Gay rights and AIDS activists held a demo today as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni arrived for the UK-Uganda Business Forum at Lancaster House in London.
Many Western countries and human rights organisations have condemned Mr Museveni for signing the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February. The law punishes any form of same-sex contact – even more kissing and caressing – with mandatory life imprisonment.
The conference, which was designed to promote UK investment in Ugandan’s economy, was addressed by Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds.
The protesters – from Justice for Gay Africans, STOPAIDS and the Peter Tatchell Foundation – said the UK government’s support for the conference calls into question its commitment to tackling rising homophobia in Uganda and across Africa.
Godwyns Onwuchekwa, Coordinator, Justice for Gay Africans, said: “The claim that homophobia is a Ugandan value is spin used by Museveni’s government to cover up for its failure to provide basic amenities for ordinary Ugandans. LGBT Ugandans should be treated equally to all other Ugandans.”
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation, added: “Gay people are not the cause of Uganda’s problems. The government of Uganda should fight poverty and HIV, not gay people. It is hypocritical for the UK government to condemn homophobia while hosting President Museveni, who has backed one of the world’s most draconian anti-gay laws. He is a tyrant who presides over a corrupt regime that is guilty of widespread human rights violations, including the arrest of opposition leaders, torture and the suppression of free speech. The UK government should not be drumming up business to sustain his autocratic rule. ”
While new HIV infections are declining in most African countries, Uganda is bucking the trend, with a rising epidemic.
Ben Simms, Director, STOPAIDS, said: “The anti-gay law has put at risk the lives of LGBT Ugandans and an effective AIDS response. It is shameful that the Foreign Office has given the Ugandan government the red carpet treatment, with ministers speaking on the same platform as Museveni. It seems British business interests have trumped the human rights of Ugandans. We are left wondering what (William) Hague’s strategy for tackling homophobia really is.”