Melanie Nathan, January 01,2012
Mr. Bernard Sabiti, a self proclaimed social critic in Uganda, with clear political aspirations, and probably a Museveni Regime Bahati sock puppet, has upped the anti-gay ante in his country in an insidious attempt to discredit gays. Activists around the world are responding to Sabiti’s claim in an article he wrote for the Ugandan Monitor and are calling for answers to his assertion suggesting that “the homosexuals” planned to call for their own hanging in order to elicit “sympathy and the cash.”
Mr. Sabiti wrote the article in an attempt to discredit Frank Mugisha’s plea in the New York Times . Mugisha a renowned activist asserted:
“The right to marry whom we love is far from our minds. Across Africa, the “gay rights” we are fighting for are more stark — the right to life itself. Here, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people suffer brutal attacks, yet cannot report them to the police for fear of additional violence, humiliation, rape or imprisonment at the hands of the authorities. We are expelled from school and denied health care because of our perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. If your boss finds out (or suspects) you are gay, you can be fired immediately.”
Sabiti now wants the world to believe that for Ugandan LGBTI people things are not as bad as presented by its victims, its activists and the organizations helping with resources and activism.
In his attempts to justify his position he is trying to sell the notion that gays themselves are responsible for asking for gays to be hanged and that they are duping the West with regard to their plight in Uganda. In trying to make his case he has crossed the line and accused Ugandan gays of a stunt.
In 2010 Rolling Stone Uganda publisher, Giles Muhame, outed 100 gay faces on the cover of his tabloid magazine, next to a caption reading “hang them.” This caused a huge international outcry and the magazine was successfully sued by David Kato, the activist who has since been murdered.
Mr. Sabiti is now asserting:-
The matter of the Rolling Stone newspaper that published a list of homosexuals which is the basis of the western gay propaganda alleging that “the press” in from page 21
Uganda promotes murdering homosexuals is even too absurd to comment about.
These people know nothing about Uganda’s culture, let alone that of the tabloid, where many journalism students try many stunts to come up with a publication that can sell in a tough media market and a poor reading culture.
Even “credible” newspapers here struggle yet they have been in the market far too long to stage competition against them. But many People here also love sensationalism and gossip and some enjoy nudity. That was what Giles Mahame, the Rolling Stone publisher, was tapping into.
If not, given the shrewdness of Ugandans, it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that the Rolling Stone stunt could have as well been a stunt by the homosexuals themselves to elicit international sympathy and the cash that no doubt followed it.”
While making excuses for Muhame’s indiscretion, Sabiti is trying to pin the “outing” on homosexuals themselves, citing the “shrewdness” of Ugandans. To make such an accusation without any proof whatsoever, is to sink very low and a greater insult to the people and courts of Uganda. What follows is one letter to Sabiti asking for clarity:-
In a letter to Mr. Sabiti, human rights activist, Thor Halvorssen asks:
I have read your article “How Anti-Homosexuality Bill boosted gays agenda in Uganda”. I have written previously about the same subject and may do so again. I was hoping you can clarify what you meant by this statement:
“it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that the Rolling Stone stunt could have as well been a stunt by the homosexuals themselves to elicit international sympathy and the cash that no doubt followed it.”
Are you suggesting that “the homosexuals” planned to call for their own hanging in order to elicit “sympathy and the cash?” Thanks in advance. http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/Insight/-/688338/1301408/-/s5qqw8/-/
President, Human Rights Foundation
Ugandan gays are currently being persecuted by other Ugandans, including family members, simply for being gay. There is legislation pending in Uganda’s parliament, via the private bill of MP David Bahati, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, (also known as Kill-the-Gays Bill) which seeks to further define homosexuality as criminal and enhance the punishment for people who are homosexuals. The country already asserts that its law “crimes against the order of nature” criminalizes homosexual acts. However the law is unclear at this time and that is why Bahati is seeking stronger legislation.
