State-sponsored anti-gay terror campaigns are spreading across Africa and governments are monitoring activists' mobile and eletronic communications, according to a series of confidential State Department cables leaked by WikiLeaks and released in the Spanish newspaper El Pais (translation).
American diplomats are particularly concerned over the extreme homophobia in Uganda, the cables show. The leaked memos show LGBT activists lived in a "dangerous" climate and government officials openly "mocked" David Kato at a December 2009 United Nations consultative meeting, according to another WikiLeak release published by The Guardian. Kato, of course, was later brutally beaten to death at his home in January 2011.
The diplomat said Kato ... delivered a well-written speech against the bill, but his words were almost inaudible due to "his evident nervousness". Throughout his talk a member of the Ugandan Human Rights Commission "openly joked and snickered" with supporters of the bill, the diplomat claimed in the cable.
The "consultative meeting" in December 2009, organised with funding from the UN, aimed to discuss the bill, which would impose the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" and life imprisonment for consenting adults who have gay sex.
In the cable, dated 24 December 2009, the diplomat claimed Ugandan politicians, including the author of the anti-homosexuality bill, David Bahati, had channelled anger at the country's socio-political failings into "violent hatred" of gays.
Other confidential memos sent between Kampala and Washington in 2009-2010 and sent to WikiLeaks paint a picture of a worsening human rights climate in the run-up to Ugandan elections Uganda's "chilling" descent from tolerance to violent homophobia and a deepening fear among gay activists, who claim they are being increasingly monitored and harassed. The memos, classified as confidential, also reveal US diplomatic attempts to combat the draconian bill – which is at the parliamentary committee stage.
Confidential cables released by El Pais offer a rare glimpse into behind-the-scenes diplomacy conducted by Washington over the extreme Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which mandated the death penalty or life imprisonment for the new crime of "aggravated homosexuality." President Yoweri Museveni assured American diplomats that no executions would occur, but warned diplomats not to publicly "push" the issue.
[Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson] expressed gratitude that Museveni had tamped down the tensions surrounding Uganda's draft anti-homosexuality bill. Both Carson and [Under Secretary Maria Otero] encouraged Museveni to pursue decriminalization and destigmatization of homosexuality. Museveni warned outsiders of pushing Africa too hard on this issue, lest it create another hurricane, and lectured on African family values. He assured the USG delegation that nobody in Uganda would be executed for homosexual behavior, but explained that in the African context homosexuality is a disorder and not something to be promoted or celebrated. Don't push it, warned Museveni, "I'll handle it."
El Pais adds: "One of the greatest fears that show African leaders in their contacts with the Americans is to appear before their subjects as puppets of the West. Museveni mentioned a cartoon circulating around the country in which [is drawn] as a puppet of Hillary Clinton, and the then prime ministers of United Kingdom and Australia, as an example of damage that can lead to being too sympathetic to the pleas for human rights."
The Kato cable is HERE.
The Museveni cable is HERE.