By Karen Ocamb
Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway—who deserves a Pulitzer Prize for his excellent reporting on the horrific situation in Uganda created by the U.S. Religious Right—indicates that the Uganda Parliament will probably take up the “Kill the Gays” bill up on Tuesday. And as if the bill wasn’t terrible enough—Burroway reports today that one of the reasons it’s being taken up is as a distraction from a fight over who will control the country’s oil:
Right now, Parliament is in a fierce argument over two bills, one to regulate the exploration, development and production, and a second to regulate its refining, storage and transportation. Those two bills appear in Parliament’s Orders Papers ahead of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is currently listed under “Notice of Business to Follow.”
Several members of Parliament are trying to block the oil bills over what they decry as its lack of transparency and the overly-broad powers granted to the Energy Minister, who is a Presidential appointee, to negotiate, grant, and revoke oil contracts with virtually no oversight. This only guarantees that the floodgates of corruption will open even wider. Some M.P.s threaten a public demonstration on Tuesday, with police promising to break up any “unauthorized” demonstrations. Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, warned via Twitter that the ruling party in Parliament may decide to take up the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in order to divert attention from the demonstration. Mugisha isn’t the only one to see a connection between the anti-gay legislation and oil. Last February, journalist Dayo Olopade noticed that three days before the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced into Parliament, President Yoweri Museveni had signed a controversial new contract:
“You’d think that the government, given pressure regarding the oil sector, would begin the legislative session with the oil reforms,” says Angelo Izama, an experienced Ugandan journalist on the oil beat. “But they began with the gay bill. It’s not accidental.” The semi-successful diversion, coupled with disregard for parliamentary procedures, illustrates the lack of checks on the behavior of the Museveni government.