Uganda's Museveni says new gay law risks trade boycott by the West

Fri Oct 3, 2014 11:16am EDT
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By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said his country risks a trade boycott by the West if it reintroduces a divisive anti-gay law that was rejected by the constitutional court.

The original version of the law passed in February punished gay sex with long prison terms and alarmed Western donors, some of whom withheld aid in protest. The constitutional court overturned it on a technicality in August.

Since then there has been debate among ruling party lawmakers in the east African nation on whether to re-issue the law, but without tough penalties for consenting adults.

In a commentary on Friday in the state-run New Vision daily, Museveni said he was not worried by the aid cuts that followed the initial law, but warned of a trade boycott by companies in the West.

He said re-issuing the anti-gay law would likely antagonize consumers in the West, risking access to a rich export market. "To carelessly and needlessly open unnecessary wars with useful customers is irresponsible to say the least," he wrote.

Homosexuality remains taboo in Uganda and many socially conservative African societies where some religious groups have branded it a corrupting Western import.

The original passage of the anti-gay law was celebrated with a rally in the city center against homosexuals, which Museveni attended and where he was thanked for signing the bill by religious leaders from various denominations.

Donors, who finance about 20 percent of Uganda's annual budget, lauded its annulment, and some have resumed lending. The U.S. described the court's decision as "an important step in the right direction for human rights" in Uganda.   Continued...

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni arrives to attend the Africa Union Peace and Security Council Summit on Terrorism at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, September 2, 2014. REUTERS/Noor Khamis