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Uganda’s 'Kill the Gays' Bill Could Be Back Soon

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, currently facing accusations of witchcraft, promised the bill could return, but local gay groups are already warning her to back down.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA
A Ugandan poses in front of a pride flag at Uganda's 3rd annual pride parade in 2014. (AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie)

The Ugandan anti-gay legislation that drew international condemnation two years ago could be back at any time, one of the bill's main boosters is warning, and the Ugandan gay community is already firing back.

Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, told a local radio station in April that while the bill was struck down on a technicality by the country's Constitutional Court — "unfortunately," she said — it could return in short order.


The legislation was colloquially known as the 'kill the gays bill.'

In response, Edwin Sesange, director of the Out and Proud Diamond Group, released a statement this week demanding she walk back her plans.

"We are sending a clear message to the Speaker of the 10th Uganda Parliament Hon Rebecca Kadaga to shelve her plans of bringing back to life the annulled anti-LGBTI bill. These plans will only affect Ugandans instead of making our lives better," Sesange said. His European-based group advocates for LGBTQ rights in Africa

The statement coincided with a street festival organized by the group in Birmingham, in the UK.

Kadaga's comments came on Capital FM, a local radio station in Kampala.

"In 2014, I promised Ugandans that I will give them a Christmas gift by passing the anti-homosexuality bill, which I did," she told the hosts. "Unfortunately, the bill annulled by the court after President Yoweri Museveni had assented to it. However, the bill can still be deliberated on in parliament if the movers bring it back to the floor of parliament."

The ruling struck down the bill — on a "technicality," as Kadaga called it — called its passage illegitimate, because Parliament did not have the quorum necessary to pass the legislation. The ruling effectively annulled the vote that originally passed it into law.

That means the parliament could vote on the bill again, once it reconvenes from its sumemr break. If the previous vote is any indication, it stands a good chance of passing.


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When Parliament adjourned in May, Cecilia Ogwal, the chief opposition whip, lauded in the bill in a statement. "This Parliament passed fundamental laws for Uganda like the Anti-Homosexuality Act. I have no apologies for passing this law," she said.

Kadaga rightly pointed out that "the matter has never been heard" and that the Ugandan courts have not actually declared the bill unconstitutional.

And as the radio hosts pointed out to Kadaga, her move to advance the bill, which had been tabled by a backbencher who appeared to later regret introducing it at all, made her quite popular at home.

Kadaga might need the help. On Wednesday, she locked horns with President Museveni after he failed to appoint a new cabinet, following his re-election in February.

She'll also need to run for speaker again once Parliament re-convenes. As one gay activist told the Kuchu Times, a news outlet for LGBTQ Africans, "Kadaga is pulling out the only issue that might get her the Speaker seat this time round but we are also not sitting idle. The war against her is far from over."

"I was not aware that we had been invited here to promote homosexuality."

Meanwhile, Kadaga is facing accusations that she supports witchcraft.

"I have been severally [sic] accused of practicing witchcraft, worshipping evil spirits, syncretism … Nothing could be further from truth," Kadaga said in a statement sent to the Daily Monitor.


Kadaga had visited a shrine in order to boast to her ancestors that she was able to hold on to the job of speaker — which, in most Parliamentary democracies is largely a mediatory role but, in Uganda, carries larger significance.

Related: Opposition Accuses Ruling Party of Fraud in Uganda's Presidential Election

The accusations that she had been practising witchcraft came from the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda.

"I have never stopped being a Christian, but like any other Ugandan, I have a cultural identity which I am proud of," she said in the statement.

The legislation, considered some of the toughest in the world, bans any kind of sexual contact between same-sex partners, with the threat of life in prison. Even "aiding and abetting homosexuality" carries a penalty of seven years in prison. Initial plans to include the death penalty, it seems, were dropped.

Kadaga first made the vow to get the bill passed — as a "Christmas present" — after returning from a Parliamentary conference in Canada. There, she had been dressed-down by Canada's foreign affairs minister for supporting the legislation.

"On behalf of the Uganda delegation and the people of Uganda, I protest in the strongest terms the arrogance exhibited by the foreign minister of Canada," Kadaga said at the event.

"I was not aware that we had been invited here to promote homosexuality."

While Western nations had made direct threats to cut off funding for Uganda, should the bill pass — a threat that was, at least to some degree, followed through on — Canada took it one stepped further, and committed cash to support gay groups in Uganda and neighboring Nigeria, in a direct response to the bill.

Should Kadaga succeed in getting the bill through, the courts may have incentive to push back.

In April, Chief Justice Bart Magunda Katureebe told a Parliamentary committee that the anti-gay bill had frustrated efforts to build new courthouses across the country.

"Due to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by Parliament, the donors pulled out," he said.