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Ugandan ambassadors say anti-gay bill causing problems

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told emissaries not to put up with bullying from foreign countries

Uganda's parliamentary speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, slammed the international community's criticism of her country's passage of an anti-gay bill, saying the criticism amounted to bullying. Credit: ugandapicks.com

Uganda's parliamentary speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, has slammed international criticism of lawmakers' passage of an anti-gay bill, saying that her country is a sovereign state and won't be bullied,  a Red Pepper report says.

The report says Kadaga was reacting to information that Uganda's ambassadors are being harassed about the bill, which has attracted renewed condemnation from a number of countries and human rights groups. 

Kadaga also denounced British businessman and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who criticized the anti-gay bill on his blog. Branson says that "Uganda must reconsider or find itself being ostracised by companies and tourists worldwide." But Red Pepper quotes Kadaga as saying that Branson does business in Nigeria, which also has a similar anti-gay measure that makes it a criminal offence to engage in gay rights advocacy, prohibits gay marriage and prescribes jail time for public demonstrations of same-sex affection. That measure recently received its final senate clearance and awaits the signature of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi also recently told ambassadors to undertake aggressive campaigns to shore up and promote Uganda's image, according to a previous report.

But according to the report, Uganda's ambassador to Canada replied that the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, yet to be signed by President Yoweri Museveni, is making it more difficult to do as Mbabazi is urging.

During the Dec 20 parliamentary sitting when the bill was passed, Mbabazi had said he wasn't aware that the bill was up for debate and wanted its consideration deferred. The Red Pepper report says he told the ambassadors that the existing penal code already criminalizes homosexuality and that he would challenge the new measure in court.

Other MPs — Sam Otada and Fox Odoi — had expressed their misgivings about the bill Dec 20, criticizing it as discriminatory. Like Mbabazi, they also noted that homosexuality is already banned in existing laws, the Ugandan parliament's website states.

Meanwhile, Museveni, who is under ongoing pressure to either sign the bill or reject it, has said he intends to review the bill before deciding whether to give it his assent or send it back to parliament.

Uganda's NBS Television says that Museveni's ruling National Resistance Movement parliamentary caucus met Jan 9 to reconsider the bill, a move that was criticized by other legislators. NBS says a proposal to return the bill to parliament was put forward.