Gug, one of Changing Attitude’s gay contacts in Uganda, attended the public dialogue on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill at Makerere University on 18 November and reported the event on his blog.
it was interesting. On my part, to learn what the ‘other’ side thinks. And, of course, to see reason weighed down by the burden of unthinking emotion. Afterwards, a friend commented that, it was frightening. That, 2-300 years ago, that was how a ‘court’ judged summarily a witch.
He arrived at 13.00 hours when the debate had been advertised to begin there was only a handful of people inside. At 13.45 when the dialogue was supposed to start the uditorium was about half to two thirds full. At 14.00 the ‘moderator’ arrived and said that knowing the time keeping habits of their audience, they had put the ‘official’ time forward by a full hour, but, even then the speakers hadn’t arrived. At 14.30 Dr Tamale had been seated for a while on the front bench with Major Rubaramila. The room was now overflowing with people standing at the doors. Of Mr. Bahati there was no sign. At 14 40 MP Bahati arrived and the crowd settled for what was to happen.
The fourth speaker, Stephen Langa, the Provincial Secretary of the Church of Uganda, organizer of the three day anti-gay seminar earlier in the year, did not arrive. Gug said he was really waiting to see what the good Reverend was going to say. The audience was not told why he didn’t arrive. Gug speculates freely - The Church of Uganda is still seriously studying the bill and has no ‘official’ position, therefore the Church of Uganda cannot have the official Church spokesperson giving the as-yet unmade church position (as he has done more than three, four times previously). More nails in the coffin, says gug.
MP Bahati gave the first presentation, on why the Bill is necessary.
He is a young man, an accountant by profession, who has one son who he is very fearful can be ‘recruited’ into being a homosexual.
He gave the usual reasons why the bill is necessary. Homosexuality is un-natural, abnormal, un-African. There is a threat from outside the country, the imposition of ‘outside values’, etc. He talked about the threats that he has been receiving though he didn’t say from where. He is dull, as a speaker, and didn’t impress gug with his intelligence.
Stephen Langa spoke second
Stephen Langa is an Electrical Engineer from the University of Nairobi.
There followed, says gug, the most hopelessly illogical and inconsistent reasoning that he has ever listened to. Langa presented a conspiracy theory - The ‘Gay Agenda’ - supported from outside Uganda. European Homosexuals are going to recruit unsuspecting Ugandan youths. The conspiracy theory tries to upset the opposition point of view by claiming they are going to lie, cry, say they are human. It was sad and scary but the audience lapped it up.
Stephen Langa talked of science, but showed the most unscientific evidence - morality taught as a science. Gug said he had heard of the term fear mongering but had never really seen someone do it so effectively. Langa quoted The Pink Swastika by Scott Lively.
In the middle of the Langa presentation, Pastor Martin Ssempa made a grand entrance. The audience clapped, drowning out the speaker. He swaggered up the auditorium to where the most noise was being made. His brown shirts were all seated together. It was his place, his crowd, and they showed it.
Associate Prof. Sylvia Tamale spoke last.
She took the bill apart in a few concise words, using the same arguments from an article she had written and elaborating on them. She concluded with a recommendation to the Honourable MP - he should either withdraw the bill as an embarrassment to Uganda or leave it to die quietly in committee. The full text of Sylvia Tamale’s address can be found on the Changing Attitude web site: http://www.changingattitude.org.uk/news/newsitem.asp?ID=460
Gug was embarrassed. This is supposed to be the premier university of Uganda and most of the people present and peeping in through the windows were students. But the clear logic of Tamale had not made any impression – the students commented and commented - and showed their ignorance. Gug was acutely embarrassed at the reasoning capacity, the logic behind what people were commenting.
These university students were ready to take in the ‘here is the information, believe it’ preaching of the preachers. Logic was left behind and it was extremely ‘village meetingish’ - a University dialogue in the Faculty of Law. Those students who are the bright future in Uganda are no more than ‘believers’ in something illogical.
Dialogue? No, it certainly wasn’t a dialogue. It was a kangaroo court. But gug was impressed by the logic, and illogic, of the opposing sides. He wonders whether the fact that he is gay and Ugandan makes him more susceptible to being critical.
Gug stood in the middle of the debate and listened to some very hateful statements made by good Christian people and couldn’t point out that they were less than Christian because he is gay and not a Christian himself.
Bahati boasted, “'We have the numbers; this bill will become law.”' And that “If I were to have a vote at the end of this forum, I know we (the bill proposers) would have won.” Yes says gug, it is true. But that would have been not a win for logic but for hate. Langa, after going on and on about how bad homosexuality is, had the gall to say, “To all the homosexuals here, I must say that I love you.”
Another person present at the auditorium wrote that he was hugely disappointed. Knowing his Kenyan history and knowing that many of the intellectuals in Kenya’s struggle for independence studied at Makerere where they learned to think for themselves and recognise oppression and fight it, he felt so sad to watch the current students of Makerere swallow the hogwash preached by Bahati, Ssempa and Langa and then listen to them spew it out verbatim. He knew then that African has lost its capacity to nurture revolutionaries.
The proposers of the Bill are vulnerable, says gug, because, their biggest justification is that they are doing it in the name of religion. So, what happens when other Christians say, no way. Not in the name of our God. Please, keep up the pressure, he says, and CA is doing what it can, despite the now deafening silence from bishops and Archbishops.