In her new book, the potential US president tells of being ridiculed by Museveni on the gay issue and why she omitted Uganda from her Africa trip itinerary
Although the United States has just imposed sanctions over the anti-homosexuality law, it has emerged that the Obama administration has been working to isolate Uganda for three years.
This is one of the revelations made by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former US secretary of state, in her new book Hard Choices. Clinton also writes about how President Museveni ridiculed her complaints about Uganda’s controversial legislation.
The book, which largely chronicles Clinton’s term as secretary of state from 2008 to 2012, shines a light on Uganda’s record on gay rights. Clinton says Uganda caught her eye when local MPs embarked on the process of enacting the Anti-Homosexuality Act, and following the killing of a gay rights activist David Kato in 2011.
“David was killed in what police said was a robbery but it was more likely an execution. Like many people in Uganda and around the world, I was appalled that the police and government had done little to protect David after public calls for his murder. But this was about more than police incompetence,” Clinton writes, adding that this happened at a time when the Ugandan Parliament was considering a bill to make being gay a crime punishable by death.
Clinton reveals that when she talked to President Museveni about the crackdown on gays in Uganda, “he [Museveni] ridiculed my concerns.”
To Clinton, David’s death wasn’t an isolated incident. “It was the result of a nationwide campaign to suppress LGBT [Lesbian, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender] people by any means necessary, and the government was part of it,” she writes.
She concedes that Uganda was not the only country with gay rights abuse issues. She says the same was happening in Nigeria, Kenya and Russia among others. So, in this regard the United States needed to take a stand on the matter and as secretary of state, she decided that the US needed to review its foreign policy and relationship with openly anti-gay countries.
Clinton says that before she could announce to the World the US position on gay rights and debunk the myths about homosexuality, she learnt that, the White House had “finally” approved the desired policy change.
“From now on, the United States would take into account the LGBT human rights record of a country when appropriating foreign aid. This kind of policy has a real chance of influencing the actions of other governments,” she writes.
Last week, the US announced that it had cut aid to Uganda, imposed visa restrictions, and canceled a regional military exercise because of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
Isolation of Uganda
Whereas last week’s announcement appears to be the official starting point for the American isolation of Uganda, it is now clear the process started long before. Clinton takes the reader back to 2011, when she made a moving speech on gay rights. Before she and her team started writing the speech, they had to figure out where she would deliver it from “since on a topic this sensitive the location and occasion would matter more than usual.”
It was early 2011 and she had a trip scheduled to just about every region of the world. The African trips were set for August and she briefly considered going to Uganda and giving the speech in David Kato’s memory, but that was ruled out pretty quickly, according to the book.
“I wanted to avoid at all costs suggesting that anti-gay violence is just an African problem rather than a global problem, or giving local bigots an excuse to complain about US bullying. I wanted the only story to be the message of the speech itself,” she writes.
Eventually, Clinton made the speech in Geneva at the headquarters of the UN Human Rights Council during the first week of December (2011) to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Clinton says that when it came to writing the speech, she had Uganda in mind. An early draft of the speech aimed to name and shame Uganda, among others, as a country that had taken steps in the wrong direction.
However, she made a decision to the contrary. “That was a mistake. Any list would be incomplete; plus I knew that any country singled out for criticism would feel obliged to respond, most likely defensively and angrily…I wanted this speech to make leaders think, not to lash out,” she writes, adding that she instead looked for examples of non-western countries that had made progress on LGBT rights as a way to debunk the myth that supporting LGBT people was a western, colonialist practice.
And as such, she praised Mongolia, Nepal, South Africa, India, Argentina and Colombia and quoted the former president of Botswana.