Uganda: Ramaphosa welcomes Museveni despite new anti-LGBTIQ+ bill


President Ramaphosa awarded President Museveni – dubbed “the world’s most notorious homophobe” – the prestigious Order of South Africa this week

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been slammed for welcoming Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni with open arms just as a new draconian anti-LGBTIQ+ bill was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament.

During his trip to South Africa this week, Museveni and Ramaphosa spoke about political and regional issues and improving trade between their two countries. They also signed memoranda of understanding on several matters such as tourism and the advancement of women and children.

Ramaphosa, who described the visit as “a great delight”, also bestowed Museveni with the prestigious Order of South Africa medal in recognition of his contribution to the liberation of South Africa from colonialism.

Meanwhile, back in Uganda, MPs were re-introducing an anti-LGBTIQ+ bill that seeks to strengthen existing legislation criminalising homosexuality in the country.

If passed, the bill would punish anyone with ten years in prison if they have anal, oral or manual sex with a person of the same sex, if they touch someone with the “intention” of having same-sex sex, if they claim to be in a same-sex marriage, or if they openly identify as “lesbian, gay, transgender, a queer or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female”.

The crime of “aggravated homosexuality” also carries a penalty of ten years in prison and targets anyone living with HIV who has sex with another person of the same sex or is deemed to be a “serial offender”.

Allies of the LGBTIQ+ community face five-year prison sentences as “accomplices” if they “fund” or “promote” homosexuality online or in films or provide premises for LGBTIQ+ people.

The timing of the bill’s introduction and Museveni’s visit has highlighted South Africa’s double standard in turning a blind eye to LGBTIQ+ rights violations in Africa and among “allies” like China and Russia.

The organisation Access Chapter (AC2) said it was “extremely angered” by the Ugandan president’s visit to the country, describing him as “a repressive leader” who has during his 37-year rule overseen the ongoing oppression of LGBTIQ+ people, including the banning of LGBTIQ+ groups, and other human rights abuses.

AC2 further accused the South African government of hypocrisy for bringing “the world’s most notorious homophobe” into the country.

“This visit has affirmed the lack of political will by this government to commiserate with the LGBTIQ+ community across the continent; a loud call that has emerged out of LGBTIQ+ in many oppressive African countries,” said the group.

AC2 Executive Director Steve Letsike commented: “As much as we acknowledge South Africa’s protection and respect for the sovereignty of these oppressive states, we equally believe that South Africa has a great responsibility to sanction human rights abusers like Uganda. It cannot be business as usual. President Cyril Ramaphosa should not miss an opportunity to be a man of his word; this great contradiction will make him go back on his numerous statements… affirming the LGBTIQ+ community and commitment to protecting the right to exist for the LGBTIQ+.”

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under colonial-era legislation that allows the state to punish those found guilty of “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with life in prison.

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