LONDON — Brushing aside Western threats and outrage, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda strengthened Africa’s antigay movement on Monday, signing into law a bill imposing harsh sentences for homosexual acts, including life imprisonment in some cases, according to government officials.
The move came weeks after Museveni’s Nigerian counterpart, Goodluck Jonathan, took similar steps in his own country, threatening offenders with 14-year prison terms. The Ugandan law seemed even tougher, threatening life terms on charges including “aggravated homosexuality,” meaning homosexual acts with a minor, a disabled person, or someone infected with HIV.
“We Africans never seek to impose our view on others. If only they could let us alone,” Museveni said, according to the Associated Press, alluding to Western pressure to reject the bill.
He signed the legislation at his official residence at Entebbe, near the capital, Kampala, in front of government officials, journalists, and a team of Ugandan scientists who had said they found no genetic basis for homosexuality — a conclusion that Museveni cited in support of the new law, the Associated Press said.
While Western gay-rights campaigners have accused US evangelical Christian groups of promoting antigay sentiment in Uganda, Museveni accused “arrogant and careless Western groups” of seeking to draw Ugandan children into homosexuality.
The Ugandan government spokesman, Ofwono Opondo, said Museveni wanted to sign the bill “with the full witness of the international media to demonstrate Uganda’s independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation.”
“It’s a gloomy day, not just for the gay community in Uganda but for all Ugandans who care about human rights, because this law will affect everybody,” Julian Peppe Onziema, an advocate for gay rights in Uganda, told Reuters.
The country’s Parliament approved the law in December, saying it was aimed “at strengthening the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family.”
Last week, President Obama called the legislation “a step backward for all Ugandans,” and administration officials were quoted as saying the law could result in a review of relations with the United States.
Washington is one of Uganda’s biggest aid donors. Museveni also is an important ally in the West’s efforts to curb Islamic militancy in Somalia.