Former Botswana President Festus Mogae

The former presidents of Botswana and Zambia, Festus Mogae and Kenneth Kaunda, have condemned Malawi’s anti-gay policies.

According to Malawi Voice, the men made the comments during a press conference in Malawi’s capital city Lilongwe.

They were visiting the country as part of the ‘Champions for an HIV-Free Generation’ project; a group of former African presidents and other influential people targeting the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

“We can preach about behavioural change, but as long as we confine gays and lesbians into dark corners because of our inflexibility to accommodate them, the battle on HIV and AIDS can never be won,” said Mogae who was president of Botswana from 1998 to 2008.

‘losing an election just for gays’

Kaunda (Kenyan president from 1964 to 1991) added: “We are not only condemning African leaders who are criminalising same sex marriage, but we are urging them to start recognising these people, for the sake of HIV and AIDS.”

Ironically, the men’s own countries continue to criminalise homosexuality. In February, Mogae said in BBC debate that during his ten year tenure as president he ordered police not arrest or charge gays and lesbians under anti-gay laws.

When asked during the debate why he had not worked to decriminalise homosexuality while president, he replied that “I did not want to lose an election just for gays”.

The men’s latest statements could anger Malawi’s President Bingu Wa Mutharika who earlier this year signed a bill into law adding lesbianism to the already criminalised act of sex between men. Those found guilty face prison sentences of up to 14 years.

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