included a close examination of Russia’s right-wing, macho and homophobic cultures. We can see all those things in parts of the the USA too, of course, but it’s most recently been Indian anti-gay laws and attitudes that have been in the headlines, well before Kenya, Nigeria and now Uganda.  Eric tells us about his past experience of dealing with the BBC on this topic 18 months ago and how … […]

  9. Honourable Joyce,

    I commend you for understanding Uganda’s homophobia. It took the west many years to get where they are on the issue of homosexuality. Slowly Ugandans will realise and rectify the situation without external pressure. What I don’t understand is why great leaders like David Cameron and Baraka Obama don’t get this basic fact. Whereas the anti homosexual law in Uganda is a bad one, cutting aid and safocating dissenting voices on the subject of homosexuality is worse. The response from western human rights campaigners and lobby groups has lost the moral compas. Tying aid and friendship to acceptance of gay ism demonstrates another agenda altogether. By issuing a threat publicly, president Obama left Museveni no choice but to exhibit bravery and sign the bill. Any attempt to punish Uganda and her leaders will hurt the poor and vulnerable including the gay community in Uganda.

    Please continue educating your fellow law makers on this subject.

    • Joseph, there’s literally nothing you’ve said I disagree with. Your analysis is great, you’re fair and you’re optimistic too. I promise I’ll do anything I can to help put your points across in the UK and anywhere else folk’ll listen. Thanks for writing.

  10. I just get it straight over gay. What is the matter with man? Our society in Uganda has practically no link what so ever with gay affair. This culture, cultural imperialism of Western world has its own roots in West. Simply, we don’t need it in Uganda. That’s all. Aid is not the only source of survival in Uganda.

    Live Uganda alone, Aid providers, and gay supporters

  11. Are all donors and sponsors of Africa and Uganda in particular driven by GAYS ??? why cant we see those that would want to see nature preserved and stand up and say they are willing to stand in the Gaps . Christiaans and Moslem sponsors who are straight stand up please .to save these nations from the impositions of morally decayed donors.

  12. Well out Eric Joyce.. Just like polygamy isn’t right culturally in the west yet the same is acceptable in Africa so is gayism….

  13. museveni acted after parliament had passed a bill. had it been a referendum, the score would have been over 90%. Good the so called donors are cutting aid. it is time for africa to fend for itself. A gay relationship is anti social because there is no procreation. it can actually wipe out the human race. now who is talking about human rights here. Bravo Museveni. Bravo Africa. let the aid go. we shall survive.

    • I truly hope that at some point Ugandan’s might change their mind on the anti-gay stuff, but that in the end has to be up to Ugandans. I completely agree that it’s your sovereign right to pass your own laws and go in the direction chosen democratically by Ugandans.

  14. Let us not waste time. The politicians are fighting for votes to retain their seats come 2016. Many bills have been passed to laws but not enforced. This are political propaganda to winning votes. Obama ignore them and we need your donation.

    • Bang on. But for in the UK/US can’t see it.

    • If laws are passed with no intention of enforcing them, you do not understand what the rule of law is all about.

      • I’ve got a good understanding of what the purpose of laws is, bud. What’s ur perspective?

        • You didn’t express that perspective, unless it is, as I assessed, posturing for votes with n o intent of enforcing them. My perspective is that the only valid reason to pass laws is the intent to enforce them — if you’re passing them to whore for votes, you are morally deficient and should be turned out.

        • We’re having a conversation, Roger. That’s why it wasn’t ‘reflected’ in my original post. By the way, do you think the understandably celebratory (in a US/UK context) “Queer Net’s Fag in Charge” is likely to be conducive to encouraging change in Uganda? Just asking’, because to me it looks like you’re preaching to the converted in the US rather than helping to move attitudes in Africa.

        • I’m not posturing. I simply believe that legal change often has to precede and foster cultural change, rather than simply reflecting it.

        • When the public will is overwhelmingly against something, you can’t legislate for it. That’s democracy. It the experience of the UK, the US and every other democracy. It’s the experience of Uganda. If you want to change things, you have to persuade people. If you don’t try, then you really don’t deserve any influence at all.