In the following feeble response Sabiti fails to answer the direct question of Halvorssen and the very serious allegations he made, instead he sports red herring unsubstantiated rants in an attempt to circumvent answering:
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Sabiti Bernard Date: 9 January 2012 12:53
Subject: Fwd: you article about Frank Mugisha
Subject: Re: you article about Frank Mugisha
To: Thor Halvorssen
Dear Mr Halvorssen
Thanks for the inquiry. I am always amused by how easily the West believes what young, poor and mischievous youth in third world countries tell them when they are alleging harassment at the hands of their governments or begging for visas. I don’t think any of the organizations and individuals in North America and Europe supporting the gay movement in Uganda has made any background research on these “organizations” or on the alleged gay harassment, which should be basic practice by any credible donor. The rush to support or drum up support for SMUG and other gay organizational outfits in Uganda can at best be attributed to ideological emotions than sound reason.
I can give you evidence Mr. Halvorssen that shows that Many of the allegations Ugandan gay people give against their country is sensationalised and exaggerated that when the truth of all this is brought to the fore some time in future (Which, like many follies is bound to one day happen), the West won’t believe that someone took them for a ride for so many years.
As far as I (and other Ugandans) know,
1. No one has ever been killed in Uganda for being gay (The circumstances behind David Kato’s murder are now public knowledge here and who ever wants to see them can find them in the media and at the police. It was no different from other crimes of passion and burglaries, social feuds, etc that happen every day here in the Ugandan society)
2. No doctor has been imprisoned for treating a gay patient
3. There are no “500,000” gay people in Uganda
4. Few people had even ever heard of the “Rolling Stone” magazine before the “Hang the gays” debacle. A few like myself who read widely were familiar with the US magazine of the same name, and the the UK band, Rolling stones. isn’t it curious that after the furor the magazine immediately went into oblivion after apparently ‘settling’ with the gay people for sh.1.5 Million (USD600!). Where did Giles Mahame, the alleged publisher get all the phone numbers for the homosexuals? Did he know them?
All these would have been potential questions for an investigator or journalist to follow up on
If I had time, I could go on
As a researcher, I wonder What happened to your “Fact Checkers” in Europe and North America?
If one’s cause is a just one, does he need to lie to gain support?
The editor at the Sunday Monitor cut out my more perfect conclusion to that article, which was for the supporters of the Ugandan “gay cause”: “You have all a long been ‘Punk’ed”!
While accusing the west of failing in its journalism, Sabiti himself has written an article of pure conjecture, belying the myriad of evidence to the contrary. What could be more ridiculous than Gays asking for their own hanging just to get international attention.
I called Giles Muhame, publisher of Rolling Stone Tabloid Uganda, and author of the Hang the Gays Article to which Sabiti refers and asked for his comment on Sabiti’s claims against him and the Rolling Stone publication. I asked if gay Ugandans had outed themselves and if this was a stunt as suggested by Sabiti.
Muhame said he has never met , nor spoken to Sabiti and had no idea who he was. Muhame had also not read the article until I called.
Muhame said that Sabiti’s “words are mere speculation” that did not warrant an answer or any attention.
I followed my question by asking where Mr. Muhame had obtained the pictures of the outed gays in his article on “Hang the Gays.” Muhame informed me that the article and pictures used in outing the gays was based on the research and investigation of Rolling Stone Tabloid alone and from nowhere else, thereby discrediting Sabiti’s assertions.
That does not leave Sabiti with much as he fails to note is that the Kill the Gays Bill, at the hands of Bahati is what really captured international attention. Would Sabiti like to assert that the Bill is also a gay strategy to get attention?
What this all boils down to, the truth of which Sabiti and Ugandans can never escape, is the facts all on record and backed with proof:-
1. Scott Lively, Lou Engle and other Evangelical Christians have been spreading anti-gay rhetoric in Uganda, via conferences and other communication forms, serving clearly as the impetus for the Anti-homosexuality bill; (Video proof of the actual conference has been shown on U.S. TV and widely available on the Internet.)
