This editorial appeared in the Mshale print edition that was on newsstands on March 1, 2014.
A sense of homophobia is sweeping throughout Africa. As we ushered in the New Year, parliaments in Uganda and Nigeria passed strict anti-gay legislation. President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria enthusiastically signed it into law with many analysts, including this paper, believing his signing was to distract the populace from other pressing matters facing Africa’s giant, including missing billons from the Central Bank. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda did not follow Mr. Jonathan’s lead at first but changed course late,r and as this edition went to press, he called a press conference to sign the new law publicly. Signing new laws in public is a rare thing in Uganda.
It is very common for African politicians to engage in populist anti-gay rhetoric for political gain to distract from their own failings. We would like to tell them they are setting up their countries for very bad times ahead. Bad times in the sense that the continent as a whole needs to use all the brains available to prosper the continent, and that includes gays. The continent cannot afford to rid itself of able bodied productive citizens with the hatred that is now rampant. The suicide rate has gone up among gays and especially gay teenagers and this is something Africa can ill afford.
Other countries are poised to follow Uganda and Nigeria in passing anti-gay legislation. Cameroon and Tanzania being one of them. We ask them to go in the opposite direction instead and work to protect the rights of all. Police rarely act when reports of violence against gays are made and this is a sad indictment of Africa that must be addressed.
Anti-gay legislation in our opinion is unjust discrimination that needs to be fought by all peace loving and fair minded individuals.
The mark of a great society is how they go about protecting the rights of minorities, action that even our own country the good old United States of America continues to learn as it never did a good job of it in the past.
You do not have to agree with the homosexual lifestyle to support the protection and rights of these individuals. Anytime the majority use their power and numbers to take away and restrict the rights of the minority, then the society is on a slippery slope.
Look around the world and you will find nations that are making great strides economically are those that make sure persecution is not meted out to vulnerable minorities.
To those African leaders busy proclaiming that homosexuality is “un-African”, that may well be the case but we would challenge them that what is more un-African is letting Western Christian fundamentalist groups descend on the continent and manipulate you into passing these unjust laws against gays.
African politicians need to do what is in the best interests of its people and we do not believe marginalizing and persecuting any of its people however distasteful that populace is serves to move Africa to the next level.
The last time we let the West play an important policy role in the affairs of African countries was with the damage causing Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) from the World Bank and IMF in the late 80s and early 90s. The programs sapped wealth out Africa and impoverished the continent and are now just recovering after we ditched them.