October 4, 2014 at 10:08 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Museveni: Anti-gay law could adversely affect Ugandan economy

Uganda, Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has acknowledged the Anti-Homosexuality Act could adversely impact his country’s economy. (Photo courtesy of the State Department)

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has acknowledged a draconian anti-gay law he signed earlier this year could adversely affect his East African country’s economy.

Museveni wrote in the Independent, a Ugandan newspaper, about “the possibility of [a] trade boycott by Western companies under the pressure of the homosexual lobbies in the West” over the Anti-Homosexuality Act that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

New Vision, another Ugandan newspaper, published Museveni’s remarks on Friday.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, announced after Ugandan lawmakers approved the Anti-Homosexuality Act last December that his company would no longer do business in the country.

The Obama administration earlier this year cut or redirected aid to Uganda and announced a travel ban against Ugandan officials responsible for human rights abuses. The World Bank postponed a $90 million loan to the Ugandan government after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February.

“After signing the bill, there was a lot of happiness among the Ugandans as well as other Africans, although there was a lot of hostility from the bulk of Western governments,” wrote Museveni. “Some cut off ‘aid,’ etc.”

“We were, of course, not moved because a country like Uganda should not need ‘aid’ if only all our people could wake up and work hard and diligently,” he added, noting the Ugandan economy grew by 4.7 percent in 2013 in spite of the civil war in neighboring South Sudan. “That crisis caused more problems for the economy of Uganda than the ‘aid’ cuts.”

Uganda is among the more than 70 countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT advocacy group, claims in a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively that the U.S. evangelical stoked anti-gay attitudes in the country before Parliamentarian David Bahati introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2009.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court in August struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act, arguing Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga allowed a vote to take place without the necessary quorum. Lawmakers have said they plan to debate the issue once again.

Museveni wrote the U.S. and European economies are worth $16.8 trillion and $17.4 trillion respectfully. He further noted the American textile industry is worth $10.5 billion.

“To carelessly and needlessly open unnecessary wars with such useful customers is irresponsible to say the least,” wrote Museveni. “The issue now is therefore, not what other governments are telling us. It is about us deciding what is best for our country in the realm of foreign trade, which is such an important stimulus for growth and transformation that has no equal.”

Museveni nevertheless defended the law, arguing he signed it as a way to protect Ugandan children.

“We want to kill the snake, but we do not want to break the pot,” he wrote. “We want to protect our children from homosexuality, but we do not want to kill our trade opportunities. That now forces us to dissemble this whole issue.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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