Recently a ‘rafiki’ (kiswahili for friend) of ours, offered critical feedback on the storyboard of dis’ documentary feature en the (wish-list of a) series, it came in the form of a rhetorical question, in the wake of goodbyes en hellos, masking many fears en hopes en deep scars, grasping at the heart of the matter…

[blogger’s note: ‘us’ (our.stories.n.people) in the q_t werd stands in for the non/fictional, biodramamythical collective of artists, artivists and village (organizer)s  aka. ‘bredrin and dadas in solidarity’]

bigger point is, dis dada said ”you know what your doc doesn’t have? an antagonist……..”

(leading us to the latest ‘episode’ in this quest of building solidarity en salaam [Arabic en kiswahili for peace], but first a lil’ background…..truthIs, we’ve been seeding, planting and sharing our ideas and the storyboard of the q_t werd in our villages since way before the inception of this blog, or the ‘other’ one/s – where behind the mask/‘we’ all get nekkyd)

Our roster of bio/mytho/biographies en interviews feature only people we love, respekt and admire, and reads like we’re totally in love with so so many of dem, n we unashamedly are;

those real talks that make the q_t werd are as fresh as the legends of jus dis week in review….from the highs of ‘our’  colour me dragg AND  cassie walker winning $5,000 @ manifesto, to ‘our’ community raising the roof @ granny boots for kim & nat, doing it revolushunary grassroots style…..

real talks as conflicted as the lows of last night with the drama n fuckery that defined the was the ‘powers that be’ hosting the AGM meeting for ‘our’ Pride Toronto

[in the spaces between, we continue to chart the journey in dub…..where a is for anitafrika dub theatre, b is for [the vision of] bredrin and dadas in solidarity, c is for colour me dragg and colour spill productions, all the way to p is for the people project and where m is for the myths that we’re relearning , taught by our kinda legends, in these hadithi of the q_t werd]

…………As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”

[excerpt from: The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House
 
by Audre Lorde
 
From Sister Outsider, The Crossing Press Feminist Series (1984)]

These are the stories that make the q_t werd, as real as our children and lovers, institutionalised scandals, mashups and makeups, evolving bashes and (not-so) complicated backlash to ‘our’ community organising and village rebuilding, and all the lessons we’re relearning in our journeys.

the bigger point of this post is…… ‘that’ question,

the answer is….we have plenty antagonists, plenty of enemies BUT…… we choose to focus dis quest of documenting our healing en collective recovery, of rebuilding salaam and solidarity, on people we love

and even then, still……d is for drama is the crux of the q_t werd…

because the truth is….. we’re still working thru our shit, and even if we were to start jus with people we know en love, we would have more than nuff stories of conflict transformation and wishful fantasies for seven seasons.

The q_t werd is as simple as ABC en D [toZ] en as mysterious as the riddle of the sphinx…..

Hadithi? Hadithi?

Hadithi njoo……

Kesho ni: E is for elimu sanifu: in the q_t werd

So like we’ve blogged  en said before, dis’ documentary/series is a work in progress: like we have a summer’s worth of footage,  yet we’re still developing the storyboard, still deciding (the rest of) our core characters from the 32 (and then some) stories we collected, still trying to get another camera, laptop and editing software, funding, jus’ to start….the bigger point is we hustling to manifest our dreams of a video project and (going) back-to afrika movement/s

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke67lHxPf8A&feature=related]

So far we’ve got our ABCDE/Fn’G’s (H! ….to P will debut in November )

a is for afrika [is for anitafrika dub theatre! is for amai kuda is for audrey mbugua…..]

is the crux of dis’ here doc

En b is for black august [is for blockorama en blockobana is for bredrin en dadas in solidarity]

Are (some of) the visions of our quest

C is for colour spill productions  [is for cee swagger is for cea walker is for chan mubanga]

Some of the real/live legends of this doc

D is for Dini Ya Msambwa: our ancestral memories

En E is for (the spaces between) Elijah Masinde and Elijah Wilson

That’s wussup.

Hadithi? Hadithi? Hadithi njoo…..Sahani? ya……Giza? ya……

Kesho (kutwa) on the Q/t werd, F n’ G en people we’re learning from, who’re educating others in the practice of freedom and reclaiming indigenous afrikan knowledge systems.

[blogger’s notes:  this post is NOT an official peace theatre release. just another sista outsider view on what’s going on in her hood, like with…..]

The Space Between –  the final frontier

60 children and youth and 12 of Toronto’s finest artists were on a mission to explore faith and reason, to seek out truth and understanding

To boldly go where no Theatre has gone before

Director: Liz Pounsett

Music Director: Brownman

Visual Arts Director: Jerry Silverberg

Artistic Director: Karen Emerson

This year, the 10th annual peace camp gala performance & peace is possible summer workshops were supported by a (core) collective of womben + one man, from karen emerson, susan ryan, liz pounsett, jessica salloum, angela chau, vivian sofia mora, sharon vanderveen, merril matthews to Abdul & Alixa @ the (place formerly known as the childrens) peace theatre

[blogger’s notes: disclaimer – the term collective is used strategically/loosely en creatively, the people didn’t come together specifically to work as a collective, didn’t necessarily even work as a collective, there were ofcourse boys & men involved in the work, and depending on where you look at it from, the folks mentioned are just a fraction of ‘the core’]

there was an honorary granma en granpa during the camp, the space was even visited by a few healers during rehearsals, en blessed with a joyous graduation in a celebration of the talents of many children, youth en the rest of us who worked together, and individually for (more than) 3 weeks on the production of the space between: the final frontier & the (ultimately postponed) peace is possible parade.

