A firestorm was bound to ensue when David Cameron, the British Prime Minister declared that Britain should use its moral authority and aid as a tool to bring about a step change in the way Gay people were treated in Africa. For a start anti-Gay laws in most African countries were first put in place by the British government during the colonial era. It also worth noting that some African communities have always had a way, albeit non-Western, of integrating Gays into their communities.
A brazen and arrogant pronouncement by David Cameron and the Commonwealth was always going to ruffle a few feathers on the continent. Admittedly, Cameron made his pronouncements in a speech to Gay and Bisexual people in London, and perhaps did not foresee the response from a continent that is increasingly starting to live up to its potential and perhaps could afford to defy Cameron. Ghana, which according to the IMF is on course to be the fastest growing economy in the world in 2012 receives £85 million from Britan annually, a sum that is or will soon be considered paltry as the country becomes richer.
Ghana’s President, Atta Mills responded to Cameron by stating that he would “never initiate or support any attempt to legalise homosexuality in Ghana”. Uganda and a plethora of other African countries have all stated that they would rather forego British aid than take orders from the old colonial “master”. In an interview with a British newspaper, John Nagenda, adviser to President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, stated that “There are many of us in Uganda who think that homosexual people should be given a fair chance. But we don’t think this will happen overnight and certainly not as the result of the threats of Mr Cameron,”
Today the Nigerian government passed a bill that calls for a 14-year sentence for anyone convicted of homosexuality. Anyone who aids or “abets” same-sex unions faces 10 years in prison, a provision that could target rights groups. The bill goes to the nation’s House of Representatives for a vote before Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan can sign it into law.
If Cameron’s agenda was to advocate for Gays and Lesbians accross Africa, then he has done a pretty bad job of it. The backlash mixed with anti-colonial feelings is now having a detrimental effect on Gays and Lesbians across Africa as African countries scramble to set more punitive measures for same sex marriage. In such a hostile climate, abuses and discrimination against Gays are not likely to be priority.
In the video below, A Gay Nigerian man talks about the sudden turn in the tide against Gays in his country.
In Ghana the Daily Guide Newspaper reports on demonstrations held by Women groups joined by religious bodies to “condemned western powers for encouraging the act and imposing foreign cultural values on Ghanaians in the name of promoting human rights and development through support for poverty alleviation programmes.” The demonstrators carried placards, some of which read: ‘Gay life is an Abomination’, ‘Man Should not Marry a Man’, ‘Man to Man-No, Woman to Woman-No’, ‘Homosexuality is Animal Life’ and ‘Western Powers Keep Your Money and your Gay life’.
Perhaps Cameron should have sought the council of Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Irish president from 1990 to 1997 who stated recently that “using economic levers to force change was “unhelpful”. “Obviously I am very keen to see a better approach to the whole issue in Africa. It is a worry that African countries are taking the punitive position [against homosexuals] they are. But I firmly believe the change that is needed must come from within”