  15. Your position is well stated Eric Joyce. Unfortunately, the AHB has ridden on the prevalent anti-homophobic sentiments of the Ugandan society and the pre-existing penal code that criminalizes ‘unnatural’ sex . Gay people and their advocates have been denied a platform to express their views in Uganda. The police has all along been trailing them and dispersing their conferences and parades. However we should know in 1948, the Universal declaration of human rights was brought to the world to promote peace through the respect of fundamental rights. Minorities that are more vulnerable to bullying and persecution were particularly protected by the well thought out ideal of the declaration. Utter disregard of the ideas enshrined in this declaration has led to further bloodshed and bloody conflict after 1948. No country, not even Uganda, could continue giving aid to another country which flouts and denigrates her ideals. Hence Congress or any other policy making organ in the west is morally justified not to assent to the dispersing of aid money that would be directly or indirectly used to oppress minorities. Why does the US maintain a cordial relationships with countries like Saudi Arabia that have anti-gay legislation? Does America or Britain give aid to the Sauda Arabia? The bilateral relationship are almost 100% economic and not ideological. Can the US economy survive without Saudi oil? The government of Uganda cannot eat its cake and have it. They either respect fundamental rights of sexual minorities or look elsewhere for aid because, looking at the situation here, it is obvious we shall need aid for a very long time to come. It is as simple as that. Everyone should remember that no country will give aid without strings. Russia, Japan or China too will impose ( and have always imposed ) conditions for the aid they will give this country because they also have interests to protect. Hence the issue of gay rights and anti-gay legislation should be examined very carefully remembering that homosexuality is not tied to any culture for it’s a universal reality that has existed from time immemorial and will exist for a long time to come in spite of all the legislation put in place. It’s a complex issue that is still under scientific scrutiny. Hence a legislation cannot just switch it off but will only push it underground from where it will flourish endlessly. The West has known this for a very long time. We ignore and oppose their argument at our own peril.

    • Eric, thanks for helping the western world understand that they live in a close system where they think that whatever they say, and do is always right. I am looking at the day when Africa (as a superpower), will stop AID for some western countries unless they start practicing POLIGAMY and WITCHCRAFT.

    • Am Ugandan and it will never be fair at anyone time for the US and the EU to think and believe that what they think and legislate is what is the right thing for the rest of the world. U r talking of 1948, for Gods sake, we were even still being colonized by the British!!!!
      I believe, let each country grow through the normal stages of growth…
      If u want to know the true stand of Ugandans when it comes to this issue, go to the US Embassy page for Uganda and look at the comments to the statement of your president about it

      • I think there are things we learn from each other all over the world. There’s good practice, you know? So Uganda has a strong constitution and democratic government – that’s all good. The international community likes that. UK/US needs to be careful, therefore, when democratic leaders pass legislation UK/US doesn’t like – if they get the tone wrong they can look imperialistic and wrong-headed. I also think it’s outrageous that Uganda’s being singled out simply because UK/US wouldn’t dare take on rich or large countries like Saudi or India.

    • Brian, I really appreciate your well-put points. I won’t try to respond to all of them here – they speak for themselves – but the question for me is whether singling out Uganda for special attention (it’s always African nations getting singled out, isn’t it – ICC, etc) is likely to have the opposite effect from the one intended.

  16. I must commend Eric Joyce for this article, I must say as a Ugandan I agree with him on a number of things, we have already experienced colonialism whose effects we still go through every day, we cannot be forced to think, feel and believe in the same way as America or London, the same week our President signed this bill Arizona state also passed an anti gay bill, I could go on about all these arguments that have already been discussed worldwide but I wont, in conclusion what Mr. Joyce is saying is people in glass houses should not throw stones. Thank you Eric Joyce, this Ugandan appreciates you.

    • Thanks, Ronah. I appreciate you appreciating me! I can’t see anyone, yet, advocating economic sanctions on Arizona. Nor any of the other wealthy or large states which ban gay activity. I’d prefer it if folk could live how they liked in all countries, but I really do resent Uganda being singled out in this lazy way by campaigners.

      • If you “can’t see anyone, yet, advocating economic sanctions on Arizona,” then you’re not actually reading American news. We don’t have to advocate government sanctions of any kind, because businesses are threatening to implement them by themselves. Gov. Brewer’s decision to veto the abhorrent legislation — plying by comparison with Uganda’s, of course — was made largely because of the NFL threatening to pull the Super Bowl and other businesses threatening to pull jobs out of Arizona.

