Travel Weekly Magazine Editor interviews President Museveni
President Museveni addresses Issues that Visitors might have about Uganda
Arnie Weissmann – Editor in chief of Travel Weekly Magazine interviews on Traveler Hot Button Issues regarding Uganda
This Interview was Posted on: June 12, 2012 in Travel Weekly
From President Museveni, reassurances, rationales on hot-button issues
By Arnie Weissmann – Editor in Chief – Travel – Weekly Magazine
Before leaving Uganda, I had arranged to interview its president, Yoweri Museveni, at the State House, his official residence, in Entebbe.
I wanted to ask him about three issues I felt had the potential to discourage tourists from visiting Uganda: oil drilling in game parks; the perception that war criminal Joseph Kony was still operating in the country; and legislation, instigated with the support of a small group of American evangelicals, that would mandate life in prison for Ugandans convicted of “homosexuality,” or the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as having sex if HIV-positive or with a minor.
Western governments have warned that if such legislation were passed, it would endanger foreign aid, and the fact that such legislation has even surfaced has tarnished Uganda’s image.
Regarding the drilling of oil, the president said, “The crucial thing would be to stop spillage. … If there is no spillage, there is really no problem.”
He also said that the 58 working wells in Uganda are “scattered” and that each well is not very large.
He added that assessments are made by the National Environmental Authority, “and [oil companies] only do what is permitted by the authority.”
I asked the president if he had seen “Kony 2012,” a video about Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which terrorized residents of northern Uganda for decades.
Although the video, viewed more than 90 million times on YouTube, does state toward the end that Kony is no longer in Uganda, most of the video focuses on his deeds when he was in the country and leaves a negative impression of Uganda.
The president said he had not seen the video. “I know the story [better] than the video,” he said.
Kony is “1,000 miles from our border …and he will never come back,” Museveni said. He added that Uganda troops are involved in “hunting the remnants” of his followers. “They are not a threat to us.”
Regarding the anti-gay legislation, Museveni alternately showed annoyance with Western judgments on African traditions and issued reassurances that such legislation will not become law, even if passed by the legislature.
“There’s a problem, because it seems some people in the West think that everybody’s ignorant except themselves,” he said. “For legislation to pass into law, I must sign it.”
He said he believes there should be “no persecution, no discrimination, no killing” of gay people.
Museveni noted that some prominent chiefs in the country’s history were gay. “They were known, but they were not persecuted,” he said. “They were not killed. They were not discriminated against.” And, the president pointedly noted, they did not talk about their homosexuality.
What happens in private, regardless of sexual orientation, is private, he said, but Western critics should respect that in Uganda, any public display of affection, gay or straight, would be offensive.
He is 67 years old, he said, and “I have never kissed my wife in public. Now, what are we to do about this? Will somebody come and say [I] must kiss in public? That’s not our culture. Because in our culture, anything to do with love is private, away from children, away from other people. Bilateral, between two people. ”
Museveni said he did feel it should be illegal to induce children into sexual activity, whether homosexual or heterosexual. “That’s the only possibility [for harsh punishment] we could be talking about,” he said.
Arnie Weissmann – Editor in Chief of the Travel Weekly Magazine that keeps those in the Travel Business aware of the latest trends in the business of travel. Arnie Weismann was taking a look at Uganda as a travel destination which resulted in a feature article in the Travel Weekly Magazine titled “Uganda – Considered.” During his time here he had an interview with President Museveni at Statehouse in Entebbe, Uganda.
The Interview addressed three issues that might concern western travelers coming to Uganda. Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, Oil Drilling in or near National Parks and the issue of anti-gay legislation that is still on the table in parliament. Two of the issues, the one about Joseph Kony’s presence in Uganda and the issue of what some in the west call the anti-gay death bill. Both of those issues are based on misperceptions about Uganda, Ugandans and Ugandan Culture.
