A Message to Uganda About a Bill Against Gays


Posted on January 13th, 2010 by Katherine Franke

From Sunday’s New York Times

Professor Peter Rosenblum

Professor Peter Rosenblum

To the Editor:

Re “Hate Begets Hate” (editorial, Jan. 5):

You rightly call for “the United States and others” to send a clear message to Uganda that passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would cost it “millions of dollars in foreign aid.” It is best to use that pressure soon, however, because it isn’t going to be available for much longer.

For decades, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has charmed donors while overseeing an increasingly centralized and corrupt regime. Parliament, which is considering the bill, is little more than a debating society that deflects attention from Mr. Museveni’s personalized rule. If and when it suits him, the president will intervene and the issue will disappear — at least for the moment.

Soon, however, even the limited influence exercised by the West is likely to evaporate because Uganda sits on huge oil reserves. Oil revenues could more than replace the contributions of Western countries.

While the experience of other resource-rich countries in Africa highlights the risks of (further) corruption, violence and environmental destruction that would ensue, so far Mr. Museveni hasn’t let Parliament anywhere near those issues. Better to keep it occupied with fear of homosexuals.

Western governments should not ignore the current debate, but they should open their eyes to the looming disaster that they have helped nurture before they have no influence at all.

Peter Rosenblum
Leslie Hannay
New York, Jan. 6, 2010

The writers are, respectively, faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School and a student at the school.

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