        • I’m a British MP, bud. I read a few US publications, but on the whole ours are a lot better (!) I take your point, though. The Economist published this 4 hours ago. No activity here otherwise. Nor any over India, which passed legislation a few weeks ago. Nor anywhere it might hurt us. Just Uganda, because it’s always Africans, isn’t it? ICC? US supports but doesn’t sign up and, guess what, only African folk bagged up and sent to the Hague. Nah, you want to complain, start doing it where it might hurt US interests.

        • Actually, there’s been a fair amount of coverage in India, including the hope that the political process will address it in reasonably short order — not an expectation we have in Uganda. And India passed relatively minor criminal penalties, not death or life imprisonment.

        • So, erm, Roger, have you considered the possibility that the aggressive approach by US folk like yourself has had the opposite effect from what you’d hoped; or that your ‘dream on’ is a reflection of your views of Ugandans as a whole? Could you also let us all know if you think it’s cool to threaten the withdrawal of US funds for kids’ projects in Uganda?

        • You seem to be perfectly fine with Africa developing morally and politically at its own pace and independently, but horrified at the notion that it should develop economically and technologically at its own pace and independently.

          Kid’s projects and the like should only be implemented in ways that guarantee that the government and the voting adults do not profit from them.

        • Hmmm, you haven’t actually been to Uganda nor spoken to many Ugandans, have you? I’d like Uganda to continue developing economically so its folk can benefit from that in exactly the same way your grandparents/parents did. Uganda’s coming along nicely, actually. When your grand/parents were doing bringing you up, they were doing it in a nation in which anti-gay, racist legislation was the regular state of play. Things change, but not overnight. If you try to drive it too hard, you jump right in where those who want no change want you to be.

  17. very Balanced view. I have been wondering why many people in west condemning Uganda can not mention that their own govts and people have struggled with this issue for ages. Even today from Australia, Canada, Russia etc people are struggling to come to terms with Gay debates. I am sure what is happening in Uganda still happens in their countries too though on a different scale.

  18. Wow am very Impressed with this article by Eric Joyce considering that he is a Western Policy maker. Eric Joyce seems to understand the issue of Homosexuality and how Africans feel about it more than policy makers in Washington and London combined. What I can say it is never to late for the West to realize that their approach towards Africa and Uganda in particular was poor and pathetic . I my opinion they seem to have jeopardize the efforts of Uganda’s LGBTI community to remain legal. Another thing that angers Africans is the blind eye the West seems to give to countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran that have the worse punishments for homosexuality, the Agenda seems to focus on aAfricans only.

    • Thanks for this. I certainly agree that the stance of folk in the UK and US has actually made it harder for the LGBTI community in Uganda.

  19. hmmm so touching and chilling to know that there are Europeans out there that are still open minded and would actually take time to look into the reality of issues. I think the debate on gayism is actually an issue of cultural values and norms. people should realize that certain things are disgusting to people who were brought up in cultures where those particular activities are taboo. for example in Uganda we eat grass hoppers (Insects) and this is normal for people who grow up in areas where grass hopers are eaten but for someone from a culture that has never eaten grass hoppers the site of one putting them in his mouth can be so disgusting. Yet with time one can get used to it. In my opinion let the white man have the gay rights in his back yard and let the Africans uphold their culture that is anti gay. The idea of “what is good for your child should also be good for my Child is wrong” My child should be brought up/raised my way and not your way. So if the Africans in their sovereignty have decided that they shall not promote the gay vice then lets leave that to them. The west should stop putting un necessary pressure on non issues. Africans have not at any point in life dictated how the west should live their lives and since gay is a life style please do not impose this on the Africans. I think there are more pressing issues that the west can try to address in Africa than this awkward thing of gay rights

    • Thanks, David. I’m a strong supporter of everyone doing what they want, straight, gay or otherwise. And I’d like to think one day folk in Uganda will come to a similar conclusion over time. But the conclusions Ugandans come to is up to them – up to you. I think the hectoring by the US and UK to the contrary is actually making it harder for Ugdandan leaders to do otherwise than stand up for Uganda’s sovereignty.