2. Ugandan member of parliament, David Bahati introduced the Kill-The-Gays-Bill and has made admission on U.S. TV with regard to attitude towards homosexuals in Uganda;
3. Rolling Stone published faces of gay people without their permission;
4. The Ugandan Court, an independent branch of government, not western journalists, issued an injunction against Rolling Stone to defend gay people by ordering fines and the removal of the publication from the street. After which time Muhame told me in an interview that he had no intention of obeying the court order;
5. LGBTI people are seeking exile in foreign countries and telling their stories under oath to foreign courts, which stands as evidence in the international record about the persecution;
6. SMUG is not the only organization helping gays in Uganda;
7. Bishop Christopher Senyonjo has established a ministry with the help of St. paul’s foundation in the USA to counter the Christian right wing attacks on Uganda’s homosexuals, by providing safe place for those who have been persecuted;
8. The U.S. State Department has been apprised by envoys who have attended meetings in Uganda directly of the situation with regard to Gays and the anti-homosexuality Bills influence in Uganda.
I could go on…
There are no excuse for Uganda and their treatment of LGBTI people. Homosexuality is criminalized and harsher punishments are being sought. Until such time as homosexuality is decriminalized in that country and gays, lesbians, transgender and intersex people can exist in peace without persecution by the law, there can simply be no blaming the west or justification for the treatment of gays; nor will there be any perception of “fairness” unto gays.
Sabiti cannot get away – to use his own terminology – with “hogwash!” He should try checking sources next time, before speculating to the detriment of the LGBT citizens of Uganda. In his failure to do so, all he has done is notch up further persecution as he continues to victimize the gay community of Uganda with false and unsubstantiated assertions.
I think this so-called Sabiti is looking for cheap popularity. His response shows how misinformed and delusional he is. He is a mere speculator who articles must be dismissed with the contempt they deserve.
I am surprised Sunday Monitor carried his nonsense. Imagine Sabiti says: “isn’t it curious that after the furor the magazine immediately went into oblivion after apparently ‘settling’ with the gay people for sh.1.5 Million (USD600!).”
He is not aware High court justice Kibuuka Musoke ordered Shs4.5m (USD1,800) compensation for two lesbians and a gay man. And then he claims to be among “a few like myself who read widely.”
What kind of person is this? Is he normal? What he writes is what we call ‘sophisticated speculation’. Just x-rated fiction.
Sabiti writes: ” Where did Giles Mahame (he can not even write my name correctly), the alleged publisher get all the phone numbers for the homosexuals? Did he know them?” Where does the issue of phone numbers come in? Did i publish the gays’ phone numbers?
There is a popular saying that the death that will kill a man begins as an appetite. He has killed his credibility.
Thanks Mr. Muhame for commenting and providing clarity.
I am in Uganda (home) for holiday. While I read Sabiti’s article as homophobic, I will separate my emotions from critical analysis and dig deeper into his allegations. I suggest foreign journalists and bloggers learn to listen to both sides of the story. As a Ugandan LGBT activist, I know that foreign journalists are in part to blame for reporting on Ugandan LGBT issues with bias. If you came to Uganda, you would notice that things are not always that bad as they are portrayed in international media. Infact, things are geting better. Not worse. There are so many positive stories in our movement that are never told. It is our duty as activists to tell those stories even if they don’t seem to “make news for journalists” as one American journalist once told me as she explained why every time she has tried to report postive stories, her editor is not keen on publishing the story. The question is, how do we balance both sides of the Ugandan LGBT story?
While I appreciate your trying to show the positive side of Uganda and I believe there are many; as a writer on these issues I get e-mails constantly from Ugandan Gays and lesbians telling me stories about their lives and I have yet to receive a positive story from any gay person in Uganda.
