Tánaiste raises concerns about possible anti-gay laws in Uganda
IRISH GOVERNMENT concerns in relation to the possible introduction of draconian anti-homosexuality laws in Uganda were raised by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at a meeting with the country’s leader, president Yoweri Museveni, yesterday.
Homosexuality is already a criminal offence under Uganda’s penal code but there have been no prosecutions in recent years. However, a member of Mr Museveni’s party has brought private members’ legislation to parliament proposing regressive and far more severe laws.
Mr Gilmore, also Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, held an hour-long meeting with Mr Museveni yesterday at a state lodge in the southern city of Masaka, a discussion he afterwards described as “very productive”.
“The legislation is being proposed by private members’ motion in relation to homosexuality. I pointed out that the Irish Government takes a very strong view on this human rights issue,” said Mr Gilmore.
He said Mr Museveni had said his party had yet to adopt an official view on the proposal. Asked had he received reassurance, Mr Gilmore said the Irish Government would “wait and see” what emerged.
He said the meeting had ranged over a number of issues including the development of economic ties not just between Ireland and Uganda but also between the EU and Africa at a wider level. He said Ireland would develop that in its role as president of the EU.
The two had also discussed the substantial Irish Aid programme to Uganda as well as issues raised by Irish businesspeople based in Uganda at a meeting with Mr Gilmore earlier yesterday. Some of these revolved around obstacles they faced when trying to establish businesses.
Mr Gilmore said president Museveni had not minced his words in relation to this. “He spoke very directly about the problems of corruption, particularly in lower areas of local government. He committed himself to resolve those and said he would make available an official in his office to liaise with the Irish embassy,” he said.
Speaking to reporters, president Museveni praised the work done by Irish Aid in Uganda.
“It has had achievements in education and health. They have done wonderful work,” he said.
During the meeting, the president had placed great emphasis on the need to develop infrastructure in Uganda, which remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The road network is poor and only 10 per cent of households have electricity.
Mr Museveni is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, having become president some 26 years ago after leading an armed rising. He has won successive elections since then and brought stability and peace to a country which had plunged into fragmentation and chaos during the reign of former president Idi Amin.
The president said that once all the infrastructure was in place, the problem of corruption would diminish.
He also disclosed a huge interest in Michael Collins, and has drawn parallels between the civil wars in Ireland and Uganda. He was not a fan of Eamon de Valera, he told the Tánaiste.
Mr Gilmore defended the founder of a rival party.
“I told him that I thought that de Valera was a bit unfairly treated in the film [Michael Collins] and that Dev had played a part in the 1916 rising and had been sentenced to death,” he said.