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Viewing cable 10KAMPALA73,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10KAMPALA73 2010-02-16 06:06 2011-02-17 17:05 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kampala
DE RUEHKM #0073/01 0470654
O R 160654Z FEB 10
ID:248885 Cable dated:2010-02-16T06:54:00C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 KAMPALA 000073SIPDISE.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/16TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM UG

1. (C) Summary: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero discussed the anti-homosexuality bill and other human rights concerns with local activists XXXXXXXXXXXX. The activists expressed appreciation for U.S. support and described their own efforts to combat the bill. Several human rights defenders but not members of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) community situated the anti-homosexuality bill within a broader context of growing state sponsored limitations of human rights and democratic freedoms in advance of the February 2011 presidential elections, and urged the U.S. to expand condemnation of the anti-homosexuality bill to cover other human rights concerns. End Summary

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U.S. Support for GLBT Rights in Uganda
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2. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX human rights activists participated in a roundtable discussion with Under Secretary Otero and DRL Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Baer XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX are outspoken opponents of anti-homosexuality bill. XXXXXXXXXXXX

3. (C) Under Secretary Otero and DAS Baer stressed the U.S. commitment to democracy and human rights, highlighted Secretary Clinton’s recent Georgetown University speech, and said safeguarding human rights is a central tenet of U.S. foreign policy. DAS Baer assured participants that the U.S. is committed to defending universal principles of human rights and will continue to engage with other nations on human rights-related concerns. Under Secretary Otero noted that our engagement is intended to produce not just press headlines but real accomplishments and change, and invited participants to discuss the impact of the anti-homosexuality bill and recommendations for preventing its passage.

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Anti-Homosexuality and Anti-Human Rights
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4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX placed the anti-homosexuality bill in the context of a general trend toward restricted human rights and democratic freedoms in Uganda. He said the anti-homosexuality bill is one of many regressive legislative initiatives that are not in the interests of all Ugandans and are intended to tilt the February 2011 presidential elections in the government’s favor. XXXXXXXXXXXX cited draft legislation to expand the Security Ministry’s monitoring of electronic communications, expanded and perhaps politically motivated enforcement of the 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act, the recently passed Land Amendment Act (ref. A), reduced press

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freedoms, and the slow pace of electoral reform as pressing human rights concerns. He encouraged the U.S. to treat these issues in the same manner as the anti-homosexuality bill, and said the anti-homosexuality issue is a government “gimmick” to divert attention away from other assaults on human rights and democratic freedoms that will ultimately undermine the integrity of the 2011 elections.


5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed that threats to human rights in Uganda are growing, but said the anti-homosexuality bill is the most regressive legislation yet introduced. XXXXXXXXXXXX described the bill as a “gag” order to prevent anyone from talking about homosexuals or acknowledging that sexual minorities are entitled to rights as human beings. He referred to Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo’s proclamation that homosexuality is not a human rights issue, and wondered why the Ugandan government is so intent on targeting such a small population of individuals. XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed that homosexuality is the least of Uganda’s problems, and said the bill’s proponents are scapegoating homosexuals for political reasons.

6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said Uganda’s GLBT community has received considerable support from human rights groups and diplomatic missions, but that the draft bill is already negatively impacting homosexuals. XXXXXXXXXXXX said threats have increased, and alleged that some homosexuals have been arrested and detained by authorities and homophobic extremists eager to build legal cases in advance of the legislation’s ratification. He said state-sponsored homophobia is filtering down even to low level government officials in rural areas.

7. (C)XXXXXXXXXXXX said XXXXXXXXXXXX reads about the anti-homosexuality bill every day, trying to understand why MP David Bahati would introduce such a bill. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Bahati is not trying to protect the Ugandan heterosexual family or children, as he claims, but to instill fear and intimidation. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Members of Parliament who privately oppose the bill fear losing their seats if they speak out against the legislation, and therefore support the bill in public and will vote for it should it ever reach the parliamentary floor. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Bahati is blaming homosexuals for the spread HIV/AIDS, pornography, and increasing incidents of rape and defilement, and that the legislation is a diversionary ploy intended to steer attention away from real issues like corruption and the 2011 elections. XXXXXXXXXXXX (ref. B). NOTE: XXXXXXXXXXXX told PolOff that XXXXXXXXXXXX  is not aware of any homosexuals who have been arrested by police since the bill was submitted in October (septel). END NOTE.