  20. It is scary to any parent be it Ugandan, American ,British or whatever nationality to have their son(s) introduce a man as their fiance. I doubt any of us would really accept that we only’ get over it’. Homophobia is really just a new concept that our dear brothers and sisters from the west have added to our vocabulary in recent times. i mean if you read the Bible what happened to that famous city of Sodom… Does that make the God we worship Homophobic?
    Religion aside enough with the carrot and stick approach.we are not dogs that need training. The west has got to accept that we are different cultures and though you look at us as Ugandans, we are richer in a variety of ways. why should the west be a yard stick of what is right and wrong? why should we be considered incapable of having the brains to think out what is our own projections? We are making noise about this law but culturally did you know that one cannot marry from the same clan? yet a clan is made up of people you will never ever meet…. are we about to be told that it is ok for a brother to marry a sister and they bring forth children or a father to impregnate their daughters since its a human right to have a family?

    • Thanks, Polo. I did not know you could not marry someone else from the same clan. Is that a gene-pool thing?

  21. Thank you Eric Joyce for this opinion. I hope Obama and his cohorts will one day understand that they have no right to tell Ugandans how to live. I wonder if USA, UK, Norway, Sweden are genuinely interested in the human rights of ordinary Ugandans. Some of the worst human rights abuses are perpetrated by the institutions funded by the very countries who are now crying foul. Where was America when our parliament was passing the controversial public order management bill? Where was Norway when the same president recently signed the anti-pornography law which has now resulted into acts of abuse against women who wear skirts above the knee? Where is America when children’s rights continue to be abused? Really, are the gay minorities the most important group right now? Are gay rights more important than other human rights? I also hope that Uganda and other African countries can realise that we have enough resources to survive without conditional aid. Yes, this may be the time for us to gain true independence. Long live Uganda. Long live Africa

  22. ‘I will advocate for boycott investments as well as tourism in Uganda, because of the recent anti-gay rights law. Tourists will not be safe’ – Richard Branson. Seriously!! What do you think the ordinary Ugandan will think about the tourists that come to Uganda then? I request that we think beyond our impulsive behaviour.

    • I can’t see anyone calling for a boycott of India, which enacted anti-gay legislation a few weeks ago. Wonder why?

  23. Well said.i wonder why the west always want africans to do & only follow what they want.Africans & in particular ugandans have totally different cultural norms from those of the west.Is that so hard for them to understand.Anything differing from the wests’ ideology & thinking all they think about is cutting aid & imposing other sanctions? Until when and what a shame on all western leaders against ugandans. Its a pit that only few people like Eric can understand that.

  24. Great piece here!
    Well, more often than not African leaders get it wrong and no one cares!
    How do you preach democracy yet dictate over other countries’ affairs? It beats my understanding! Whether just/unfair it may seem, we need to respect a decision if it has been passed in the right way.

  25. Thank you so much for posting this, it is truly sound reasoning and refreshing to my Ugandan eyes. However, I want to add that even though you state what is clear and obvious “the line taken by many people in the UK now …. will in any case have the opposite effect from that intended…” a question forms in my mind -What is that that is intended? My thoughts (or feelings) are that there is something else that is fuelling this somewhat obviously erratic behaviour from the West: the plausible conclusion is that the West seems to have found a convenient way to shift the major frontier of its own battle for gay-rights to another part of the world; Africa. It is much easier to communicate strongly to the anti-gay crowd at this far-flung frontier and thereby indirectly to those closer to home without stirring too much tension among its own populace. From this perspective, it would seem there is in fact quite some justification for the present seemingly irrational reactions.

  26. Not all Ugandans are homophobic however the criminalising of people that know and knowingly associate with gay Ugandans is scary enough and this victimisation is bound to break up families and friends and rather increase homophobia in and outside Uganda.

  27. Very true. Because Africa will now be asking, is gay rights the most pressing issue in Africa today? Why is everyone stepping up pressure on an issue supported only by a minority in the sponsor nations? Or the other question could be, why is there deafening silence on issues that matter to us….in other words is it really in our interest or the ‘master’ ? Or your imperialistic tendency have outgrown their disguisable size that can no longer be kept concealed ?

    All in all, no country today has any right whatsoever to dictate ridiculous cultural practices. We are way past that, I suppose.