We will share our stories all through (the sacred moon of Black) August, in a photo & video diary of the spiral journey of n0t only the peace theatre, from 2009 to 2010, but more significantly for this place here, the re-birth of the q/t werd

http://fourwomen.wordpress.com/

But before that, I’ll tell you (part of) the story of how the (children’s) peace theatre was born, where its come from, and where this place is going….. as an institutional body, a (vision of a ) collective, and in our individual, unique journeys that intersect/ed in the heart of what we’ve dubbed as the peace forest, betwixt en between, crescent town, good wood and park vista, close to scarborough village, ideologically not that different from regent park, intrinsically connected to jane & finch, and originally from afrika.

Hadithi? Hadithi? Hadithi njoo!

Uongo njoo! Utamu kolea!

Sahani? ya mchele! Giza? Ya…….

Once upon a time, there was a turtle on whose back the world turned, underneath that turtle, was another turtle, and underneath that turtle another turtle, or so one version of a creation story goes, the bigger point is, we were born of the great goddess, came from mama afrika, and a decade ago to be exact, the children’s peace theatre was founded by Robert Morgan, en a growing in/visible collective of youth, supporters, and our communities at large…

The first peace camp was “ At The Crossroads”….the gaps and (mis)steps in our journey are the spaces between mo’ people (not) knowing about us, and mo’ folks working ‘with the group in educating in the practice of freedom, using the arts for social change, and rebuilding heathy, sustainable communities

As Robert (one of the founders of this place formerly known as the children’s peace theatre) has said:

“We place children and youth centre stage, not because they are cute or candid, but because they display humanity’s capacity to evolve, even in the harsh conditions of the current times. Young people are demonstrating an instinctive desire to move away from the dominant culture of self-interestedness and aggression, and are moving instead towards building relationships and community due to an innate desire to seek stability, safety, and peace. It is also evident that young people have the imagination and the energy that will be necessary to establish a new culture of peace. Watching young people from very different backgrounds cross paths, encounter conflict, and find creative ways of making the conflict evolve in positive directions, gives me the audacity to believe that peace is possible.”

coming soon…the space between (us and mama afrika), in the (evolushun of the) Q/T werd

Betwixt en between the lines are our true (true) stories, retold in (a video diary of) the ‘Q[/t]’ werd….

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/may/22/football-south-africa-world-cup

we’ve said it before, in other places, and [most  symbolically] here….

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr3uvUU4roc&feature=related]

we’re doing the best we can with what we got to entertain, and re-educate not only ourselves but others, in the practice of freedom.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/06/16/mb-truth-reconciliation-event-winnipeg.html

 

http://archives.cbc.ca/society/education/topics/692/

(re)building coalitions

 and (re)building solidarity with our people…

hadithi? hadithi?

nipe mji…….

 

 

[re/posted]scribbles from the den

When the idea was first hatched to put forward South Africa’s candidacy for the 2010 World Cup, it seemed a far-fetched dream. And when FIFA actually awarded the tournament to South Africa, it was, in the view of many, a gamble destined to fail. However, after six years of turmoil, controversy and acrimony later, South Africa is finally set for the 2010 World Cup tournament.

For the next month, (legitimate) concerns about the financial toll of the tournament on South Africa’s economy, the absence of concrete benefits for large swathes of the South African population, or about FIFA’s stifling rules will be put on the backburner as the world enjoys the beautiful game.

Dori Moreno

Dori Moreno is one of those unapologetically afflicted by ‘World Cup Fever’:

I have been waiting for the World Cup to arrive ever since the announcement was made that it would be hosted in South Africa. It’s difficult to get excited about something happening so far into the future. But now, the World Cup is upon us, and in just 2 more sleeps, South Africa will face Mexico in the kick off game of the 2010 World Cup. And South Africa has woken up and is alive with energy, passion and enthusiasm.

 ‘Today, the Bafana Bafana team took to the streets of Sandton, Johannesburg in an open top bus. South African fans came out en masse to celebrate and get a glimpse of their national team. The vibe was indescribable and when the Soweto Marimba Youth League played the national anthem, I confess to being moved to tears from the sheer emotion and energy of the event.


‘I think even the die-hard pessimists out there will struggle not to get caught up in the positive energy that will carry us all on a cloud for the next month. To everyone out there, I say, ENJOY! To all the visitors to our awesome country, feel it, live it and fall in love. It’s time for AFRICA!!!!’

Jeanette Verster’s Photography

And talking about the June 9 ‘United We Stand for Bafana Bafana’ parade organised in Sandton to encourage South Africans to show their support for their national team, Jeanette Verster publishes a colorful picture essay that vividly captures the national excitement.

