Ugandan President Signs Anti-Gay Bill, Defying The West

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signs an anti-homosexual bill into law at the state house in Entebbe

Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, has signed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality on Monday, defying protests from rights groups, criticism from Western donors and a U.S. warning that it will complicate relations.

The new bill strengthened existing punishments for anyone caught having gay sex, imposing jail terms of up to life for “aggravated homosexuality” – including sex with a minor or while HIV positive.

It criminalized lesbianism for the first time and made it a crime to help individuals engage in homosexual acts. Gay rights activists in Uganda said they planned a legal challenge.

Ugandan officials broke into loud applause as President Yoweri Museveni put his signature to the document in front of foreign journalists at his State House outside the capital.

“There’s now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values. We’re sorry to see that you (the West) live the way you live but we keep quiet about it,” he said.

The legislation exposes the wide gulf between the continent’s often culturally conservative administrations and many of the foreign donor states that support them. Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh last week called homosexuals “vermin”.

Western donors immediately criticized Uganda. Norway and Denmark said they were withholding or diverting aid money and Austria said it was reviewing assistance. Britain, a big donor, condemned the new law but did not mention aid cuts.

“I feel sick. The degrading words the president has use…my country is in a state of insanity right now,” said Ugandan gay activist, Kasha Nabagesera, adding that the gay community expected to challenge the bill in the courts.

Gay and lesbian organizations fear the bill will encourage other governments to strengthen penalties, increase harassment, discourage people from taking HIV tests and make it impossible to live an openly gay life.

“Disapproval of homosexuality by some can never justify violating the fundamental human rights of others,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said in a statement.

Network Africa: Tension, Threats And Unrest, Egyptians Find The Funny Side Of Life

In spite of the concerns raised by the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, over the Boko Haram insurgents, the Federal Government of Nigeria remains optimistic and has given the assurance that its war against terror is being won and there’s no need to panic.

At a news conference in Abuja, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, revealed that the military was fully equipped to deal with security threats in the country’s North East.

In South Sudan, it’s starting to look like a case of one step forward two steps back; as fighting has broken out in Upper Nile State, making this the first major clash since the Government and rebels signed a ceasefire agreement in January.

Both sides have accused each other of starting the violence in Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile State. We speak to Philip Aguer, the SPLA spokesperson who is currently in Malakal to give us more details on the situation there.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, the search for gold has led to the death of at least 3 people and the arrest of about 22. The bodies of three illegal miners have been discovered at a disused mine, East of Johannesburg. The abandoned mine is in the same area where more than 20 illegal miners were recently rescued after being trapped underground for several days.

Network Africa also finds out if Uganda would be joining the likes of Nigeria, Angola, Burundi and well over a score of countries who have got anti-gay laws in place by not succumbing to the pressure of Washington, which does not support the move, or would they bow to the pressure from Washington not to sign the Anti-Gay Bill into law?

 Across Africa

We also bring you a couple of stories which made headlines in Africa this week, starting with former Rwandan Mayor, Onesphore Rwa-Bu-Kom-Be, who got sentenced by a German court for his role in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

The head of the UN Refugee Agency in Liberia is concerned about the alleged “forced deportation” of 14 Ivorian refugees.

Lawyers for deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi have walked out of his trial on charges of espionage and conspiring to commit acts of terror. Mr Morsi was put in the soundproof cage in recent appearances to prevent him shouting and disrupting proceedings.

The defendants have said they cannot follow proceedings because of the cage, but the judge insisted that headphones installed inside the dock would allow them to listen.

The Egyptian Prime Minister, Hazem Beblawi, has confirmed that Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula are becoming a threat to foreign tourists, and they are not leaving anything to chance concerning an apparent ultimatum given by Islamist militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis for tourists to leave the country. We bring you a chat with Elizabeth Arrott of the Voice of America, who is in Cairo for a clearer understanding of the situation.

Egyptian Comedy Club

Despite the tension, threats and unrest, some Egyptians have embraced the funny side of life. An Egyptian comedy club is giving new talent a platform to perform and introduce them to the international world of stand-up.

It was founded by Hashem El Garhy and its called ‘Al Hezb El Comedy’ meaning ‘The Comedy Party’. It remains the only existing comedy platform in Egypt, which offers aspiring comedians room to perform.

Enjoy this episode of Network Africa.

Seven Gay Men Arrested In Nigeria

Seven gay men appeared in a Nigerian court on Wednesday, January 22, on charges of being involved in same-sex relationships.

The case drew thousands of protesters to the court, who threw stones at the men as they were being transported back to prison after the trial, as security forces fired into the air to disperse the angry crowd.

The men were arrested by the Bauchi State Sharia Commission for allegedly engaging in homosexual activities, acts that contravene the Islamic laws which the state had been operating under since 2001.

The men were named as Shehu Adamu, Yusuf Adamu, Aliyu Dalhatu, Abdulmalik Tanko, Usman Sabo and Hazif Sabo Abubakar and Ibrahim Marafa.

It was the first case since President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill that criminalises same-sex relationships, defying Western pressure over gay rights and provoking criticism from the United States.

The bill, which contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison and bans gay marriage, same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership of gay rights groups, was passed by the National Assembly last May but Jonathan had delayed signing it into law until early January.

At Thursday’s trial, the prosecuting lawyer said the case was a direct result of the recently-passed law.

“This is further to the law against homosexuals which was signed by the President. It has to be implemented. People caught breaking this law must be prosecuted accordingly,” said Danlami Ayuba.

The trial was adjourned to January 27.

As in much of sub-Saharan Africa, anti-gay sentiment and persecution of homosexuals is rife in Nigeria, so the new legislation is likely to be popular.

While European countries, most recently France, have moved to offer same-sex couples the same legal rights enjoyed by heterosexuals, many African countries are seeking to tighten laws against homosexuality.

Britain and some other Western countries have threatened to cut aid to governments that pass laws persecuting homosexuals, a threat that has helped hold back or scupper such legislation in aid-dependent nations like Uganda and Malawi.

But they have little leverage over Nigeria, whose budget is funded by its 2-million-barrel-per-day oil output.

Anti-Gay Law: The Morality Of A Country Is Most Important – Akinreti

Social Commentator, Kazim Akinreti, has commended the Nigerian President for “doing the needful” by signing the Anti-Gay Bill into law constitutionally.

Akinreti noted that the public hearing that was convened on the bill is proof that the law was in line with the wishes of majority of Nigerians.

On the relevance of the law in view of Nigerians’ other pressing issues, he said that the speed of the passing of the law should not be misunderstood, as it passed through every recommended procedure for passing a bill into law.

He acknowledged that indeed the issues of fraud, missing funds, and general corruption are important to Nigerians at the moment, but the anti-gay law was also not less important.

He added that nothing was more important than the morality of a country, as people have called for this law; with religious organizations backing it up.

Same Sex Bill Is Unnecessary In Nigeria – LEDAP

The recent passage of the anti-gay bill by the national assembly is unnecessary as same sex marriage has already been declared illegal since 1949 when the marriage act was enacted in the country.

This is the view of a legal practitioner, Mr Chino Obiagwu who also serves as the National Coordinator of Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, a non-governmental organisation which champions human rights and the rule of law.

While answering questions from our judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele, Mr Obiagwu says that the bill is merely an attempt to respond to international pressure on right to sexual orientation.