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Think tank: US rightwing building fronts in Africa

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – A report by a Boston think tank says US Christian conservatives, including Roman Catholics, Mormons and other right-leaning evangelicals, continue to expand their reach on the African continent with new campaigns and institutions that are reshaping political dynamics and laws "based on an American template."

Authored by Zambian Anglican priest Kapya John Kaoma, the report, entitled "Colonizing African Values: How the US Christian Right Is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa," examines organizations such as Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Mormon-led Family Watch International, the Roman Catholic Human Life International (HLI), plus a "network of Christian dominionists known as the Transformation Movement or New Apostolic Reformation.  

The Political Research Associates (PRA) says the report explores the ACLJ's efforts to "influence the constitution-writing process" in countries like Zimbabwe and Kenya, as well as "the anti-LGBT and anti-reproductive justice activities of the other groups in such countries as Uganda, Malawi and Zambia."

"By hiring locals as office staff, ACLJ and HLI in particular hide an American-based agenda behind African faces, giving the Christian Right room to attack gender justice and LGBT rights as neocolonial enterprise imposed on Africans and obstructing meaningful critique of the US Right's activities," Kaoma alleges in the report. "On the parliamentary front," Kaoma adds, "the groups aim to bring about a new legal infrastructure in Africa that enshrines their Christian Right worldview." 

"Bills banning same-sex marriage or adoption demonstrate an obvious American influence in countries where LGBT people do not yet have the right to exist much less marry or adopt," Kaoma writes. 

"In an aggressive attempt to establish a new legal infrastructure on the African continent that reflects the US Christian Right's ideals, the Washington,DC-based American Center for Law and Justice opened two Africa offices while Uganda was debating its anti-homosexuality bill in 2009 and 2010," he further states. One was opened in Kenya, while the other was based in Zimbabwe, Kaoma notes.

The report provides a number of reasons why US organizations and networks are so successful in gaining a foothold on the continent: 

"First, white people and Americans continue to enjoy influence in Africa, in an echo of past colonial relationships, both because they are from powerful countries and because they have scarce money to spend. Second, these rightwing organizations and movements espouse charismatic and other conservative theologies that may not be mainstream in the United States, but resonate with many African Christians. 

"The politicization and policy implementation of these theologies has translated into the persecution of sexual minorities and increased oppression of women through attempts to restrict reproductive freedoms. Third, the campaigners are successful in painting African campaigners for LGBT rights as dupes of neocolonial forces trying to impose an alien philopsophy on the continent," the report states.

Kaoma notes that the US culture wars are "still not understood in African circles." The myth that neocolonialists are out to destroy Africa can be challenged by exposing what the report calls "the Americanness of the recent politicization of homosexuality and abortion in Africa."

On its website, PRA says it not only supports movements that are building more just, inclusive democratic societies, but shines a spotlight on institutions, ideologies and movements that undermine human rights.

 Read the Kaoma report on Political Research Associates's website

Also, view  Associated Press coverage of the report. 

Landing image: bu.edu


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