Brand South Africa Blog

Brand South Africa Blog hopes that the unity and patriotism demonstrated in the run-up to the World Cup will last long after the tournament:

‘The past few months have been an incredible sight. Road works, bridges being built and the most spectacular, the giant eye which watches over all of us from the entrance to the V&A Waterfront. To say I feel proud would really be an understatement, although true. Undeniably through all of this is the tangible feeling of patriotism, excitement and unified spirit in the air.

‘Flags, Zakumi’s (official World Cup mascot), soccer jerseys everywhere makes me feel that we can unite as a country, evident in the progress made.

‘*** I love SA ***

‘The feeling I hope for South Africa is that we stay this way long past the end game is played. Everyone is watching and can see that through working together and progress, we can be pushed into another league and be part of a set of countries people all of the world would like to visit sometime in their life.

‘So, Bafana, we are behind you 150%, make us proud and do your best.

‘Visitors to South Africa, our country is beautiful, take the opportunity to visit places off the beaten track you’ll be pleasantly surprised and p.s. don’t forget to shop!’

Constitutionally Speaking

Even as the excitement builds up, there is anger just beneath the surface over a number of (FIFA-inspired?) decisions which do not benefit South Africans. One such issue is the apparent blanket ban on public gatherings in many municipalities for the duration of the World Cup. Constitutionally Speaking argues that:



‘If this is true, it would mean that parts of South Africa are now effectively functioning under a state of emergency in which the right to freedom of assembly and protest have been suspended. This would be both illegal and unconstitutional. Other reports have suggested that such orders were indeed given, but that the police are now backtracking – probably because the police have realised that they are breaking the law and that the order, in fact, constitutes a grave breach of the law and the Constitution.

‘It is a sad day indeed when the police itself become a threat to our democracy and our rights because Fifa and the government want us all to behave and shut up for the next month and to forget about our democratic rights.’

Scribbles from the Den (and betwixt en between the lines: a video diary of the ‘Q[/t]’ werd)

Scribbles from the Den takes us back 20 years to a memorable World Cup game which is now part of the football folklore and which credited to have changed the World Football Order in favor of African countries:

‘Exactly 20 years ago on June 8, 1990 at the Giuseppe Maezza Stadium in Milan, Italy, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, “a humble team with an insignificant past” to quote the Miami Herald, defeated Argentina, the star-studded defending World Champions led by Diego Armando Maradona, in a thrilling Italia ’90 World Cup opening game that came to be known as the “Miracle of Milan”…



‘The victory over Argentina was merely the beginning of Cameroon’s Cinderella story which came to an end only after England ousted the Lions in an epic quarterfinal game that is also part of World Cup folklore. Cameroon’s brilliant run in Italia ’90 in general, and its historic win over Argentina in particular reverberated around the world and changed the Football World Order forever…

‘The aftershocks from that memorable Friday afternoon at the Giuseppe Maezza Stadium would be felt years later first with FIFA increasing the number of African teams taking part in the World Cup from two to five, then with the “browning” of European leagues which opened their doors to players from the continent and in the process unearthed African football prodigies such as “King” George Weah of Liberia, Same Eto’o of Cameroon and Didier Drogba of Cote d’Ivoire.’

Up Station Mountain Club

As the football fiesta goes on in South Africa, Charles Taku, a lead counsel at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, wonders whether Africa has any reason to celebrate as many states turn 50:

‘Africa is sick; very sick indeed. It is safe to state that at 50, there is nothing to celebrate. Rather than celebrate, Africa should be engaged in a moment of soul searching to find out where we went wrong and to generate ideas about how to resolve the myriad problems afflicting the continent…



‘There is no gainsaying that Africa is a victim of its colonial heritage. It is also true that many African problems are self inflicted. For that reason, according to Peter Schwab, Africa is its own worst enemy.

‘As Africa enters the second half of the century, there is a compelling need for it to eschew all pretensions to celebration and to use the opportunity of the moment to search for viable solutions to its plethora of problems. Our collective failure enjoins us to do a lot of soul searching at this point of our history rather than celebrate a failed past in anticipation of a bleaker future. Africa and the black race in general need to take their destiny into their own hands once again. Time has come for all black people of this world to invoke the spirits of Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, CLR James, the Osagyefo Mwalimu and others whose mere mention of name give us the inspiration, courage and hope to start all over again, in seeking a path of glory they once laid out for us.

The time to build and improve on what they started for our collective survival in a mercilessly competitive world is now. Waiting for dictators that preside over the destiny of most of the continent at present to pave that path to glory is simply foolhardy, if not suicidal.”



Kumekucha

Kumekucha explains how he believes the ruling elite plan to rig the August Referendum for the proposed new Kenyan Constitution:

‘Folks I am afraid that I have more bad news for you concerning the new constitution most of us are yearning for. Let me start by confessing that for a person with my years of experience I was rather naïve to believe that those who own Kenya would ever allow for an electoral system that they did not have any control over. The truth is that the so called “tamper-proof” electoral roll has already been tampered with and non-existent voters introduced. And since it is NOT the same electoral roll that we will go to the general elections with, the only conclusion is that the intention is to rig the August 4th Referendum.