  28. I think the Governments in the West learn a few bits from this article. The days of western lectures on how Africans can live their lives are behind the pages. As a people we have a duty and responsibility to our destiny. N. Korea has survived with less Donor aid. Certainly Uganda will survive. May this is the time in History that Africa needs to think about its economic independence and our destiny. I know that donor aid has promoted more corruption in Africa than real and tangible development.

  29. Surely Obama should read this, you whites are Mean, disgusting and Physio, seriously you spoit Africa and you made it Poor, for sure you colonized them, forced them into Slave trade, and considered all that they had Backward, But Guess what, we Africans Have Understood that and trust Me we will fight you to the End, l was so Happy when President Museveni Used Ugandan Scientist to proof you wrong, this shows how Independent Uganda is? If you eat Shit And for you you think that is chocolate, yet the all world knows those are Shit, who is Backward and
    Ignorant, So you whites Mind your Business and Country, IN fact you have made us more poor and Lazy because of your Aid, take it and we will see if the all Africa will Die from Lack of Food, Africa we are Blessed we have the Best Climate through out the Year, fresh Water and Nice People, Make your Research well, 80% of the whites are Physio, seriously every 10whites you meet, 8 of them are Physio, So Please we Know whites don’t think well, fine they Might have the Knowledge to Make Computers and Cars But they Lack the Most Important thing, Knowledge that is Nature, that some one is Born with, So Whites Back Off, LONG LIVE UGANDA, OBAMA WE DID DON’T VOTE FOR YOU, SO DON’T DECIDE FOR US

  30. Thank you for seeing this issue for what it really is.
    Many people here in Uganda say that the west applies double standards when it comes to Africa and as a result the debate has turned into an anti-imperialist debate.
    As a doctor I watch helplessly as people die needlessly from preventable diseases while our corrupt leaders openly steal your tax payers donations and guess what, your government never says anything.
    Our politicians own lavish properties in the UK and their kids attend prestigious universities using money stolen from the Ugandan and British tax payers and your government never says anything.
    That’s why the general populace is up in arms saying that the west only speaks up when it suits them but doesn’t really care about the rights of the average Ugandan.
    And by the way, me and my bother are Christian, Married, Ugandan doctors who, despite our beliefs, have met and given health awareness talks to gay people, one of which was organized together with the late Kato who was murdered a couple of weeks after the talk.

  31. Eric Joyce, A rather uncommon voice and tone you use to articulate your points. A welcome one nonetheless. You surely are propagating a more agreeable route for the Western World to follow. I hope the Western World can sense the defiance that is growing all over the world of their supposed human rights movements, that end up pushing societies out of original alignments. The thing about this though is the times have changed, Africa for instance has been steadily growing. Uganda for instance is no longer like a hungry child who will jump as the high as the person who has bread asks. There is first the belief that Aid has never or has had very little touch base for whom is was meant for anyways. Most of it ends up filling politician’s pockets through corruption. We surely reached a point where we knew no one was coming to help us and slowly we have been turning the tide through self initiatives. Starting small business for survival. To such people, very little can be dictated. Its true as well that in our traditions, which are still quite strong, bedroom related matters better stay in/for the bedroom. Being gay is one thing, advocating publicly for such rights is insensitive to those around you whose views may differ. For William, the vocal opposition he alleges there is against such legislation is from the minority and we leave the courts of law to adjudicate such matters. What i would like to tell William though is over 96% of Ugandans are in support of the anti gay law. Time is the one thing you can trust to erode people’s sentiments whether for or against. I have lived for 30 years and for 15 of those have closely followed how in due time, people soften their stance on things previously opposed. The west could and should have been sensitive to this. We are no longer are a child to be threatened by threats but rather a young adult whom you are supposed to talk to and to whom if you disagree, let time prove them wrong.

    • Muwonge, you’re right of course that most Ugandan’s favour the anti-gay legislation (although to what extent is a matter for Ugandas like you and William to debate, not for folk like me to say), and I couldn’t agree more that tough stances can soften over time. Yet I think it’s worse than short-sightedness on the part of campaigners in the UK and US; I think many are actually more concerned about expressing their outrage to each other – using Uganda as the vehicle at the moment – than they are concerned for the people of any given African state.

