Museveni denies Uganda forced to drop anti-gay law

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni denied Saturday that the scrapping of a tough anti-gay law he had championed had anything to do with an Africa-US summit next week.

The legislation, which would have seen homosexuals jailed for life, caused an international outcry and was overturned by the country’s constitutional court on Friday. 

Museveni, who is due in Washington for a summit between African leaders and US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, said the court’s decision had “nothing to do” with his visit, nor the sanctions and travel bans the United States had slapped on its east African ally because of the laws. 

US Secretary of State John Kerry had likened the law to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany, and several international donors suspended aid to Uganda in protest. 

But Museveni denied Uganda had caved in to international pressure. “I was going to Washington with the bill when it was stopped. It has nothing to do with us going to Washington,” he said. And he insisted that the freezing of aid has had no effect on the country. “What has happened to Uganda now? Have you seen any catastrophe? Isn’t the economy growing?” But homosexuality in Uganda remains illegal and punishable by jail sentences under previous legislation, which is expected to return after the court’s decision. 

However, Christian evangelical pastor Martin Ssempa, who has campaigned to “kick sodomy out of Uganda”, described the court’s decision as a “judicial abortion”, designed to polish Uganda’s reputation before the US-Africa summit. He said he would appeal to the Supreme Court. 

The Constitutional Court said the law was “null and void” because it had been passed without the necessary quorum of lawmakers. Museveni said his National Resistance Movement, which has been in power since 1986, would discuss the law at its next party meeting. – AFP

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