|Students in Uganda: the target of the evangelicals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Entebbe, July 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|English: Uganda (orthographic projection) |
If I thought there was too much religion in the film about Haiti that I wrote about yesterday, imagine how I feel about the film on Uganda that I saw last night!
Cinema Politica Concordia, that is living up to its reputation for producing timely information on matters of importance, managed (by happenstance, I imagine) to screen a film about the American-induced hatred of homosexuals imposed on and in Uganda, just one day after the Parliament there passed a homophobic law that would imprison homosexual practitioners for up to ten years.
The film God Loves Uganda, was screened in the context of a parallel festival of films of LGBT Afro-Caribbean interest by a group called Massimadi. The reference to Love in the title of Roger Ross Williams’ film is ironic, of course, since there is nothing about love either in the film, nor in the attitude of the American evangelists towards their fellow human beings.
In fact, these people, who have all sorts of totally absurd beliefs, such as that the Bible contains the literal truth, actually pour out hatred for anyone who doesn’t believe them, and they call it Love. The film is ostensibly about the homophobia that has seized Uganda, but the story is told by concentrating attention on the Kansas-based International House of Prayer that has taken unto itself the duty of imposing their ridiculous views on the rest of the world. So, they train young people as missionaries and send them out to establish beachheads from which to preach their disgusting beliefs. That they seem to believe what they say doesn’t make their activity any more praiseworthy.
The film used spokesmen from both sides of this war, and those on the side of tolerance and decency expressed themselves as ineffably saddened by what they have seen happening in their country, while on the homophobic side the preachers, even the homegrown Ugandan preachers, have grown prosperous and disgustingly wealthy, as they divide their time between palatial homes they own in various American cities and Kampala, capital of Uganda.
I have always had an interest in the fate of Uganda, arising from a time I spent in London unemployed during seven months in 1951. At the time, desperate for a job, I wrote to places and people around Britain, and around the world. One of the places I wrote to was Uganda. I had worked in Invercargill, New Zealand in my first job as a journalist with a man whose brother had been one of many Rhodes Scholars produced by the High School I went to. This man had come out of his studies at Oxford with distinction, and subsequently joined the British colonial service. He was getting close to retiring after a 20 year career in Uganda, which at that time was believed in Britain to have a model colonial administration, forward-looking and progressive (so long as one could say that about any colonial administration), under the guidance of Sir Andrew Cohen, the governor, who arrived in Uganda after a much-praised career in several British colonies.
The man to whom I wrote in search of a job did write me a friendly letter in return: I remember he remarked on how they seemed to be progressing well under a masterly leader who, it seems, had been mandated to prepare the colony for self-government.
How ironic that when the transition to independence did arrive in 1962, Uganda should have almost immediately have become the poster-boy for failed African self-governing administrations. Indeed they were not just failed governments, these governments of the newly independent colony, they were governments of almost indescribable horror, especially that of Idi Amin, the semi-literate soldier who took over from the failing government headed by Milton Obote. Amin was eventually removed from office by the army of neighbouring Tanzania, who re-installed Obote, whose second administration turned out to be almost as disastrous as that of his predecessor. Out of the chaos of these changes, in which Obote was also removed by a coup, after fighting a guerrilla uprising in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed, the present president of Uganda Musaveni emerged from the bush to establish order and set the country on a ore correct path. But, having been in power since 1986 --- a mere 28 years --- this model reformer is now himself hanging on to power like a limpet. And he is the president who signed the anti-homosexual law this week. Thus he appears to have long outlived the hero status he acquired from his success in rescuing Uganda from its decades of lower-depths grovelling under a series of squalid dictators.
I have one other personal anecdote that might add a little flavour to this account: in the mid=fifties, when I was for a year a student at an adult education school in Scotland, we received one day a visit from a distinguished (and very impressive) African woman whose name somehow has stuck with me to this day. Pumla Kisosonkole carried with her all the dignity one associates with the leadership type of African women. I seem to recall she professed to be a supporter of the Kabaka of the Buganda --- the King, as it were, of the largest tribe in Uganda --- a man who not very long after her visit declared his tribe independent of the colony and was exiled by the governor for his pains. When Ugandan independence did arrive, he was the first president of the nation for two and a half years until being replaced by Milton Obote.
As for Ms Kisosonkole, I learned only yesterday from the Internet that she was a South African who had married in 1939 a Ugandan and had gone to live there. She had not only become the first African woman to serve on the pre-independence Legislative council, but had later become president of the International Council of Women, Ugandan representative at the United Nations General Assembly for two years, and later a literacy expert at UNESCO.
I mention all this to indicate that Uganda was, indeed a promising place in its pre-independence phase, and was not the sort of place that one would expect the people could be so completely taken over by vulgar right-wing American fundamentalist preachers, as seems to have happened in recent years.
The picture painted by last night’s film was a rather desperate, depressing one: but two of the pro-homosexual spokesmen did manage to shed a ray of light. One young Anglian priest who spoke out against the evangelicals, Rev. Kapya Kaoma, spoke throughout the film from his self-imposed exile that he undertook when it became clear to him his life was in danger if he stayed in his home country. Towards the end of the movie the funeral occurs of David Kato, the first Ugandan to “come out” with an admission of his homosexuality and was beaten to death. A former Anglican bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo who was defrocked by the Anglicans for defending homosexuals, said that at the church service over Kato’s corpse, he heard a member of his Church say homosexuality was evil, so he determined to go to the graveside where he made a short, dignified --- and I would think, extremely brave --- statement in defence of the right of homosexuals to live their lives like other human beings. Against all the evidence of the film, this man expressed mild hope for the future, a hope that this madness will eventually pass.
Understandably because of the crisis nature of events in Uganda, the film emphasized the homosexual angle. I personally would have preferred if it had included the danger to everyone, homosexual and straight alike, of these dire sects and their fanatical behaviour. To realize the completely nonsensical stuff these people are peddling, one has only to hear the ravings of Scott Lively, the American missionary who, as Kato observed, in the U.S. would be a bush-league wacko heading a small right-wing ministry, but in Uganda somehow gets to address the national Parliament. Part of his schtick is that gays caused the Holocaust, although the how of it is left as a yawning gap.