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Recommendations for Engagement on Human Rights
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8.(C) Under Secretary Otero asked how local human rights activists are working to defeat the legislation, what forms of technology they are using, and what the U.S. can do to support these initiatives. XXXXXXXXXXXX said rallying local voices against the bill is key, and that a coalition of XXXXXXXXXXXX local NGOs is using public dialogues, media outreach, and publications to discredit the rhetoric of the bill’s proponents, translate the bill into layman’s terms, and raise awareness of how the legislation will impact not only homosexuals but all aspects of Ugandan society. In December, the coalition published a professionally produced booklet on the bill, complete with press clips from local and international media; statements of condemnation by Secretary Clinton, Rick Warren, and others; and transcripts from the Rachel Maddow show. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted

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that even parents who wish their children were not gay do not want them to be executed, and that most Ugandans support the bill because they wrongly believe the legislation will impact only homosexuals.

9.(C) Both XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX said local XXXXXXXXXXXX activists are using cellphones, blogs, and the internet to the extent possible, but stressed concerns about government monitoring of electronic communications. XXXXXXXXXXXX said one local human rights NGO had to switch its domain name after someone hacked its email address, and XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX said they and other activists have been forced to switch telephones and restrict electronic communications to avoid harassment and eavesdropping.

10. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX thanked the U.S. for standing up for the right of Ugandan homosexuals to be happy, and attributed overwhelming domestic homophobia to a general lack of civic education. He said the Ugandan leaders at the forefront of the anti-homosexuality bill are using the issue to build populist, xenophobic support.  XXXXXXXXXXXX dismissed claims that homosexuality is an un-African, foreign import, noting that he witnessed homosexuality among cattle herders as a boy in rural Uganda. He warned that reporting requirements in the bill will result in increased HIV/AIDS rates and an explosion of Ugandan LGBT asylum seekers.

11. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said while international pressure may block the bill, homophobia in Uganda remains and is fanned by religious leaders. He said the bill’s proponents were shocked by the level of international condemnation, and urged the U.S. to apply this kind of direct engagement to other human rights issues like electoral reforms, press freedoms, the use of torture, and illegal detention. XXXXXXXXXXXX added that several governments in East Africa have proposed laws restricting freedoms of the press, speech, assembly, and minority rights. XXXXXXXXXXXX also hailed XXXXXXXXXXXX’s courage for speaking out XXXXXXXXXXXX against the bill XXXXXXXXXXXX - despite increasing threats and harassment - to defend GLBT rights. He recommended that the State Department dedicate a section of its annual human rights report to the specific acknowledgement of critical human rights defenders in each country, as this would increase the legitimacy and visibility of their work and perhaps also afford some level of protection.

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Comment: Fighting State Sponsored Homophobia
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12. (C) International and particularly American condemnation of the anti-homosexuality bill has forced Ugandan leaders to reconsider their initial support for Bahati’s legislation. However, Ugandan officials continue to give conflicting assessments of the bill’s prognosis. Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa said the bill will die a natural death in Parliament (ref. C). On February 5, Ethics Minister Buturo said an amended version of the bill - without provisions on capital punishment - will reach the parliamentary floor for a vote. President Museveni told the Ambassador the bill would be scrapped or amended (ref. D), and State Minister for International Affairs Henry Okello Oryem has said Cabinet wants to shelve the bill but also find a “win-win” solution acceptable to all sides (ref. E). Even if draft bill is shelved in the weeks ahead, rampant homophobia in Uganda won’t go away. Local efforts to deconstruct Uganda’s anti-homosexuality movement go well beyond public condemnation of the anti-homosexuality bill by directly challenging Uganda’s pervasive homophobia. These efforts are worthy of additional and sustained support.

12. (C) In his meeting in October with Assistant Secretary Carson, even President Museveni said the anti-homosexuality bill would “divert us” (ref. F). Local human rights activists fear this is exactly the point - to divert the Ugandan populace and international donors during a contentious and competitive election

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year. As the debate over the anti-homosexuality bill extends into its sixth month, we remain cognizant of XXXXXXXXXXXX’s reminder not let the anti-homosexuality bill obscure other limitations on human rights and democratic freedoms. LANIER