President Museveni claims on BBC TV that Ugandan gays are not persecuted

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni told the BBC on Wednesday that he did not support the persecution of homosexuals despite the reintroduction of a draconian anti gay-bill in parliament last week.

According to reports by the French News Agency (AFP) monitored in Kampala, the president told BBC’s Hard Talk programme that he did not consider homosexuality to be normal, but that it may be tolerated if it was kept behind closed doors.

The president argued “the normal way is to be heterosexual… but maybe there are some exceptions for some good scientific reasons,” urging homosexuals to “just keep your own confidential sexual life to yourself.”

Meanwhile back in Kampala, Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has dismissed claims that setting up a new Human Rights Committee in Parliament would give gay rights activists a boost. Ms Kadaga said yesterday (February 22) during a Parliamentary session that Human Rights for Uganda should be clearly scrutinized, and hence the need for a committee.

She was responding to observations raised by Eastern Uganda youth member of Parliament, Peter Ogwang that “minority groups, especially gays would use this committee to promote their agenda.”

Meanwhile, in his TV interview with the BBC to be aired in full today, Thursday (February23), the president explained, “Homosexuals — in small numbers — have existed in our part of black Africa. “They were never prosecuted, they were never discriminated, but the difference between us and… Western Europe is the promotion of homosexuality, as if it is something good.”

When asked about the possibility of life sentences being imposed for certain acts, Museveni said they would only be considered for crimes “which are against the interests of society.” He added that a life term could be handed out to anyone funding schemes which attempted to bribe children into becoming homosexual. The president said, “Inducement, manipulation, using money which they collect from the west; that’s what I would not like.”

David Bahati, the legislator who formulated the bill reintroduced the contentious bill last Tuesday after lawmakers ran out of time to debate the measure last year and voted to pass it on to the new session of parliament.

Parliament officials said Thursday that the bill — which US President Barack Obama has described as “odious” — had been reintroduced in its original form, which included the death penalty clause. Bahati, however, said the proposed legislation was already in the process of being changed, following recommendations made during the last parliament.

Museveni told Obama and other Western leaders to be “very careful about black Africa” and warned them not to impose their views on his country. “I don’t eat fish because I call it snake, I don’t eat chicken because I think if you eat chicken you will be unstable, I don’t eat pigs — I don’t eat many of those things you people eat but I keep this to myself,” he reasoned.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but the proposed bill has previously attracted heavy criticism for the harsh penalties it proposed.

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