‘The game plan by the powerful owners of Kenya is for the NO camp to catch up with the YES majority so that the difference is around 20% or less. What will then happen is that NO will win with a very slim majority. Enough to deny most Kenyans what they are yearning for so much that they can no longer sleep too well. Those wh o have read the document and realize the sweeping changes it will bring into the country and the deadly blow it will deal to impunity.

‘What really scares me is that so far these powerful forces have been able to get things done through the NSIS and have even influenced the judiciary to make certain bizarre rulings. To me that is evidence enough that they are quite capable of going ahead with their well laid plan even as the president tires himself crisscrossing the country campaigning for a new constitution.’


BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.

 

so this technically won’t be the last post in this series of 16 days of activism against gender violence, which is the bigger point of reposting all these alerts….

activism doesn’t lie within any particular sector, like ‘civil’ society, and isn’t publicised just in december.

Like Black History month and International Women’s day…the symbolism is powerful, but just a small part of a bigger, everyday struggle of all peoples to change (hopefully for the betta) & liberate themselves…..

today I’mma dedicate this space to sheroes that inspire me.

it’s about 2 women in particular.

Pouline Kimani & Sylvia Tamale.

they are symbolic of many many wom(b)en who have been significant in my growth and survival.

like the 1 woman who stepped out of her comfort zone to loan me money for the ticket that got me to tdot in the summer. marta jimenez.

and the women that reach/ed out, in Tdot, to mobilise the necessary resources to support queer/trans communities in East Afrika. Notisha Massaquoi. Allison Duke. Amai Kuda. Judith. Teo.Verlia. Omisoore. Aje. Roberta. Mercedes.Gie. Jamilah. Ayo. Francesca.Toki San. Debs. Rehanna. Wangui.Brandy………there are many more SISTAS in  SOLIDARITY….don’t want to exclude the brothers….allies like MindBender & Wassun, teach me that we can expect for straight/afrikans to take responsibility for bridging the gaps between our communities

but I digress…today the point is symbolising our efforts to defend & promote human rights with just 2 examples.

who is pouline? in her own werds, she is a young, black, queer, liberal feminist.

in my own werds, she is a soul/dada/comrade/teacher,

a soldier of love….

according to FIDH,  she works for them on “AFRICA FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS”
a campaign launched by regional and international human rights and women’s rights organisations present throughout Africa. The campaign’s aim is to call on African states to RATIFY international and regional women’s human rights protection instruments and to RESPECT them in law and practice. 

It’s timely that Pouline Kimani  received the Oustanding Lives Award this week.

A powerful symbol of all the possibilities there are in building solidarity across space & communities……

How appropriate that the city/country I chose to reside in, recognised the dedication & sacrifices of one of the activists at the forefront of the LGBTTIQQ  movement in East Afrika.

and what about sylvia tamale?

Dr Tamale is a human rights defender and activist, academic, writer and grassroots mobiliser who has influenced critical thinking at national and international levels. She is one of Africa’s leading feminist scholars. Her book ‘When hens Begin To Crow; Gender and Parliamentary Politics in Uganda’ published in 1999 has been recognised internationally as a landmark piece. Her keen and sharp analysis, puts her at the cutting edge of human rights discourse.. In July 2003, Dr Tamale was awarded the University of Minnesota Distinguished Leadership award for Internationals.

blogger’s note: this is an excerpt from the article “honouring sylvia tamale” in pambazuka news from 5 years ago, she was recognised as an outstanding contributor to advancement of women’s rights…during another series for 16 days of activism against gender violence.

I thought I’d share a speech she delivered last month….

finish this off with another illustration of allies & working on our own unity first.

 

A HUMAN RIGHTS IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL

[Public Dialogue November 18, 2009, Makerere University]

 

I would like to thank the Human Rights and Peace Centre for inviting me here this afternoon to share my views on this bill.  It is great that HURIPEC organized this to be a dialogue and not a debate because debates have a tendency to polarize and divide along irrational gut-level responses.  A dialogue, on the other hand, usefully sets the stage for people to listen to each other with understanding, tolerance and helps build bridges.  I hope that this public dialogue will mark the first stepping stone for all of us to embark on a rewarding journey of mutual respect, simple decency and fairness.

Mr. Chairperson—

My brief talk this afternoon is divided into four sections:

  1. First, I will address issues of mutual concern that I share with Hon. Bahati;
  2. Secondly, I will open the window of history and offer us a glimpse of the politics of hatred and discrimination that has affected the struggle for human rights over the years;
  3. Third, I will highlight the social meaning of the bill; and
  4. Finally, I shall put on my legal hat and outline the legal implications that this bill holds for our country if passed into law.

 

  1. I.                   Common Issues of Concern

I have scrutinized the bill thoroughly and the Honourable Member of Parliament David Bahati will be surprised to learn that I share some of his convictions.  For example, Hon. Bahati I share your desires as expressed in the preamble to the bill:

  1. To strengthen the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the family unit.  It is nevertheless important to point out that most of these can hardly be realized through the regulatory mechanism of the law.
  2. To protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda, particularly the positive aspects of it.
  3. To protect Ugandan children and youth who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation—whether the abuse is hetero and homosexual.

