Tag Archive | "Uganda"


Critical Analysis: High Stakes for GLBTQ Community in Uganda

After a controversy spanning five years, Ugandan President Museveni signed a bill into law expanding the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda.  GLBTQ individuals could now face up to life imprisonment.  Besides an inherent anti-GLBTQ sentiment, the rhetoric surrounding the passage of the bill has been strongly anti-colonial and anti-West.  Decried by nations and NGO’s as potentially violating human rights, the Ugandan government is defying international pressure and embracing an extreme stance on homosexuality.

Ugandan government takes an extreme stance against the GLBTQ community. Image Source: Reuters

The Ugandan government takes an extreme stance against the GLBTQ community with anti-homosexual laws. Image Source: Reuters

In contrast to many other anti-GLBTQ laws, the stakes for GLBTQ individuals in Uganda are particularly high.  Beyond the discrimination enshrined in laws in the United States, or even criminalization as seen in Russia and most of the rest of Africa, Uganda’s GLBTQ community faces a substantial threat of violence.  The original bill made some homosexual acts a capital offence.  Though this punishment was removed from the final bill amid international outcry, the 2011 beating death of activist David Kato demonstrates the grave risk homosexuals face in Uganda.  A recently published list of high-profile homosexuals makes the potential for violence very real.  GLBTQ individuals, their supporters, and their families are understandably alarmed by the passage of the law.

Despite the anti-West rhetoric, the anti-GLBTQ movement can trace back to evangelical Christian roots in the United States.  Though not explicitly supporting the legislation, American evangelicals are accused of exporting their culture wars by using Uganda and other African countries push back against the growing support for GLBTQ rights in the United States.  Indeed, a group of American Christian politicians called “the Family” are tied to the Ugandan leaders who brought forth the legislation.  The result is that much of the debate surrounding gay rights in the United States has transplanted into Uganda, but with the more extreme goal of eradicating homosexuality at any cost.

The backlash for Uganda promises to be significant.  The European Union released a statement noting Uganda’s obligations under human rights laws and Sweden has announced potential redirection of funding away from the government.  Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands have halted aid, while the United States has announced a review of aid.  Financial implications may be limited, however, because of the important role Uganda plays in addressing the unstable situation in Somalia.

The international community faces the dilemma of how to support human rights while respecting a nation’s ability to determine social policy.  Given American involvement in the development of the law, we have a particular responsibility to take some sort of action.  Direct financial pressure on Uganda may not be effective, because it may lead to economic and political instability in a relatively fragile state.  Rather, we can back indigenous efforts to establish GLBTQ rights as human rights in Uganda. The West can accomplish this by supporting Ugandan organizations (like this one), activists (as Sweden is), or high-profile Ugandan GLBTQ supporters (like here). Most significantly, we can hold our own citizens accountable for their involvement in GLBTQ persecution, such as through lawsuits, boycotts, and political pressure.

Alicia Gauch holds a Ph.D in International Peace Studies, and is a second year law student and Staff Editor at the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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African troops in Central African Republic have suspended the hunt for Joseph Kony, one of the world's most wanted rebel chiefs. (Reuters)

Critical Analysis: Hunt for African Warlord Joseph Kony Comes to A Halt

African troops in Central African Republic have suspended the hunt for Joseph Kony, one of the world's most wanted rebel chiefs. (Reuters)

African troops in Central African Republic have suspended the hunt for Joseph Kony, one of the world’s most wanted rebel chiefs. (Reuters)

Ugandan and American troops have suspended their joint hunt for war crimes suspect Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (“LRA”) due to political turmoil in the Central African Republic, where rebel groups unaffiliated with Kony seized power and forced President Francois Bozize to flee the country.

A Ugandan army spokesman told reporters that the hunt for Kony would remain on hold “until further notice” because rebel leaders in the Central African Republic were refusing to cooperate with Ugandan troops stationed in the country.  Soon after, the U.S. military announced that it would also suspend its operations.  The U.S. government has stated that it “remains very committed” to defeating the LRA.  The U.S. military said it will not withdraw its troops from the Central African Republic for now in hopes that the search for Kony can resume.

In October of 2011 President Obama deployed about 100 U.S. Special Forces troops to Africa to coordinate a regional effort to track Kony.  Currently about 40 U.S. Special Forces troops are deployed in the Central African Republic, where they are advising and training about 3,000 African troops — mainly Ugandans — looking for Kony in the jungle. The rest of the 60 U.S. troops are stationed in Uganda, South Sudan and Congo, where they will continue normal operations.

Kony and most of his deputies are thought to be hiding in the remote jungle straddling the borders of South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.  They regularly cross borders, are well-practiced at disappearing into the bush, and stopped using radios and cellphones long ago to avoid leaving an electronic trail.

The suspension is a major setback to efforts to capture the brutal and messianic Ugandan guerilla leader accused of abducting tens of thousands of children to use as fighters and sex slaves.  Kony is a notorious warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.  It also overshadowed the State Department’s announcement to offer $5 million in rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Kony and some of his top aides in the LRA.

 Alexis Kirkman is a 3L and a Candidacy Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law