The bottom line is being gay is criminalized in Uganda – PERIOD! Who you are is considered criminal.
How can there be any single positive thing derived from that concept?
So please there IS no balance at all to be had until homosexuality is decriminalized in your country. It is that simple. To blame journalists for shedding light on this fact is really unfair – for as long as you are a criminal in your own country and you have the good fortune- unlike others – to be able to live elsewhere! There are some who feel stuck in a place where they cannot hold the hand of their partner or even be in the same bed in privacy without fear of being told on! Factual stories I receive are from people begging to get out of Uganda. They want freedom to love who they love without fear. The only positive side of the LGBT story in Uganda is the fact that they have LGBT activists who are wiling to fight for this freedom. Until then please don’t ask me to tell the good stories – even though I have yet to see one!
As for things getting better? Bahati can bring the AHB at any time to a vote and may well succeed – the fact that the BILL still looms either in its current or any other format to me spells gloom. It gets better when the crime of your sexual orientation is knocked off the books and people stop writing articles in your Ugandan News papers using words like “bum-drillers.” You should be thanking the foreign press.
From my perspective – why am I writing these pieces. I do not earn one cent for my writing and pay for this site from my own pocket… WHY do I do it? Because I believe change and freedom is possible if stories are reported in local and international media. I want a free and equal world for all LGBT people. If you give me a cozy story I will write it too, but trust me the minute you attach names to the cozy gay story the authorities may just be knocking on their doors too – especially with a Bahati Bill enacted!
But isn’t it curious when a gay person from Uganda tells you that things aren’t as bad as you are making out and then you turn around and lecture that person that they are? Who knows better what the situation in Uganda is, you the writer from afar, or the LGBTI actually living the experience?
I, too, am gay, live in Uganda, and I agree with Kalende. Being gay in Uganda is no worse than being gay in Mississippi or South Dakota. You might also remember that the US Supreme Court outlawed anti-buggery laws in the US in 2003 I believe. 14 states have still not taken them off their books despite that. I didn’t hear writers calling Texas or Georgia the worst place in the world to be gay before the Supreme Court ruling or after. Yet you still hear of gay lynchings in those states even today. Doesn’t that tell us that legislation, while desirable, is not the be all end all?
We are the ones living the experience. Please listen to both sides and get some perspective if only because that is what is needed to build the bridges we need for our straight counterparts in Uganda to understand that we are not simply agenda-driven liberal extremists crying wolf for our own selfish interests while ignoring the greater abuses in our country. Ugandans die in far larger numbers per day in our terrible hospitals than LGBT have died at the hands of anti-gay persecutors in the last 10 years. A little circumspection would thus not come amiss.
The person from Uganda I believe has been living outside Uganda, where life may not be as difficult. To my way of thinking @Afrogay he who knows better is the activist in Uganda who wrote the article in the NY times that sparked this series of articles in the first place. His name is Frank Mugisha. If you have not heard of him, look him up in google! It is he who I respect and whose word I believe. because he is in the thick of what is going on in Uganda. I also believe all the atories I get via the ‘underground’ that we often do not make public because of the danger to those concerned. I believe the young woman who contacted me today who told me she is a lesbian who was just kicked out by her parents in Uganda has nowhere to go. That is who I believe!
On a relative scale who is anyone to say things are better or worse? It is bad for the one having the bad experience and they are having the bad experience because in Uganda being a homosexual or lesbian is considered a crime!!!
What is the point of comparing the South in the USA? I know thousands of gays who have left the South for the very reasons you say. All they have had to do is get in a car and travel North. They have not had to deal with VISAS, being refugees in a foreign Country. The USA does not CRIMINALIZE homosexuality, even though there is not full equality there.
SO please, I am happy you are living in Uganda and you are warm and safe and not afraid. You are indeed lucky,, because not everyone there is as lucky . Thanks for the comments though, I appreciate you visiting my site.