 

I do not have the time and space this afternoon to engage in a detailed sociological discussion of the concept that the bill refers to as the “Traditional African Family.”  However, it is my humble opinion that the concept needs to be unpacked and scrutinized.  Mr. Chairperson as you very well know, Africa is a vast continent with an extremely rich and diverse cultural history.  Indeed it would be next to impossible to mark a particular institution as the one and only “Traditional African Family”. 

I will cite just a few examples to demonstrate that matrimonial relations among various African communities have differed a great deal:-

a)      While marriage between first cousins was traditionally taboo among the Baganda, marriages among blood-related kin were considered the best unions among the Bahima here in Uganda; 

b)      There is the phenomenon of chigadzamapfihwa where the family of a barren wife among the Ndaus of Zimbabwe would ‘donate’ her brother’s daughter to her husband to become a co-wife and bear children on behalf of the barren woman;

c)      Practices of non-sexual woman-to-woman marriages among various African customs e.g., the Nandi and Kisii of Kenya, the Igbo of Nigeria, the Nuer of Sudan and the Kuria of Tanzania for purposes of coping with various reproductive, social and economic problems;  and

d)      Levirate marriages where a man inherits his dead brother’s wife were a customary requirement in many African communities.  

While these may have been cultural practices at some point in our history, it is also important to recognize that family institutions all over the world are undergoing rapid transformation.  The changes that we see in this basic unit of society are the result of many factors including, economic crises, an increasing number of working mothers, technological advancements, armed conflicts, natural disasters, globalization, migration, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, etc.  Many of these changes and indeed the evolution of culture cannot be halted, certainly not through law. 

Perhaps the undisputed value that is a common denominator in all traditional institutions of the family in Africa is the group solidarity that we have embedded in our extended family networks.  Unfortunately, the support, stability, love and respect that were the hallmark of this family model are rapidly being eroded and will soon become history.

Thus, while I agree with you Hon. Bahati that we must seek ways of dealing with issues that threaten our families, I do not agree that homosexuality is one of those issues.  Mr. Chairperson, Ladies and gentlemen, what issues currently threaten our families here in Uganda?  I will name a few:

a)      Blood thirsty Ugandans and traditional healers that believe that their good fortune will multiply through rituals of child sacrifice.

b)      Rapists and child molesters who pounce on unsuspecting family members.  Research undertaken by the NGO, Hope after Rape (HAR) shows that over 50% of child sexual abuse reports involve children below 10 years of age, and the perpetrators are heterosexual men who are known to the victims.[1]

c)      Sexual predators that breach the trust placed in them as fathers, teachers, religious leaders, doctors, uncles and sexually exploit young girls and boys.  A 2005 report by Raising Voices and Save the Children revealed that 90% of Ugandan children experienced domestic violence and defilement.[2]

d)      Abusive partners who engage in domestic violence whether physical, sexual or emotional.  The 2006 national study on Domestic Violence by the Law Reform Commission confirmed the DV was pervasive in our communities.  66% of people in all regions of Uganda reported that DV occurred in their homes and the majority of the perpetrators were “male heads of households.”[3]  The Uganda Demographic Health Survey of 2006 put the figure slightly higher at 68%.[4]

e)      Parents who force their 14-year old daughters to get married in exchange for bride price and marriage gifts.

f)       A whole generation of children who were either born and bred in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps or abducted by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in the northern sub-region of Kitgum, Gulu and Pader districts.

g)      The millions of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.  The Uganda Aids Commission puts the cumulative number of orphans due to AIDS at 2 million.[5]

h)      The all powerful patriarchs that demand total submission and rule their households with an iron hand.

i)        Rising poverty levels and growing food insecurity which lead to hunger, disease, suffering and undignified living.  Figures from the latest report from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics show that over 60% of Ugandans living in rural areas live below the poverty line.[6]

I do not see how two people who are in a loving relationship and harming no one pose a threat to the family simply because they happen to be of the same sex.  The argument that homosexuality is a threat to the continuity of humankind and that it will lead to the extinction of human beings in the world simply does not hold water because there are too many heterosexuals in the world for that to become a reality.  How many of you in this room would “convert” to homosexuality any time soon?…  So, just as the priests, nuns and monks who are sworn to a life of celibacy will not cause the extinction of humanity, homosexuals will not either. 

