“Later on, our scientists argued that all homosexuality was by nurture not nature. On the basis of that, I agreed to sign the Bill although some people still contest that understanding. I was also provoked into signing the Bill by the arrogant approach of some foreign governments . . .” Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, New Vision, Oct. 3, 2014
Back in December 2013, when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni pondered the quandary the Parliament’s passing of a new, internationally reviled “Anti-Homosexuality Act” had delivered him into, he wrote a long letter to the body’s speaker and members floating potential reasons he might not sign the bill. One was that the bill had been passed without a quorum. The other was that he wasn’t yet sure what the “scientifically correct position” on the bill was. Scientists sought to answer him then, with a letter endorsed by clinicians, scientists, and academics in Uganda, as well as from across Africa, to no avail. Instead, Museveni decided to attend to the findings of a hastily convened, and then apparently censored committee that produced a report relying on outdated sources and just enough of what the Museveni had hinted was necessary to get him to sign the bill — the suggestion that homosexuality is “a product of nurture, not nature,” that the bill became law. The first obstacle Museveni had cited came later, in August, when a high court overturned the bill on the technicality that parliament had voted it in without a quorum.
Politically situated once again this October where he was last December, Museveni found a new problem with the law, and efforts to revive it, which he described at length in an essay last week published in Uganda’s New Vision: The law has made the country so unpopular that it could affect its trade status. In the essay, however, he revisits the questions he raised in December, writing: “What are the elements involved? There, (sic) are three types of homosexuals, according to my research ever since I was forced to focus on this issue . . .”
Opening the door again to research, carrying as it does the concepts of evidence and science, could give Museveni a chance to move on, a group of scientists is hoping. Through the Network of African Science Academies, and funded through the ASADI initiative, which seeks to develop capacities for evidence based policies in Africa, the group will form a committee of African scientists to provide independent and evidence-based answers to the questions Museveni has raised. The current plan is to finalize and launch a report in February. So stay tuned. Museveni still has a chance to listen to the answer to the question he has raised once again: “What is the way forward?”