Stay out of our anti-gay fight, Mwenda tells donors

Stay out of our anti-gay fight, Mwenda tells donors
Andrew Mwenda

'Your involvement with sanctions and travel bans distorts the whole issue, making it like you want to impose your values on Uganda'

LAW & ORDER | Veteran journalist and businessman Andrew Mwenda has asked the West and donors to stay out of Uganda's sticky anti-homosexuality fight.

"Your involvement with sanctions and travel bans distorts the whole issue, making it like you want to impose your values on Uganda," Mwenda posted on X, former Twitter, after Wednesday's landmark ruling.

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday rejected a strong bid to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023, in entirety but struck down some clauses that affected gay rights like access to public healthcare.

It also freed landlords of culpability in case their premises are used in acts that the controversial law considers sexual deviance and therefore criminal.

The passing of the legislation in May last year triggered Western sanctions, including from the World Bank and US.

A particular clause that imposed the death penalty on aggravated homosexuality had left human rights activists and the West in a tetchy knot.

The World Bank halted new lending to the country while the US announced visa and travel restrictions for some government officials.

But addressing "our friends in the western world", Mwenda said they should keep out of the debate.

"We appreciate your solidarity but we don’t need your support."

 

The West and the US in particular, have been aggressively pushing the LGBT+ agenda over the recent years, tying aid to the rainbow strings even as some donor-dependent governments insist the practice is alien to their culture.

The strong bid by the West against the new anti-gay law had left the impression that it would suffer the same fate as the one before it in 2014.

But the panel of five justices pulled from their wigs a potentially win-win decision even as Mwenda and other human rights activities and LGBT+ campaigns felt they had left the court with the short end of the gavel.

"We are going to the Supreme Court and I have full confidence that the judges will stand above our cultural prejudices and protect rights of homosexuals to live their lives as they wish," Mwenda declared outside the court.

But he warned the donors and the West that poking their nose too noisily in the sticky gay rights issues in Uganda would undermine judicial independence and Uganda's sovereignity.

"Your threats of sanctions and travel and visa bans also undermine the legitimacy of decisions by judges as the public may think (if they annul the law) it’s because you had your guns on their heads," Mwenda said.

Human rights campaigner Nicholas Opiyo also said he disagreed with the findings in the summary judgment but that he was looking forward to receiving detailed reasoning.

"To base a decision on public sentiments, purported cultural values, and unfounded or unsubstantiated allegations of recruitment into homosexuality is strange, to say the least," Opiyo said.

"You come to court expecting it to rise above public bigotry and sentiments. To that extent, it is a letdown, but we will see what next steps can be taken."

Mr Opiyo's comments could have come in the spur of the moment as the Article 126(1) of the Constitution enjoins courts in the country to exercise judicial power in conformity with law and with the values, norms and aspirations of the people.

"Judicial power is derived from the people and shall be exercised by the courts established under this Constitution in the name of the people and in conformity with law and with the values, norms and aspirations of the people," the supreme law says.

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