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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 44
African countries defy pressure for Gay rights
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African countries defy pressure for Gay rights

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A number of African countries have responded with anger after British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to cut aid to countries that refuse to repeal anti-LGBT laws.

Speaking at a Commonwealth Conference in October, Cameron said he would consider discontinuing a type of British foreign aid known as 'general budget support' if Commonwealth members continued to discriminate against their LGBT citizens.

General budget support is aid money that is not earmarked for special projects like HIV/AIDS treatment.

'Britain is one of the premier aid givers in the world. We want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights,' Cameron told the Commonwealth Conference.

'We are saying that is one of the things that determines our aid policy, and there have been particularly bad examples where we have taken action.'

Cameron said he had spoken with 'a number of African countries' and that Foreign Secretary William Hague had also applied diplomatic pressure.

Forty-one countries within the 54-member Commonwealth have laws banning same-sex relations.

While Cameron's remarks were greeted with enthusiasm by LGBT rights advocates, the African governments he was addressing reacted with anger.

Ugandan presidential adviser John Nagenda accused Cameron of showing an 'ex-colonial mentality' and of treating Ugandans 'like children.'

'Uganda is, if you remember, a sovereign state and we are tired of being given these lectures by people,' he told BBC's Newshour. 'If they must take their money, so be it.'

Nagenda added that the Ugandan parliament would probably not approve the so-called 'Kill-the-Gays' bill that provoked international outrage against his country.

'I believe it will die a natural death. But this kind of ex-colonial mentality of saying: 'You do this or I withdraw my aid' will definitely make people extremely uncomfortable with being treated like children,' Nagenda said.

Reacting to the news, Uganda Radio Network reporter Charles Odongpho, said Cameron's concern was misplaced.

'I welcome any move to pressure our government to be respectful of democratic values and human rights but speaking as a Ugandan I think we have much more important issues to deal with than the rights of homosexuals.

'This is your money and you know where you want to put it but we face very serious issues of corruption, poverty, education, and hunger. These are the most critical issues for us, not homosexual rights.'

Ghana's president, John Atta Mills, accused Cameron of trying to impose foreign vales on his country.

'I, as president, will never initiate or support any attempt to legalize homosexuality in Ghana.' Atta Mills said.

Atta Mills added that Cameron was entitled to his views, but he did not have the right to 'direct to other sovereign nations as to what they should do.'

Ghana's trade and industry minister, Hannah Tetteh, said that same-sex relationships are unacceptable in African culture and should not be imposed by outsiders.

'Every society has its norms and what it considers to be acceptable. In the Western world it is acceptable to have Gay relationships and even move on to the next level to Gay marriages; in our society it is unacceptable,' she said in an apparent reference to Cameron's promise to legalize same-sex marriage before the next British election.

On October 31, the day after Cameron's speech, Ghanaweb news service reported that three Gay men were arrested after appearing on a Jerry Springer-style TV show. In July, the governor of Ghana's Western region threatened to arrest every LGBT person in his province.

In Malawi, government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati said it was 'unfortunate' for Britain to tie 'pro-Gay strings' to aid. She added that anti-Gay laws are a legacy of British rule.

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