March 31, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Uganda president attends ‘thanksgiving service’ for anti-gay law

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni in February signed into law a bill that imposes harsh sentences on LGBT Ugandans. (Photo by the U.K. Department for International Development; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday remained defiant as he spoke at a “thanksgiving service” held to thank him for signing a controversial bill into law that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The Associated Press reported a coalition of Ugandan religious leaders and government officials organized the event that took place in Kampala, the country’s capital, to thank Museveni for signing the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Chimpreports.com, a Ugandan website, reported nearly 10,000 people attended a march before the prayer service.

Pastor Martin Ssempa is among those who took part in the march. Chimpreports.com posted pictures on its website that shows other participants holding signs thanking Parliamentarian David Bahati – who introduced the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009 after Scott Lively and two other prominent American evangelicals attended a summit the anti-gay Coalition for Advancement of Moral Values (CAMOVA) organized.

The measure once contained a provision that sought to impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

“We have fundamental disagreements with the west on homosexuality,” said Museveni during the Kampala prayer service as Chimpreports.com reported. “Homosexuality is not sex.”

The website also reported that Museveni described pro-LGBT organizations as “criminals” and “mercenaries.”

“No one should attack African culture which is the foundation of its survival,” said the Ugandan president. “Africa is origin of man and pioneer of civilization. All those Europeans and Chinese were former Africans.”

The White House announced after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law in February that it had begun a review of its relationship with the Ugandan government.

The Obama administration earlier this month announced it will divert $6.4 million originally earmarked for the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda – which backs the Anti-Homosexuality Bill – to other organizations. BuzzFeed reported the group organized the prayer service and march that preceded it.

The U.S. has suspended a study to identify groups at risk for HIV/AIDS that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had planned to conduct with a Ugandan university. A CDC agreement that fully or partially funded the salaries of 87 employees of the Ugandan Ministry of Health who support the East African country’s response to the epidemic expired on Feb. 28.

The White House also will redirect roughly $3 million that had been earmarked to promote tourism and biodiversity to non-governmental organizations that work on the issue. The Pentagon has suspended or cancelled “near-term invitational travel” for Ugandan officials and plans to relocate upcoming events that had been scheduled to take place in the East African country.

Uganda receives nearly $300 million each year through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to fight the epidemic in the East African country. The Ugandan government in 2013 received more than $485 million in aid from the U.S.

“Europeans continue to threaten us with aid cuts because we are lazy,” said Museveni during the Kampala prayer service as Chimpreports.com reported. “Let’s produce wealth. We don’t need their aid.”

Those who took part in the rally also held signs that read “Obama, we want trade not homosexuality” as BuzzFeed reported.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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