Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. (Screenshot: CNN)
Like the way President Barack Obama was told by the president of Kenya this week that “gay rights is really a non-issue” and not accepted by Kenyans, Uganda’s president told Obama last year that, unlike in America, homosexual behavior is a “no-go” subject, “never supported by Ugandans,” and Obama should “respect African societies and their values.”
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also explained that Ugandans – a country that is 84% Christian -- reject the notion that unnatural behavior is a “human right,” and added that the behavior homosexuals engage in is “terrible.”
In Uganda it is against the law for a person to have “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” i.e., homosexual behavior, and the guilty party can face a long prison term up to life imprisonment. After Uganda revised its anti-homosexual law in 2014, the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions against the country.
In a February 2014 interview, CNN’s Zain Verjee asked Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni about why the Ugandan state was acting against the “free choice” of some people.
President Museveni said, “I’m acting on behalf of the society. It’s not just the state, it is the society. And that’s why I would like to advise the Europeans and the Western groups that this is one area which should be a no-go area."
“Because if they want a real confrontation with us, this is one area they are not going to make our people budge,” said Museveni. “Okay, they have told us and we have told them, and they’re the ones who provoked it in the first place.”
When asked by CNN about an individual’s right to “express themselves freely” and “choose what they want for themselves,” Museveni said, “We cannot accept that living unnaturally is a human right.”
Museveni then explained that, at first, there was a question of whether homosexuality was an “inborn problem,” one of genetics, but that the “scientists have knocked this one out.”
“And once you argue that it’s a question of choice, then really you’ve lost the argument, as far as Ugandans are concerned,” said Museveni.
CNN’s Verjee then, in reference to the updated anti-homosexual legislation, asked, “Do you think that by signing the bill, you’re taking Uganda backwards?”
Museveni said, “Not at all, not at all. Uganda’s way has always been that Ugandans have never supported -- our society, since time immemorial, have never supported homosexuals.”
CNN then asked, “What is your message to Western human rights groups, to President Obama, to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people?”
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. (AP)
“Respect African societies and their values,” said President Museveni. “If you don’t agree, just keep quiet. Just manage your society, then we will see. If we are wrong, we shall find out by ourselves, just as the way we don’t interfere with yours.”
In closing, CNN’s Verjee asked, “Do you personally dislike homosexuals?” Museveni said, ““Of course. They are disgusting. What sort of people are they? How can you go -- I never knew what they were doing.”
“I’ve been told recently that what they do is terrible, disgusting,” he said. “But I was ready to ignore that if there was proof that that’s how he is born -- abnormal. But now, the proof is not there.”
During a Saturday press conference in Nairobi, Kenya, President Barack Obama said “the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.”
Obama also equated discrimination against homosexual behavior as the same as racial discrimination, saying “there were all sorts of rationalizations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery, and they were wrong.”
Obama also claimed that “the state does not need to weigh in on religious doctrine.”
Kenya, like Uganda, is overwhelmingly a Christian country – 84% of the population identifies as Christian, with at least 47% Protestant and 23% Catholic. In Uganda, 41% of the population is Catholic and 35% is Anglican.
After Obama’s remarks, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that while America and Kenya shared many values, “there are some things that we must admit we don’t share – our culture, our societies don’t accept. It is very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept.”
“This is why I repeatedly say that, for Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue,” he said. “We want to focus on other areas that are day-to-day living for our people.”
“But as of now, the fact remains that this [homosexuality] issue is not really an issue that is on the foremost mind of Kenyans, and that is the fact,” said President Kenyatta.
Many people in Africa shun homosexuality for cultural or religious reasons, and 36 of the continent’s 54 countries have laws prohibiting same-sex sexual acts on their statute books, according to data compiled by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.