Ugandan president Museveni distances himself from anti-gay bill

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni said yesterday that the country must take into consideration its foreign policy interests when debating an anti-homosexuality bill.

Speaking at a party conference yesterday, he made his first public statement on the bill and emphasised it was a private member’s bill, rather than one submitted by the government.

It was tabled by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati and calls for the execution of gays in some circumstances. Other homosexuality offences would result in prison terms ranging from a few years to life.

World leaders including British prime minister Gordon Brown have relayed their concerns to Museveni, while Sweden threatened to cut its aid.

Museveni said yesterday that the bill “must take into account our foreign policy interests”.

He added: “The prime minister of Canada came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays.

“Prime minister Gordon Brown came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays.

“Mrs Clinton [the US secretary of state] rang me. What was she talking about? Gays.”

Last week, Uganda’s minister for ethics James Nsaba Buturo said he believed Museveni did not support the death penalty for gays and said the provision was likely to be removed from the bill.

Aston Kajara, minister of state for investments, has also said the bill is “unnecessary”.

The bill would impose the death penalty on gays who sex with minors, disabled people or while living with HIV. Other homosexuality offences, such as failing to report incidents to police, would result in imprisonment.

It is expected to come before parliament in late February or early March.