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Uganda president calls anti-gay bill a ‘foreign policy’ issue

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Uganda’s leader has stated that the country’s anti-homosexuality bill, which proposed the death penalty for those found engaging in gay sex, is being re-worked and is a foreign policy issue.

Museveni

Speaking at a party conference Tuesday, Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni made his first public statement on the bill and emphasized it was a private member’s bill, rather than one submitted by the government.

“It’s a foreign policy issue, and we must handle it in a way that does not compromise our principles but also takes into account our foreign policy interests,” he explained.

Despite the measure’s widespread support within the country, international pressure has piled on Museveni to scrap the controversial plans.

The bill was tabled by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati and would impose the death penalty on gays who engage in sex with minors, disabled people or while living with HIV. Other homosexuality offenses, such as failing to report incidents to police, would result in imprisonment.

World leaders including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and British prime minister Gordon Brown have expressed concerns to Museveni, while Sweden threatened to cut its aid.

Said Museveni, “The prime minister of Canada came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays. … Prime minister Gordon Brown came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays. … Mrs. Clinton rang me. What was she talking about? Gays.”

Last week, Uganda’s minister for ethics James Nsaba Buturo said he believed Museveni did not support the death penalty for gays and said the provision was likely to be removed from the bill.

It is expected to come before parliament in late February or early March.

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