KAMPALA — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Tuesday an anti-homosexuality bill which has caused international condemnation was also a foreign policy issue which should be addressed.
With observers arguing the bill could harm foreign support for Uganda, the president distanced himself from senior cabinet members who insist that Uganda will not be swayed by foreign pressure.
"I strongly advise you that we agree that the cabinet sit down with (the bill's sponsor lawmaker David) Bahati and see how best to handle this issue," Museveni said at the ruling National Resistance Movement party's executive conference at State House in Entebbe.
"Because it is a foreign policy issue, it is not just our internal politics, and we must handle it in a way which does not compromise our principles but also takes into account our foreign policy interests," he said, in a speech broadcast by the independent KFM radio station.
"So let's be systematic among ourselves, and then we dialogue with these Europeans and the Americans and then we shall come up with a final position," he added.
The draft law has been harshly condemned by the United States and European Union but Ugandan Minister for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo, one of the bill's leading proponents, insists that Uganda will not be moved by foreign criticism.
"Nobody, nobody, nobody has the right to think for Ugandans. Nobody has the right to impose their values on a sovereign state," he said last month.
The bill would impose the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality", applicable in cases of rape of a minor by a person of the same sex, or where one partner carries the AIDS virus.
It would also criminalise public discussion of homosexuality and could penalise an individual who knowingly rents property to a homosexual.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, punishable by life imprisonment in some instances. The penal code identifies "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" as an offence.
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