Uganda’s president on Friday signalled he is having second thoughts over tough anti-homosexuality legislation, arguing the impoverished east African nation needed to consider the impact on trade and economic growth.
In an editorial carried by a leading national daily, veteran President Yoweri Museveni said he only signed off on a controversial anti-gay law earlier this year because he wanted to protect children and stop people being “recruited” into homosexuality.
But he said that although Uganda could endure aid cuts, it would be badly hit by a trade boycott.
The comments, carried by the New Vision newspaper, came as Ugandan MPs are trying to present anti-gay legislation for a second time. A previous bill had been voted through and signed off on by Museveni earlier this year, but was struck down by the constitutional court on a technicality.
The legislation would see homosexuals potentially jailed for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and obliges Ugandans to denounce gays to the authorities — and the country has been facing condemnation from key allies and donors including the European Union and United States.
Museveni said Uganda now needed to take stock of its national interests in deciding what to do next.
The president, aged 70 and one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, said he had been in touch with David Bahati, an MP and key architect of the legislation, and told him to link him up with “delegations of business people” to “discuss and see how to resolve this issue”.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under a 1950s Penal Code which lumps sodomy together with bestiality and prescribes a maximum sentence of life in jail — although according to rights groups there have been no convictions under the old code.