  1. II.                Lessons from History

Anyone who cares to read history books knows very well that in times of crisis, when people at the locus of power are feeling vulnerable and their power is being threatened, they will turn against the weaker groups in society.  They will pick out a weak voiceless group on whom to heap blame for all society’s troubles—refugees, displaced populations, stateless persons aka illegal immigrants, minorities with no status, children, the poor, the homeless, commercial sex workers, etc.  I will offer a few examples to illustrate this point:

  • In Uganda, colonialists at various times blamed traditional chiefs and elders as well as Muslims as the main impediments to progress and civilization.
  • Dictator Idi Amin blamed Asians for Uganda’s dire economic problems and expelled all Indians in the early 1970s.
  • When Milton Obote’s political power was threatened during his second regime in the early 1980s he embarked on a deliberate campaign of hostility towards refugees in Uganda, particularly those of Rwandese extract.  Obote’s persecution of the Banyarwanda in Uganda and the whipping up of anti-Rwandese sentiments included the constant reference to his political opponent, Yoweri Museveni as a “foreigner from Rwanda.”
  • In the 20 years that northern Uganda faced armed conflict, the NRM administration pointed fingers at Kony and the LRA was blamed for all the atrocities and suffering of the people in the north.
  • The transmission of HIV/AIDS at various points in our history has been blamed on different “weak” constituents including commercial sex workers, truck drivers, young women aged 15-23, and mothers to babies.
  • When native South Africans faced dire economic crisis they turned against black “foreigners”, blaming them for the high unemployment rates and sparking off brutal xenophobic attacks against helpless immigrants/migrants and refugees in May 2008.

 

The lesson drawn from these chapters in our recent history is that today it is homosexuals under attack; tomorrow it will be another exaggerated minority.

Homosexuality has troubled people for a very long time.  Some religions find it distressing and there are many debates around it.  Mr. Chairperson and distinguished participants where did the idea of destroying homosexuality come from?  As his excellency President Museveni pointed out at the inaugural Young Achievers Awards Ceremony last weekend, homosexuals existed prior to the coming of Europeans to Uganda.  According to the President:  “They were not persecuted but were not encouraged either” (Daily Monitor Nov 16, 2009 at p.2).  The idea of destroying homosexuality came from colonialists.  In other words, homosexuality was not introduced to Africa from Europe as many would want us to believe.  Rather, Europe imported legalized homophobia to Africa. 

Homosexuality was introduced as an offence in Uganda directly through laws that were imported from Britain during colonialism.  And what did these same colonialists think of the “African traditional family” in Uganda?  They certainly did not introduce sodomy laws in order to protect the traditional African family.  In fact they believed that the traditional African family was inferior to their nuclear monogamous one and considered the former barbarous and ‘repugnant to good conscience and morality.’  This colonial attitude was well exemplified in the infamous 1917 case of R. v. Amkeyo, in which Justice Hamilton dismissed customary marriages as mere ‘wife purchase.’

Today, with all the economic, social and political crises facing Uganda, homosexuals present a convenient group to point fingers at as the “biggest threat” or the “real problem” to society.  Mr. Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, the re-criminalisation of homosexuality is meant to distract the attention of Ugandans from the real issues that harm us.  It conveniently diverts the attention of the millions of Ugandans who have been walking the streets for years with their college certificates and no jobs on offer.  Ladies and gentlemen, homosexuals have nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands of families that sleep without a meal or the millions of children who die unnecessarily every day from preventable or treatable diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, measles, pneumonia, etc.  Homosexuals are not the ones responsible for the lack of drugs and supplies at primary health care centres. 

 

  1. III.             The Social Implications of the Bill to the Average Ugandan

You may think that this bill targets only homosexual individuals.  However, homosexuality is defined in such a broad fashion as to include “touching another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”   This is a provision highly prone to abuse and puts all citizens (both hetero and homosexuals) at great risk.   Such a provision would make it very easy for a person to witch-hunt or bring false accusations against their enemies simply to “destroy” their reputations and cause scandal.  We all have not forgotten what happened to Pastor Kayanja and other men of God in the recent past.

Moreover, the bill imposes a stiff fine and term of imprisonment for up to three years for any person in authority over a homosexual who fails to report the offender within 24 hours of acquiring such knowledge.  Hence the bill requires family members to “spy” on one another.  This provision obviously does not strengthen the family unit in the manner that Hon. Bahati claims his bill wants to do, but rather promotes the breaking up of the family.  This provision further threatens relationships beyond family members.  What do I mean?  If a gay person talks to his priest or his doctor in confidence, seeking advice, the bill requires that such person breaches their trust and confidentiality with the gay individual and immediately hands them over to the police within 24 hours.  Failure to do so draws the risk of arrest to themselves.  Or a mother who is trying to come to terms with her child’s sexual orientation may be dragged to police cells for not turning in her child to the authorities.  The same fate would befall teachers, priests, local councilors, counselors, doctors, landlords, elders, employers, MPs, lawyers, etc. 

Furthermore, if your job is in any way related to human rights activism, advocacy, education and training, research, capacity building, and related issues this bill should be a cause for serious alarm.  In a very undemocratic and unconstitutional fashion, the bill seeks to silence human rights activists, academics, students, donors and non-governmental organizations.  If passed into law it will stifle the space of civil society.  The bill also undermines the pivotal role of the media to report freely on any issue.  The point I am trying to make is that we are all potential victims of this draconian bill.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us many years ago, “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”  Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights instructs us: “All Human Beings are Born Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights.”   Many great people that we respect and admire have spoken out for the rights of homosexuals.  These include international award winners and champions of freedom and humanity—President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Barack Obama.  Just yesterday, it was reported that former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae added his voice to those who have come out in opposition to the Bahati Bill (Daily Monitor, November 17, 2009 at p.10).

