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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 14, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 02
Leave Gays alone, says Uganda presidential candidate
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Leave Gays alone, says Uganda presidential candidate

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Ugandan presidential candidate Kizza Besigye - long-time leader of the opposition to incumbent president Yoweri Museveni - said he would decriminalize same-sex relations if he is elected.

Besigye is challenging Museveni for the third time in a vote scheduled for February 18.

'This is something that is done in the privacy of people's rooms, between consenting adults,' Besigye said in a town hall-style TV appearance on January 10.

The issue has 'generated far too much excitement' among current government leaders, he said.

Resources the police devote to investigating Gay people 'could be better spent elsewhere,' Besigye added.

Besigye is a retired colonel in the Ugandan army and the chairman of the Forum for Democratic Change.

He first ran against Museveni in 2001, and filed an unsuccessful suit to block Museveni's election amidst charges of widespread fraud. The Ugandan Supreme Court ruled 5-0 that the election was fraudulent, but declined to overturn it by a vote of 3-2.

Later the same year, Museveni had him arrested, interrogated, and deported to the U.S.

Besigye returned to Uganda in 2005 to run for the presidency again, and was arrested a second time.

In the 2006 elections, he lost to Museveni once more in another election marred by fraud and violence.

Uganda's penal code bans sexual acts 'against the order of nature,' an expression adopted from the country's colonial-era laws, and held to cover same-sex relations among other acts.

In 2009, a lawmaker allied with Museveni introduced legislation to expand the list of Gay sex crimes and add the death penalty for 'aggravated homosexuality' and 'serial offenders.'

The bill has not yet been debated in parliament, and Museveni last year urged ruling party lawmakers to 'go slow' on the bill, following an international outcry against the measure.

David Bahati, the bill's author, said recently that he would do 'whatever it takes' to see the bill passed, however.

Both Museveni and Bahati are protégés of the secretive U.S. Christian-right group The Family. Many observers believe that The Family engineered the 'kill the Gays' bill.

In a speech last year, Besigye said that the measure was being used to divert attention away from 'the real urgent issues - human rights abuses, rampant corruption.'

'The enthusiasm with which the anti-homosexuality bill has been introduced I find suspicious and dubious and ominous,' he said.

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