Here is the reality – Kony 2012 was a gross misrepresentation by the Invisible Children Media Group, in fact it was an exploitation of Uganda bordering on neo-colonialism and using Uganda for its purposes. People who were ready to travel to Uganda quietly changed their mind, jobs in the tourism industry may have been lost due to the self-interest media group of Invisible children whose footprint in Uganda is minimal compared to many other western NGO’s. President Museveni n his response to Arnie Weismann about Joseph Kony was much too nice, much too gracious knowing fully well that “Invisible Children” with its Kony 2012 video and 900 million views had damaged the image of the Pearl of Africa – Uganda. Joseph Kony and the Lord’s resistance Army have not been inside of Uganda since 2006 –yet Kony 2012 made it look like Uganda was a war zone.
The anti-gay legislation called in the west the anti-gay death bill is also the result of misrepresentations about Uganda, and its African Culture and Values. To begin with most of African nations have similar legislation as Uganda has presently, a notable exception is South Africa, however in South Africa the African populace has often not gone along with the laws in place. An interesting point is that legislation that now exists regarding gays in Uganda was not put into place by Africans, by Ugandans but by the Colonial Powers and in the case of Uganda the British Colonial Administration. The same applies in Kenya and Tanzania.
In Uganda the Anti-Gay Bill was proposed not by the executive branch of Uganda but by a member of parliament, David Bahati and that bill, has caused much furor on the internet, also statements by various governments and even a call not to visit Uganda. The reality is that once again as stated by President Museveni in the above interview is that President Museveni will not sign the bill if passed by parliament. It will not become law. The present British anti-gay laws on the books in Uganda are rarely enforced.
Most Ugandans are concerned about a better life for them and for their children, having a brighter future and a better tomorrow – though culturally Ugandans like most of Africa are against homosexuality they do not care what happens behind closed doors and one should read carefully the statement by President Museveni in the interview above. “What happens in private, regardless of sexual orientation, is private, he said, but Western critics should respect that in Uganda, any public display of affection, gay or straight, would be offensive. He is 67 years old, he said, and “I have never kissed my wife in public. Now, what are we to do about this? Will somebody come and say [I] must kiss in public? That’s not our culture. Because in our culture, anything to do with love is private, away from children, away from other people. Bilateral, between two people. ”
The good thing that has happened because of the David Bahati Anti-Gay Bill – Ugandans began to discuss homosexuality more openly in columns in various news papers including one John Nagenda in the government newspaper –New Vision where he ended the column by writing “When times have changed, if they change enough, then these words will include a leavening of same-sex relationships. Gradualism is not a sin. But hunting down people for same-sex love, I believe to be a sin, against Love, one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. (I say all this without being a homosexual.) Parliament should not pass this Bill.”
What Africans, Ugandans resent is a perceived meddling and the lecturing of Ugandans about their culture and ways, this is called “Bad Manners” in Uganda. When President Obama came out for same-sex marriages there was an outcry throughout Africa, including Uganda that may have hardened many against the gay community across the continent.
Are Gay Travelers safe in Uganda, the answer is yes-follow the advice of President Museveni regarding Public affection and read a statement from the Uganda Tourism Board stating that the board“condemns any form of discrimination against Ugandan citizens and all other nationals for their religious, cultural and sexual orientation. We would also like to clarify that the anti-homosexuality bill that was tabled in the Uganda Parliament last year was in fact a private member’s bill which the government of Uganda withdrew. Uganda Tourism Board welcomes all intending visitors to Uganda regardless of their sexual or cultural orientation and will continue to work with the Ugandan police and other agencies to ensure that their stay is peaceful and enjoyable.”
Oil and National Parks and Wildlife Reserves-stopping spillage is one thing, preventing environmental damage from drilling itself is another – and the oil refinery that is being planned all add to concerns to those who are involved in Tourism and Conservation and Preservation of one of Uganda’s heritage – its parks and wildlife.
From the Pearl of Africa where it is another lovely day – enjoy Uganda…jon
“If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.” John Hemingway, African Journeys