We must remember that the principal message at the heart of all religions is one of LOVE (And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love– 1 Corinthians 13: 13).  All religions teach the virtues of tolerance and urge their followers to desist from passing judgment.  Ladies and gentlemen, this bill promotes hatred, intolerance, superiority and violence.  Even if you believe that homosexuality is a sin, this bill is not the best method to address the issue.  It is valid to have religious and spiritual anxieties but our jurisprudence has a long history of separating the institutions of religion from the law.  The law, Mr. Chairperson, does not seek to ally any legal principle with a particular religion.  Mr. Stephen Langa is free to deliver his lectures on morality but it is unacceptable to reduce what his is preaching into law.  In my final submission I want to turn to a legal analysis of this bill.

 

  1. IV.              The Legal Implications of the Bill

Mr. Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, the Anti-Homosexuality bill has a total of 18 clauses.  12 of these 18 clauses (i.e., 67%) are not new at all as they simply replicate what we already have on our law books.  So the first point I want to highlight is that Parliament has been given a bill two-thirds of whose content duplicates existing laws. 

So, let us examine the content of the remaining 6 clauses that introduce new legal provisions. 

  • Clauses 6 provides for the recognition of the right to privacy and confidentiality for the victim of homosexual assaults.  This is a procedural issue that no one can dispute and it can easily be inserted in the Penal Code provisions that criminalize rape and aggravated defilement.

 

Nevertheless, the remaining 5 clauses are extremely problematic from a legal point of view.  They violate Uganda’s constitution and many other regional and international instruments that Uganda has ratified.

  • The interpretation section (Clause 1) replicates several definitions that are provided for elsewhere.  Its novel provisions lie in the attempt to define homosexuality and its related activities.  I have already alluded to the potential danger that Ugandans face in the threatening and broad fashion that the bill defines a “homosexual act.”

 

  • Clause 13 which attempts to outlaw the “Promotion of Homosexuality” is very problematic as it introduces widespread censorship and undermines fundamental freedoms such as the rights to free speech, expression, association and assembly.  Under this provision an unscrupulous person aspiring to unseat a member of parliament can easily send the incumbent MP unsolicited material via e-mail or text messaging, implicating the latter as one “promoting homosexuality.”  After being framed in that way, it will be very difficult for the victim to shake free of the “stigma.”  Secondly, by criminalizing the “funding and sponsoring of homosexuality and related activities,” the bill deals a major blow to Uganda’s public health policies and efforts.  Take for example, the Most At Risk Populations’ Initiative (MARPI) introduced by the Ministry of Health in 2008, which targets specific populations in a comprehensive manner to curb the HIV/AIDS scourge.   If this bill becomes law, health practitioners as well as those that have put money into this exemplary initiative will automatically be liable to imprisonment for seven years!  The clause further undermines civil society activities by threatening the fundamental rights of NGOs and the use of intimidating tactics to shackle their directors and managers.

 

  • Clause 14 introduces the crime of “Failure to Disclose the Offence” of homosexuality.  As I have noted above, under this provision any person in authority is obliged to report a homosexual to the relevant authorities within 24 hours of acquiring such knowledge.  Not only does this infringe on the right to privacy but it is practically unenforceable.  It dangerously opens up room for potential abuse, blackmail, witch-hunting, etc.  Do we really want to move sexual acts between consenting adults into the public realm?
  • Clause 16 relates to extra-territorial jurisdiction, and basically confers authority on Ugandan law enforcers to arrest and charge a Ugandan citizen or permanent resident who engages in homosexual activities outside the borders of Uganda.  This law enforcement model is normally used in international crimes such as money laundering, terrorism, etc.  The Ugandan Penal Code already provides for crimes that call for extra-territoriality.  All these touch on the security of the state e.g., treason, terrorism and war mongering (see S.4 of the PCA).

When it comes to offences committed partly within and partly outside Uganda, the Penal Code provides:

When an act which, if wholly done within the jurisdiction of the court, would be an offence against this Code is done partly within and partly beyond the jurisdiction, every person who within the jurisdiction does or makes any part of such act may be tried and punished under this Code in the same manner as if such act had been done wholly within the jurisdiction. [Section 5—Emphasis added]

Note that clause16 of the Bill employs the disjunctive “or” which gives it wider reach than S.5 of the Penal Code that uses the conjunctive “and”.  Therefore, what the Bill proposes to do is to elevate homosexual acts to a position of such importance that they appear to be at an even higher plane than murder, rape or grievous bodily harm for which no such provision is made.  It is difficult to see any rational basis for such inordinate attention to homosexuality.  And how exactly will they enforce this provision?  Is the government going to storm the bedrooms of consenting adults, or deploy spies to follow them when they travel abroad in order to establish who they have slept with and how they did it?  Does this include heterosexual couples that engage in anal sex?  What about our constitutional right to privacy?  In short, this provision of the Bill is a gross abuse of the principle of extra-territoriality.  But more importantly, the bill carries hidden venom that is bound to spread beyond persons that engage in homosexuality.

  • Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this bill is Clause 18, which requires Uganda to opt out of any international treaty that we have previously ratified that goes against the spirit of the bill.   Article 287 of the Constitution obliges Uganda to fully subscribe to all its international treaties obligations ratified prior to the passing of the 2005 constitution.  We cannot legislate or simply wish these obligations away.  Indeed, international law prohibits us from doing such a thing.  Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties clearly sets out the pacta sunt servanda rule which requires that “Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.”  

Article 123 (1), a provision deliberately placed in Chapter Seven of the Constitution (dealing with the powers of the Executive) says:

The President or a person authorised by the President may make treaties, conventions, agreements, or other arrangements between Uganda and any other country or between Uganda and any international organisation or body, in respect of any matter.

This is a wide power that can only be limited by express language under the Constitution itself. A major procedural limitation is found in the next clause of the same article, which provides:

Parliament shall make laws to govern ratification of treaties, conventions, agreements or other arrangements made under clause (1) of this article.  (Art. 123.2)

Another substantive limitation is to be found in the Bill of Rights found in Chapter 4.  In effect, the President cannot by the mechanism of Article 123(1) sign treaties whose effect would be to amend the Constitution. Indeed, any such treaty would be, as a matter of municipal law, null and void to the extent of such inconsistency, in terms of Article 2 (2) of the Constitution.

Parliament therefore has only a procedural role to incorporate treaties into Ugandan law – and that is the full extent of its powers. It cannot purport to proscribe ex ante (before the fact) the limit of the President’s treaty making powers.  Nor indeed, can parliament bind its own future action by purporting to exercise in advance its power to scrutinize treaties signed by the President and determine which of them to ratify.  All that Parliament can do is to either ratify or refuse to ratify a treaty after it is signed, and in the latter case such treaty does not become part of Ugandan law.  This is the balance of executive power and democratic input achieved by Article 123, and one that clause 18 of the Bill is incompetent to amend.

Mr. Chairperson, distinguished participants, I wish to end by appealing to members of parliament and all Ugandans that believe in human rights and the dignity of all human beings to reject the Anti-homosexuality bill.  I am imploring Hon. Bahati to withdraw his private members bill.  Do we really in our hearts of hearts want our country to be the first on the continent to demand that mothers spy on their children, that teachers refuse to talk about what is, after all, “out there” and that our gay and lesbian citizens are systematically and legally terrorized into suicide?  Ladies and gentlemen, you may strongly disagree with the phenomenon of same-sex erotics; you may be repulsed by what you imagine homosexuals do behind their bedroom doors; you may think that all homosexuals deserve to burn in hell.  However, it is quite clear that this Bill will cause more problems around the issue of homosexuality than it will solve.  I suggest that Hon. Bahati’s bill be quietly forgotten.  It is no more or less than an embarrassment to our intelligence, our sense of justice and our hearts.

Thank you for your attention.

Response after the Q & A Session

Mr. Chairperson, in the interest of time I will respond to only three issues:

  • “Mad people” “like bats seeing the world upside down” “animals” “wicked”… These are some of the words used to describe homosexuals by the audience.  All the heckling and vicious jeering…  Mr. Bahati you commenced your talk this afternoon by saying, “We are not in the hate campaign.”  Well, if you were in any doubt about the fact that your bill is whipping up hatred and violence against homosexuals, just reflect back on the discourse that transpired in the room this afternoon. 

 

  • Secondly, Mr. Chairperson I think it is the height of paternalism and arrogance for Hon. Bahati and Mr. Langa to stand here and say they are legislating against homosexuals because they love them, they feel sorry for them, they face the risk of cancer, their lives are reduced by 20 years, etc.  Homosexuals are not asking for your pity, love, approval or redemption.  They only want you to affirm their humanness and their right to exist and be different.

 

  • Finally, Mr. Chairperson, Hon. Bahati asked the question, “Tamale, do you support homosexuality?”  I would like to tell Hon. Bahati that I am a simple woman that recognizes all human beings as worthy of dignity and rights and I am not obsessed with how people have sex in the privacy of their bedrooms.  I support the rights of all human beings regardless of how and with whom they have sex as long as they are adults and are not harming anyone.  So, the question should not be whether I support homosexuality, or heterosexuality for that matter.

 

Thank you very much Mr. Chairperson


[1]                  Study cited in Uganda Youth Development Link, Report on Sectoral Study on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Uganda, Commissioned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (January 2004).

[2]                  See Raising Voices and Save the Children (edited by Dipak Naker), Violence Against Children: The Voices of Ugandan Children and Adults. (2005).  Available at http://www.raisingvoices.org/files/VACuganda.RV.pdf

[3]                  See Law Reform Commission, A Study Report on Domestic Violence, April 2006 at p.112

[4]                  See http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR194/FR194.pdf

[5]                  See Report by the Office of the Auditor General, Value for Money Audit Report on Uganda AIDS Control Project, October 2007.  Available at http://www.oag.go.ug/docs/UACauditreport.pdf

[6]                  See UBOS, Spatial Trends of Poverty and Inequality in Uganda: 2002-2005, February 2009.

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