Why President Museveni is dithering on Uganda’s anti-gay law

Saturday April 22 2023
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. The much-anticipated signing of the anti-homosexuality Bill, passed last month by Uganda’s Parliament, did not come to pass after Museveni announced he would send it back. PHOTO | BADRU KATUMBA | AFP


The much-anticipated signing of the anti-homosexuality Bill, passed last month by Uganda’s Parliament, did not come to pass after President Yoweri Museveni announced he would send it back.

While meeting legislators, Museveni said the Bill did not include clauses on amnesty, especially for people who could have been lured into the acts and want to denounce them to seek rehabilitation.

The President, who first praised the legislators for rejecting pressure from imperialists, said his main concern was rehabilitating the physiologically disoriented people. The president told the legislators to make corrections, promising to meet the Legal Affairs Committee of parliament, the sponsor of the Bill Asuman Basalirwa, and other stakeholders.

“I am going to return the Bill so that you deal with those issues and we sign it,” he said, before reminding the MPs to brace themselves for the consequences that could come as a result of passing the Bill such as cutting off aid, especially the $260 million that the country has been receiving from the US for support and treatment of the over 1.2 million Ugandans living with HIV/Aids.

The president had been informed by the Attorney-General, Kiwanuka Kiryowa that the Bill criminalises even those who voluntarily come out and seek amnesty.

“This country has given amnesty to people who have carried out criminal acts of treasonous nature against the country. A similar provision should be provided to ensure that a person who comes out on his own is not criminalised,” Mr Kiryowa said.


The motivation

Overwhelmingly supported by legislators, religious leaders, and the general public, the Bill proposed harsh punishments for offenders, including a death sentence, life imprisonment, or a 10-year jail term for those found guilty of crimes ranging from engagement in homosexuality, aggravated defilement of offenders, recruitment of children into the act and operating brothels, rooms or houses promoting homosexuality.

However, the Bill was seen as a display of discontent with the European Union Parliament, which passed a resolution against the development of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. The resolution said the pipeline would affect many people through displacement and generate up to 34 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

The Bill had attracted widespread condemnation from the UN, the US, and Europe.