  32. Thank you so much for this opinion. We have been so disappointed by the inability of the west, especially Americans to allow Ugandans to debate internally about this issue. The signing of the bill was more a protest against western social imperialism than anything else and there has been nothing in decades that has united Ugandans as this. Since 2007, Uganda has been one of the few African countries in which gays openly have press conferences for instance. This probably would never happen in the 1990s. There is also a lot of exaggerated stories about Uganda and i kindly want to correct you that Kato was not killed because he was gay. Kato was killed after a domestic disagreement with his partner who is currently in prison serving a life sentence.

    • Thanks, Patrick. I changed the way I phrased the David Kato death in view of your comment. And you’re right to say that there’s been a lot of social movement in Uganda since the 1990s, you know about that much better than me, but these things have to go at a local pace, determined by people in their own country.

      • I am very impressed by your article Joyce, up to know I can’t believe balanced view people like you are still existing in the west.

        I thought the west had one thing in mind, to cut donations and make these developing Ugandans die because they don’t believe in what we believe. I pray your fellows like Barrack Obama can learn from you. I respect you.

        • Thanks, Chris. I think most folk in the UK/US haven’t truly thought about what they’re saying re: aid and economic ties. To be frank, if the price of aid is bending down to UK/US demands then that price is too high.

  33. I agree Western media played a big role, provoking, Remember all comments and discussions on how backward Africa is are read by quite a large populace which translates to the locals..Uganda of today is not of the 1980’s. Anything commented about the country in the West can reach to the smallest grassroots fast. If you want to test this go ask any villager about English football and you will be shocked. Satellite TV makes them watch all that is said about them….so the Western Media should start organizing their method of reporting

    • Mobile platforms in Africa are amazing – I really don’t think there’s any public awareness in the UK of that fact that Uganda has more people accessing, say, financial services, via their cellphones than in the UK. And, tbh, I think most people are hard-pushed to tell the difference between African states. You’re right that it has a 1980s feel to it, Debby.

  34. Another failure of the media is that it basically reduces the story to “Ugandans are homophobic” which is not the whole story. There does exist vocal opposition to the law in Uganda, and a challenge is pending in the constitutional court. There is also a fair degree of politicking involved; the government has done a complete about-face on the law in a matter of weeks (from trying to block it to loudly supporting it) and has knowingly misquoted the results of their own studies in order to ride the “anti-western-bullying” wave that local and western media reporting is creating. It is not just “Ugandans are homophobic”.

    • Thank you William for that explanation..The truth is that the western media is blowing the entire thing all out of proportion,its not nearly as bad. No body really torments or bothers gays people and Ugandans are not even homophobic to say the least. Anybody who has been to Uganda would know that Ugandans are the most carefree people and would not be bothered hunting down anyone over their sexual orientation.

      • Then the law is just anti-imperialist posturing? Dream on.

        • No, I think the law reflects what most people in Uganda think. I also think Museveni’s hand has in part been forced, the wrong way, by campaigners in the US and UK.

        • Ah, that’s the moral challenge, then, isn’t it? Government sometimes has to be better than just the will of the majority — it needs to protect the minority as well.

        • Were you a big fan of US/UK policy on Iraq?

        • No, I was not — and I would wholeheartedly have supported the world community breaking economic and political ties with the US over it.

        • Thought I’d ask – you just recommended that government ‘should be above the will of the majority’. You do understand that you can’t have it both ways, yes?

        • Yes, actually, you can and must have it both ways. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 here in the US was passed at a time when a majority of voters would have opposed it, by the bravery of their elected representatives; significant social change occurred because the law established boundaries of acceptable behavior. Simply waiting for the public to come around on its own by processes of exposure and education is cowardice.

        • Bud, the view in Uganda isn’t against, it’s overwhelmingly against. Few people have it at the top of their agenda – that’s the travesty of international reportage – but political leaders are doing what the huge majority wants. That’s partly been driven by the money and influence of your own US churches. You don’t like it? Go to Uganda and try to persuade people. You must understand why I’m sceptical that Americans and Brits are concentrating their fire on Uganda. There’s no economic penalty, you see. And do you know what – gay campaigners have, because they’re just playing to each other, set up a ‘no Aid for Ugandan kids without gay rights’ argument. If you think that’s cool, that’s you call I guess…

    • Totally, William. That kind of debate inside Uganda is simply not being reflected in the UK and quite likely America too. It really is time that changed.


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