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Homosexual rights: Africa in the dock

The Arena Hildegarde
MY headline last week "Of 'attractive bride', suitors devoid of 'sex appeal'", was deliberately naughty and provocative, but little did I anticipate that the caveat in the 4th EU-Africa Summit in Brussels would actually impinge so much on sexuality.

The attractive bride was greeted by a suitor of questionable sexual orientation.

This led the Saturday Herald's weekly columnist Nathaniel Manheru on April 5 to ask: "Now, can you imagine R.G. sitting nonchalantly in that European seat, taking in meekly and mutely this message from an European gay prime minister - apparently the second one on that accursed subcontinent

- to say to African leaders, 'please accord homosexuality the status of primary rights', or else we, the Europeans 'will not tolerate it'?

"I am trying to visualise President Mugabe sunk in an EU conference chair in Brussels, listening to the following words from one Mr Di Rupo: 'We cannot tolerate that some are denied their rights and persecuted for their origins, sexual orientation, their religion and their convictions.'" "Mr Di Rupo is no nobody. He is Belgium's openly gay premier, something which leaves me wondering whether my use of the pronominal gender 'he' is accurate, is shorn of unwanted connotations even".

Most of us would bet our bottom dollar that President Mugabe would not have allowed this to pass but would have addressed the issue not as a by-line to the media, but to the entire Anglo-Saxon world. Africa's representatives failed us by not challenging this veiled precondition to bilateral and multi-lateral engagements The EU-Africa Summit endorsed the 2014-2017 roadmap setting out strategic priorities, which were: peace and security; democracy, good governance and human rights; human development, e.t.c.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy told the media that there would be a fundamental shift from aid to trade and investment under the "Economic Partnership Agreements". Therein lies the challenge, which Africa is supposed to deal with, and all I can say is, best of luck, because the climb to the top is not as easy as the high sounding developmentspeak terms.

In-between, the drumbeat on gays and same-sex marriage has been sounding louder, their rights looming larger than those of straight people to the extent that the former are now in the forefront of fighting for these "minority" people's rights, for as UFIC's Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa said recently, they own and control the purse strings and swathes of that cash make up for the donations and the FDIs that Africa seems so desperate to have.

In fact the Belgian PM's was only sounding how future EUAfrica relations will be treated: on this very issue - homosexuality as a rights issue.

To bolster the Western stance was the Bishop of Canterbury Justin Welby who had to use Africa to reposition the Anglican Church in the gay/ same-sex marriage debate when he said at the end of last week, "African Christians will be killed if the Church of England accepts gay marriage ...

Justin Welby said he had stood by a mass grave in Nigeria (South Sudan according to other reports) of 330 Christians who had been massacred by neighbours who had justified the atrocity by saying: 'If we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians. I have stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America. We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact,'" said Welby.

Africa must be very wary of this because Christians and tradionalists alike have said no to homosexuality, and it becomes even more challenging that the Church of England which faces split on this very issue should use cheap propaganda to give its position as the Church of Jesus Christ. Very soon, more than half of the AU membership - will be off to Washington for another Summit with US president Barack Obama.

They will talk and talk and since it is with Big Brother, the message will be relayed as bluntly as happened in the past, play ball on gay rights or ship out. What was amazing was Africa's conspicuous silence in Brussels, despite the noises that have been made in the past. Should it be translated as indirect agreement of the accommodation of these 'rights' issue in future engagements?

Most of these countries like Uganda and Nigeria have elaborate legislation against homosexuality, but they still failed to engage on this issue openly and honestly, putting their options on the table just like the Belgian premier did on behalf of the Anglo-Saxon world, and in that instance the rights of the peoples of Africa. Technical knock-out!

I feel vindicated by the piece I wrote on July 17, 2013: "July 31 vote vis--vis the sexual revolution" where I hinted that Africa must wake up from its slumber and protect the continent's values against the onslaught of the sexual revolution. It might have been about Zimbabwe's watershed poll, but this was also an Africa-wide issue: A recent discussion by panellists from the Association of Christian Media on Trinity Broadcasting Network made me realise the fundamental issues that make the 2013 election historic.

Although the panellists spoke about how Christianity reshapes culture versus popular consensus, and also questioned whether Christians are losing ground in contemporary politics, it was the onslaught of the sexual revolution in the 21st century that caught my attention. They pointed out that we are now living in a "world that is dying", where agendas that are against Christian principles are being pushed on Africans, and the only way out is unity of purpose, in order to advance the kingdom of God. The West is dangling gay rights as an inducement to donor funding.

Last month (June 2013), Obama visited Africa and the first major issue he raised with Senegalese President Macky Sall was that of gay rights. That wasn't coincidental. He was just showing that the agenda setting was moving one level up. Instead of dealing with rights groups, he had to say it to his African counterparts.

Saying it to one was just as good as saying it to all since the media would advance the agenda. Obama who was lauding the US Supreme Court's landmark ruling on same-sex marriage as a "victory for American democracy" added that "at the root of who we are as a people, who we are as Americans, is the basic precept that we are all equal under the law ... I want the African people to just hear what I believe ... My basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you ... people should be treated equally".

Ahead of Obama's Africa visit, US-based rights group Amnesty International issued a report on gay rights alleging that "threats to gays and lesbians were reaching dangerous levels". All this was in the frame of promoting the sexual revolution.

We should also bear in mind that British Prime Minister David Cameron set the tone at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Perth, Australia, in 2011. Apart from accusing Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi of criminalising homosexuality, Britain said African states that persecute gays would have their aid cut.

Zambia's chief government spokesperson Given Lubinda said his country was a sovereign state and would make independent decisions and that it was improper that Cameron was using aid as a way of influencing the policies and laws of Zambia, or any other country for that matter.

Uganda's presidential adviser John Nagenda said, "Uganda is, if you remember, a sovereign state and we are tired of being given these lectures ... If they must take their money, so be it".

The late Ghanaian president John Atta Mills was the first to tell Cameron off, saying that if these were the strings they were attaching, then, Britain might as well keep its aid. After such an uproar from African leaders, we never expected Obama to force feed the matter on Africa again; making it look like Africa is incapable of choosing what it deems good and acceptable. The West's influence on this matter and in the church cannot be under-estimated. As the swell of the sexual revolution grows, will the church stands up to it so that Africa will in turn be the light of the world and not the "dark continent?"

The success of EPAs will be based in large part on this issue, and for Africa, the honeymoon is over. For now it is in the dock. Will it plead its case?





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