Thursday, November 25, 2010

Report from the African Commission on Human and people’s Rights

24 years after its inception, the African Commission on Human and People’s rights had its 48th 0rdinary session in Banjul the Gambia on 10th November 2010. The commission was started in October 1986.
The countries under review in this session were the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.
As is the custom, the NGO forum took place before the commission, starting 7th to 9th November 2010.
The issue of denying the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) observer status at the commission was the most contentious issue with NGOs demanding an explanation from the commission for their decision. In line with this, a demonstration by African LGBTI activists was held on 8th at the forum, this prompted the forum to give five minutes of their time for the activists to make their case. It is within this time that Fikile Vilakazi and Kasha Jacqueline asked for the continued support of the NGO forum to the LGBTI community in Africa – it should be noted that this forum has been supportive and provided space for dialogue on LGBTI issues.
Ironically some people were still asking about procreation in the context of same sex relations with someone suggesting that since LGBT issues are so un-African, they (LGBT) should be shipped to Europe where it all came from.
On the morning of November 9th 2010, there was a meeting to discuss how best the LGBTI people of Africa could benefit from the newly formed HIV/AIDS working group at the commission. This meeting was attended by Commissioner Malila who is also the focal point for Uganda at the ACHPR and is one of the three commissioners on this working group.
This working group was established to bring HIV/AIDS to the fore at the ACHPR hence we wanted to find ways of maximizing benefits to the LGBT community from this working group and it was agreed that we come up with a working paper which we will use to initiated dialogue with the commissioners and committee members on this working group.
A taskforce was formed to draft a document and work plan for dealing with the working group and a list serve was started for consultations around this document.
The NGO steering committee on 9th November 2010 decided against homophobia and homophobic attacks in response to repeated attacks from some individuals on the flour. A copy of the code of conduct of the NGO forum will now be given to every participant to ensure that participants are respectful of others and diversity.
On 10th November 2010, the 48th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights was opened by the chairperson commissioner Gansur Alapini in the presence of the attorney general of the Gambia and several government and NGO representatives from all over Africa. The NGO report was read and it twice mentioned LGBT issues.
The NGO report indicated that the NGO forum had passed a couple of resolutions which included resolutions on children, disability, death penalty, freedom of association, human rights defenders, indigenous people, torture prevention, refugees, sexual orientation, African court and the SADC tribunal.
Meddy Kagwa of the Uganda Human Rights Commission represented national Human Rights organizations but said nothing about LGBT issues.
Hon. Freddie Ruhindi represented the Ugandan government and tried rather unconvincingly to defend the government actions in different aspects.
As far as NGO statements are concerned, almost all of them stated their disappointment at the commission’s refusal to grant the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) observer status without giving any reason. It overwhelming support for LGBT people from the NGOs.
A book about LGBT issues and suffering in Cameroon was launched on 11th November 2010.
On 12th November 2010, there was a ceremony to Commemorate of 30 years of the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights which came into effect in 1970.
There after it was straight to private sessions.
From Banjul the Gambia, aluta continua.
Prepared by Dennis Wamala
Icebreakers Uganda

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Does Oral Roberts University Support Killing Gays in Uganda?

by Michael A. Jones

You've probably heard of Oral Roberts University before. The school, located in Oklahoma, was founded and named after one of the 20th century's most prominent evangelical leaders. Back in the day, Oral Roberts was a force to be reckoned with, having been one of the first ministers to make it big using television as a form of evangelism. His success led him to found the university in 1963, and though the school has gone through some major financial scandals in recent years, it still boasts a student population of close to 4,000 students.

Given the political beliefs of Roberts himself, it probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that Oral Roberts University's identity is closely wrapped up in social conservatism. Students are required to attend religious services at least twice a week, and there are chaplains for each floor of on-campus housing. Roberts himself used to say that he was told by God to build the school.

"Raise up your students to hear my voice, to go where my light is seen dim, where my voice is heard small, and my healing power is not known, even to the uttermost bounds of the earth. Their work will exceed yours, and in that I am well pleased," Roberts documented as the message he received from on High.

Of course, one has to wonder if the God that Oral Roberts was speaking to would be pleased today, given that Oral Roberts University champions a minister in Uganda who wants to slaughter LGBT people. That minister? His name is Martin Ssempa, and he's one of the leading pastors in Uganda pushing the country to enact a harsh Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would criminalize homosexuality with life prison sentences, and in many cases, the death penalty.

Oral Roberts University recognizes Pastor Ssempa as a member of the school's Board of Reference. The position seems rather symbolic, but those who are recognized as members of the Board of Reference are considered by Oral Roberts University to be among the most influential and respectable figures in the world. These are folks who help spread word about Oral Roberts University, and according to a school spokesperson, are used "for the purpose of credibility, for reputation, and for influence."

It's kind of odd, to say the least, that Oral Roberts University would want their reputation tied to a man like Martin Ssempa. Here is a person who advocates violence against LGBT people in Uganda. A person who shows pornographic images to families and even children, in order to stir outrage over homosexuality. A person who travels from community to community in Uganda arguing that homosexuality is an import from the west, and that anybody who is gay should be murdered or jailed. And a person who is pastor to the editor of a local paper, Rolling Stone, which continues to publish the names, faces and locations of people they believe are LGBT, with a call for these people to be hung.

Now that's some figure to have on your Board of Reference, Oral Roberts University.

Ssempa's work to demonize LGBT people has been condemned by many religious organizations, including some of his former partners. Pastor Rick Warren has distanced himself from Ssempa for the work Ssempa is doing to harm LGBT people. The Philadelphia Biblical University, which had previously awarded Ssempa an honorary degree, also blasted his anti-gay work as dangerous and harmful. And one Las Vegas megachurch, Canyon Ridge Christian Church, has continued to come under fire for their financial support of Martin Ssempa. Recently, they too have expressed concern about Ssempa's work.

That's a lot of international condemnation for the work of Pastor Ssempa. Yet Oral Roberts University continues to celebrate the guy. Reached earlier this year to comment on why they have someone like Ssempa on their Board of Reference, the university issued nothing but deafening silence.

Let's fix that. Send Oral Roberts University a message that by having someone like Martin Ssempa on a prominent university board, the school is sending a message that it supports his work to criminalize homosexuality in Uganda, and murder and imprison LGBT people. Ssempa has been completely transparent about what he wants to accomplish: he wants to see police round up LGBT people, he wants to see community members report people who are LGBT, and he wants to see straight people who support gay rights punished.

Now let's see if Oral Roberts University can be transparent. Will they condemn the work of Martin Ssempa, and remove him from their Board of Reference? Or will they lend credence, and their name, to the work that Ssempa is doing in Uganda to imprison and/or kill gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people?