The Red Pepper tabloid published a list of names of gay Ugandans, inciting fear and violence.  Photograph by Stephen Wandera

The Red Pepper tabloid published a list of names of gay Ugandans, inciting fear and violence.
Photograph by Stephen Wandera

As a Ugandan, am always eager to provide information about my country because it’s a worthy cause. However, am getting fatigued by questions that wreck my patience.

“Oh, so you’re from Uganda! Wait, your President says gay people should be killed and he passed a law to that effect! Do you also support that anti-gay law? Is it true that the leader of the gay people was killed by government? As a human rights activist, what are you doing to ‘HELP’ Ugandans understand that gay people have rights?”

In the first ten seconds of searching through my mind for a ‘right’ response, am thinking, can we get to the basics here?

As a country, Uganda got its independence in 1962 and has since had eight Presidents, with the current one ruling for more years than the other seven combined. It has a land mass of 204,559sq kms sustaining 34,856,813 people with 77% under 30 years of age. We are a diverse society with 65 tribes and 85.4% of the people subscribing to the Christian faith. We primarily depend on agriculture but by 2040, we are optimistic that we will have transformed to a manufacturing country courtesy of foreign direct investment. We have the second highest birth rate in the world (6.05%) and are the second highest consumers of alcohol in Africa (11.93 liters per year)

With this basic information, it’s evident that we have a lot to contend with. There are glaring leadership issues, population growth with a dwindling resource base, economic transformation without strict enforcement of regulations to protect the people and a seemingly resigned population. Incidentally, these issues affect our ability to meet our families’ primary needs of food, shelter and medication. As we struggle to address these needs, I am honestly constrained to invest energies in ‘helping’ the people understand gay rights.

I strongly believe that people have a right to make their choices and live by them and for that, I neither condemn nor condone homosexuality. However, with reference to the hullabaloo following the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda (2014) and its nullification after a few months, it was evident that the gay debate was used by our selfish leaders to fight political battles internally and beyond. Being an emotive issue, they didn’t break any sweat in rallying masses to protest against homosexuality yet in real sense, ordinary Ugandans have no business ‘snooping’ into people’s backyards to know what they are doing or who they are doing it with because it barely affects their pursuit of basic needs. On the other hand, the debate provided enough fodder to the international media to feed on. Ultimately they spewed out lame analyses that the world is now using to define us.

So as I try to figure out a response to the random questions, I always notice two reactions; one of more probing for a response and the other of demeaning stares seeming to propose that I’m against gay rights. Some are even bold enough to say it to my face. Lately, I have resolved to simply look on during times when this conversation comes up because I am growing weary of people’s judgement before they even hear my response. Sadly, even keeping quiet is interpreted as my non-verbal expression of detest for everything gay; pheeeewwwww!!

Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity and one holds out a wrapped condom, as they stage a rare protest. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause stage a protest. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

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