Rev. Kapya Kaoma: New Ugandan law that makes homosexual acts punishable by life imprisonment was modeled after the talking points of right- wing U.S. evangelicals
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
On Monday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill which toughens penalties against gays and defines some homosexual acts as crimes punishable by life in prison. The bill also proposed years in prison for anyone who counsels or reaches out to gays and lesbians.
Now joining us to discuss all this is Rev. Kapya Kaoma. He is the senior religion and sexuality researcher at the social justice think tank Political Research Associates.
Thank you for joining us, Reverend.
REV. DR. KAPYA KAOMA, SENIOR RELIGION AND SEXUALITY RESEARCHER, PRA: Thank you for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So let’s just first take a listen to what the president, Museveni, had to say in terms of why he decided to pass this legislation and his response to the West.
YOWERI MUSEVENI, UGANDAN PRESIDENT: This is–there’s now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values of one group on our society. Then our disappointment is now exacerbated because we are sorry to see that you live the way you live.
DESVARIEUX: That was the Ugandan president. However, we have actually seen the involvement of conservative Christian groups in the U.S. influencing antigay sentiments in Uganda. Reverend, I want to talk to you right now and get your sense of how these Christian groups have basically influenced this anti-gay sentiment that is perpetuated in Uganda.
KAOMA: Yeah. Various groups have been involved in this. It started, I think, long before what we have seen today. Three years ago, there was a conference which was organized in Uganda by an American fundamentalist, Scott Lively, with Abiding Truth Ministry, in conjunction with now the defunct Exodus International board member. They went to Uganda and they spoke about how the international gay agenda is set to take over the world, and now they are trying to destroy the world, but they are targeting Uganda because, it was said, it is the heart of Africa.
In addition to that, the reverend or the pastor [incompr.] Rick Warren of Saddleback Baptist Church, he also went to Uganda [incompr.] moment he declared Uganda to be a purpose-driven nation. And during that time, again, he also got involved in what [incompr.] considered to be more of the African politics or the church politics of the Anglican communion, where he said he supported the Ugandan churches for opposing LGBT rights, and also went on to tell the world that LGBT rights are not human rights at all, and he said that they were not in fact to be considered to be human rights, and he himself would not have anything to do with that. And people started using those kind of words as a way of defining the poor LGBT persons on the ground in Uganda.
The other person who went there is Lou Engle, who in fact is featured in the documentary God Loves Uganda. At a time when everybody was saying no one should get involved in this anti-gay rhetoric are growing in Africa, Lou Engle went there and said to the people of Uganda that they are taking a very good stance. And people heard those words and they used those words, in fact, in a sense, to come up with what we have seen currently.
DESVARIEUX: Did these conservative Christian groups at all play a role in actually writing the legislation?
KAOMA: [incompr.] have called this bill from the beginning as the Scott Lively bill. And I have evidence for saying that. Scott Lively was responsible for what has become now to be known as the “kill the gay” bill. His talking points were in the first draft, which came immediately after the conference in Uganda in March 2009. The bill, it’s the one which has been passed, the version which has been passed, the original one came just after–20 days after he left Uganda. So that tells you who was responsible for that bill. It’s Scott Lively.
DESVARIEUX: Scott Lively. Can you just speak to his religious sect?
KAOMA: Scott Lively runs this crazy kind of “ministries”, he calls them. He has what he calls the Defend the Family ministries, which is more of a charismatic Pentecostal ministry. But then he has his Abiding Truth Ministries. So it’s not necessarily very well planted in terms of Christian credentials. He’s more of an independent kind of churches [incompr.] they run like that. So that’s how he founds his own churches. They are not very big. They are small.
But, unfortunately, what happens is that to people who are outside America, they think he has this mega mega following around him. In actual fact, he doesn’t have that. But he’s having a lot of impact. In fact, it’s not just Uganda. He has impact in Eastern Europe as well.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. I want to switch gears and talk about the history of Uganda and homosexuality. Reverend, did this level of homophobia exist in Uganda before Christian missionaries got involved in Ugandan culture?
KAOMA: The answer is no. In fact, Uganda is a good case to start with, because King Mwanga, or Kabaka Mwanga, as the Bugandas did call him, he himself was gay. And, in fact, the reason why we have what we call the African Martyrs, or Ugandan Martyrs, is because before the missionaries went to Uganda, Kabaka Mwanga used to have sex with his pages, who were men. The moment they converted to Christianity, the missionaries taught them not to have sex with their king, and the king got upset. And that is the reason why they were accused. They were accused specifically for refusing to have sex with their king.
Now, if that was the case, that Africans who are opposed to LGBT rights, homosexuality, how would we justify having a homosexual person, a well-known homosexual person to be your king? They would have dethroned him.
But in addition to that, there’s another thing you have to understand. There is another article, which was done by a well-respected anthropologist, African anthropologist, who studied very well the African cultures. And this is again about Africa in today’s–sorry–Central African Republic. In Central African Republic in 1970, when he wrote this article, he makes it very clear that among the Azande people of Central African Republic, in fact, same-sex marriages were just as respected as heterosexual marriages. So this is another African culture where communities who’d accept same-sex marriages, and they didn’t see them as something that has to be rejected or demonized, as the case is today with the coming of Christianity.
And the other last thing I want us to say is about Nigeria. In Nigeria, the book–in fact, it’s done by a Nigerian pastor and professor called Waje Kunhiyop, he has written a book called African Christian Ethics. In that book, he makes a very good case that Africans avoided gays. And he gives an example in his own community where he grew up in Nigeria, where gays would march the streets of Nigeria once a year in the public square, and they were never stoned or anything done to them.
DESVARIEUX: Alright, Reverend. Very interesting story. We greatly appreciate your analysis. Thank you for joining us.
KAOMA: Thanks very much.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.