Melanie Nathan, an LGBT activist originally from South Africa, has posted a note of both caution and action for foreigners who are viewing the situation in Uganda with alarm and anger. It is a statement from several groups on the ground there on what they feel will and will not be helpful under the current circumstances.
Dear Partners, friends and colleagues,
We thank you for all the support you have a accorded the Coalition since the tabling of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009, and we look forward to your continued collaboration in the struggle to see this bill dismissed once and for all.
In response to the recent claims made by the Hon Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament that she would see the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed before this year comes to a close, we urge you to adhere to the following Action Alert Guidelines and to always seek clarification where there is a difference of opinion on tactics or where there is confusion or need for further information.
We encourage you to:
1. Urgently engage with the leadership of the nation (the President, the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition, The Speaker, the Minister for Gender Labor and Social Development, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Justice and any other Cabinet Ministers that you can engage with, the Inspector General of Police and the Principal Judge) to impress upon them the needlessness and imminent harm of this bill. This must however been done diplomatically and off the media. There should not be any media/public admonitions PLEASE!
2. Engage with any non-LGBTI partner organizations in Uganda that you may collaborate with or whom you fund to establish what their thinking is on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, as well as their thinking on other related legislative moves such as the proposal to amend the Penal Code in line with the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. We would strongly encourage other mainstream Ugandan organizations such as human rights NGOs and entities like the Uganda Law Society to speak out strongly against the impartiality of the speaker as well as this draconian bill.
3. Draw international public attention to issues such as corruption (tagging it to the recent corruption cases in the Ministry of Public Service and the Office of the Prime Minister), human trafficking, nodding disease in northern, land-grabbing, as well as the suppression of media freedom and civil society space, so that attention shifts to where it properly belongs; in the best interests of the country’s population as a whole.
4. Go ahead with any preparations of statements, campaigns, and other public documents for when the bill appears on the Order Paper of Parliament (you will be alerted when this happens) as well as for a worst-case scenario in which the Bill is passed into law.
5. Contribute physical, financial, or technical support to the LGBTI community as well as the exposed Human Rights Defenders working with LGBTI rights who are likely to begin to be arrested and charged almost as soon as the Bill is passed. The entire leadership of the Uganda Coalition has decided that any such assistance shall be channeled through a central point at the CSCHRCL secretariat from where it shall be communally managed.
6. Engage with your policy makers to take stronger measures to ensure that LGBTI issues are mainstreamed into calls for proposals, grant agreements, project design, implementation and evaluation as part of a long term strategy to establish LGBTI friendly services and programmes for all Ugandans as an inclusive practice.
We urge that you do NOT:
1. DO NOT Put out any public press statements on the Bill for now. But you can express your opinion if asked about the Bill. However this opinion must be candid and practical without being ‘insulting’.
2. DO NOT Make strong public statements threatening to cut aid or in support of such threats in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, as this can lead to scape-goating of the LGBTI community as well as Human Rights Defenders working with LGBTI rights and whip up sentiments for the Bill. Please note; We would like Ugandans to take charge of this campaign for now. Only if the Bill is mentioned/programmed in the Business of Parliament or passed into law shall we encourage a fully-fledged international outcry which can come in all forms such as; Public statements (written or spoken), public letters, solidarity campaigns, peaceful protests, interviews, opinion pieces et cetera.
I reformatted the letter slightly to make it easier to read. It’s worth keeping in mind if we want to be more effective than expressive with our outrage.