Last week’s Uganda story – the President’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act – is heart-sinking stuff.
Not just for what it means for people trying to live a normal life – but also because it’s such a slap in the face of any attempt to talk of shared values.
And because it looks to be driving a wedge between the West, who are rushing to take the moral high ground, and the Ugandan political class, who have jumped on this chance to demonstrate their ability to resist imperialism while avoiding dealing with Uganda’s actual problems. And so, as Think Africa Press write, sexuality becomes part of (an inconsistent) foreign policy.
Maybe we shouldn’t give up on the shared values thing just yet, though. This stance obviously doesn’t represent all of Africa, just as defending gay rights isn’t shared by all Westerners, as Arizona has just reminded us (and given that homophobia was, if not imported by Western missionaries, then certainly promoted by them – see trailer below).
But in the meantime, the more we outsiders protest, the more we play perfectly into those arguments of interference.
The people I worked with in Kampala last year made their views clear. ‘Uganda Is The Promised Land After Museveni Signing The Law’, wrote one on Facebook. Worst of all, this isn’t one of the kids or young adults. That’s the guy who leads the organisation – a fairly influential community member, and the leader of a NGO set up to help those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Clearly there’s no point in me, a white Westerner (and a female at that!), trying to reason with him. And to some extent, that’s fair enough. If anyone can change his mind, it’ll be someone inside Uganda’s borders. I’m not sure that’ll happen anytime soon, though.
Some diaspora have been making valiant attempts to reason with the law’s supporters. But do they, any more than us, have a right to say what’s ‘best’ for Africa?
Could money be the final decider? It looks like there’ll be a significant hit – in terms of grant aid, loans and private investment – seen, not unreasonably, by Kampala as ‘blackmail’. Will that have any real impact on domestic law? Or will it – just imagine – be the beginning of the end of Ugandan aid dependency?