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PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON, THE ‘GAY’ ISSUE AND AFRICA

The Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP

Quite why he did it nobody knows but Mr David Cameron, sorry, The Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, was having a gay old time at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, last week when he decided to lecture Africa on the subject of human rights for homosexuals.

The basis of his speech was in effect was this: “recognise the rights of homosexuals you naughty Africans, or the Mother Country will stop sending you presents in the way of aid”. Mr Cameron singled out Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi for special mention for having laws that criminalise homosexuality.

The assembled Commonwealth representatives were shocked, not surprisingly really given that of the 54 countries represented at the meeting at least 41 do not recognise homosexuals’ rights in the way that the British Prime Minister would wish.

Quite why it all came as a shock though, is a bit of a surprise.

A month previously a Mr Andrew Mitchell MP,

Mr Andrew Mitchell MP

Britain’s ‘International Development Secretary’, was reported in the Daily Nation as saying, “African countries which persecute gays will have their aid cut”. The Nation’s report referred to Mr Mitchell as, ‘one of Mr Cameron’s closest allies’.

So Africa had already been warned by none other than the egregious Mr Mitchell, one of the most unpleasant human beings you would wish not to meet. The fact that he might be ‘one of Mr Cameron’s closest aides’ is worrying (in terms of Cameron’s judgement) but perhaps not surprising. When Cameron stood for the leadership of the British Conservative Party, a man by the name of David Davis was his main rival. Andrew Mitchell ‘ran’ the Davis campaign and he did so, so badly, that he was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for initial front-runner, Davis. So David Cameron has reason to thank Andrew Mitchell.

AFRICA REACTS

The reactions to Mr Cameron’s speech came thick and fast.

Ghana’s avuncular President, John Atta Mills, said, “Prime Minister Cameron should have taken into account the fact that, social and cultural circumstances were not the same [in Ghana] as it prevails in the UK”, and continued, “The people of the UK may accept the practice but our people frown on it” (‘Ghana tells off UK over threat on gays’).

Zambia’s Chief Government Spokesman, Given Lubinda, said that his country was a sovereign state and would make independent decisions and that it “was wrong for Mr Cameron to try and use aid as a way of influencing policies and laws of Zambia, or any other country for that matter” (‘Zambia won’t enact pro-gay laws to get aid, says official’).

Uganda’s President’s long-term advisor, John Nagenda, condemned Prime Minister Cameron’s remarks and referred to his “bullying mentality” (although that was a bit rich coming from Nagenda in particular, or any spokesman on the part of President Museveni in general).

The Kenyan media pitched in too. Dorthy Kweyu, writing in the Saturday Nation (UK’s aid ban on countries that outlaw gay rights smacks of double standards’) declared, ‘Tolerance should be reciprocal and even as Britain calls anti-gay laws “intolerable” and wields the aid rungu to cow them into reversing their stance, it should practice what it preaches by tolerating countries that have issues with same-sex unions’.

Gatu Warigi, in an article posted by Africa Review (‘Can Africa survive the Western onslaught over gay rights?’) noted that ‘polygamy is as common as common flu’ in Africa but a crime in ‘the West’. He continued, ‘When British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke recently at the Commonwealth summit about tying aid to tolerance for homosexuals’, he wrote, ‘he was speaking as a Westerner who has been culturalised to look at gay lifestyle as normal’.

Why did the British Prime Minister say what he said? Why was everyone so shocked? Are there lessons to be learned? And does it matter? The Kenya Forum thinks everyone, including Cameron and Mitchell, should calm down a bit.

The British Prime Minister was also addressing, perhaps chiefly addressing, an internal audience. He had declared at his party’s conference in October that he would defend his decision to legalise gay marriage. Cameron is in an uneasy alliance with the Liberals in the UK and is also trying to show that his stuffy old party has been modernised and relates to modern (Western) thinking.

Cameron also conceded that change would not come overnight and he included enough caveats in his speech to ensure that it could mean everything and nothing. Remember, Mr Cameron is a politician.

Both Cameron and Mitchell should also remember, whether they like it or not, that many, many Africans hold very strong views based on their religious beliefs (which one assumes they are allowed to hold as free individuals) that homosexuality is wrong.

CALM DOWN KENYA… AND READ THE BILL OF RIGHTS

We Kenyans should also calm down.

Legislating for or against homosexuality is daft. You might as well pass a bill in parliament banning sunrise. Homosexuality exists and it exists pretty much in the same measure and to the same extent as it has always done.

And there’s one other little matter we should take into consideration but whisper this one softly who dares: our new Constitution will not allow discrimination against homosexuals, or ‘minorities’ (and nor will our new Chief Justice, Willy Mutunga).

Article 27. (4) of the Bill of Rights states, ‘The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth’. Nor can ‘a person’ discriminate against any other on the ‘grounds specified or contemplated in clause (4)’.

So come on everybody, relax. Meanwhile, Cameron, Mitchell, butt out and mind your own business.

The late Christabel talks about Dr Ouko’s return from Washington.

Sam Okello talking about Mrs Ouko

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