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Author of Uganda’s anti-gay bill to attend Washington prayer breakfast

I can’t believe this.

In February, David Bahati, the mover of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to attend a prayer breakfast in the American capital of Washington DC.

David Bahati

Mr. Bahati, according to reports, may speak at the event where President Barack Obama – a gays-tolerant liberal president, is also expected to attend. On Friday, Mr Bahati said he would attend. The event is organised by The Fellowship- a conservative Christian organisation, which has deep political connections and counts several high-ranking conservative politicians in its membership.

“I intend to attend the prayer breakfast,” said Mr Bahati – himself a part organiser of the Ugandan equivalent of the national prayer breakfast.

The bill assigns a penalty of life imprisonment for a person convicted of homosexuality and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as homosexual sex with someone under 18 or a disabled person or if the “offender” is HIV positive. All activities that would promote homosexuality–even blogging–are banned, and the bill requires anyone who knows of anyone engaging homosexual activities to report them to authorities. The entire text of the bill is at the above link.

According to the Box Turtle Bulletin, Mr. Bahati is

a member of the secretive American evangelical group known as the Family, which founded and organizes the National Prayer Breakfast held on the first Thursday in February, typically at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue N.W. The Monitor reports that the Family has invited Bahati to the prayer breakfast.

This profile in The Independent UK provides some interesting background on Bahati and perhaps gives some clues to his motivations.

Left orphaned when he was three-years-old Bahati was sent to live with his grandmother. Later she also passed away and the boy had to work at the local market selling and carrying bananas to raise money for school fees. He was separated from his siblings and only reunited with them at 13 when his sister came to the market to buy fruit and recognised him….

The story of how Bahati came to be the face of the anti-gay campaign in Uganda goes back a couple of years. The MP, a father himself, first became interested in the issue of homosexuality after hearing testimony from sexually molested children. “I’m passionate about the issue of homosexuality because of both the danger for our children and our society,” he said.

Is President Obama really going to attend this prayer breakfast in February? If so, what is he planning to say to Mr. Bahati? Inquiring minds want to know.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Unveils New U.S. Human Rights Policy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Georgetown University

That Hillary Clinton–she just keep on truckin’–doing her best to make the world a better place. In a speech at Georgetown University this morning, Clinton announced a new human rights agenda for the U.S., putting the emphasis on “principled pragmatism.”putting the emphasis on what she called “principled pragmatism.”

Just days after President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize while defending the concept of a just war, Clinton outlined a human rights policy calling for people to be free from tyranny but also free to “seize the opportunities of a full life.”

Human rights experts said the speech was important, coming at a time when the Obama administration’s message on human rights had become increasingly muddied but they said the proof would be in the administration’s actions.

[….]

Clinton said a commitment to human rights started with universal principles. She noted that Obama wanted Guantanamo prison closed and had issued an executive order his second day in office prohibiting the use of torture by any U.S. official.

She said the United States would report next year on human trafficking both at home and abroad, and would participate in a U.N. review of “our own human rights record, just as we encourage other nations to do.”

Human rights advocate “Sarah Mendelson, head of the Human Rights and Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies” said that Clinton’s speech signaled a change from the policies of the Bush administration, but only if the Obama administration follows through.

Unfortunately, at this point we are all a little skeptical about Obama’s motives and goals, but at least he apparently approved of Clinton’s *words.* Here is a little more from the speech:

“Now, the champions of human potential have never had it easy. We may call rights inalienable, but making them so has always been hard work. And no matter how clearly we see our ideals, taking action to make them real requires tough choices. Even if everyone agrees that we should do whatever is most likely to improve the lives of people on the ground, we won’t agree on what course of action fits that description in every case. That is the nature of governing. We all know examples of good intentions that did not produce results. And we can learn from instances in which we have fallen short. Past failures are proof of how difficult progress is, but we do not accept claims that progress is impossible.”

At Vox Populi, the Georgetown blog, there was a little more detail about Clinton’s appearance. It sounds like it was a popular event even though it’s finals week:

They were reading textbooks intently in the stairwell of Gaston Hall before the event, and proofreading their essays as they waited to be let out of the Hall afterwards, but despite being in the heat of finals season, Georgetown students had packed Gaston Hall by 11:15 a.m. to hear Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak about the Obama Administration’s Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century at noon.

At the end of Clinton’s speech, students were allowed three questions, and they were good ones:

Students asked about how the U.S. can protect LGBT rights in Uganda, where there is pending legislation to make homosexuality an offense punishable by death, and to balance support for Iranian protesters while pursuing a security strategy.

Clinton said the U.S. had expressed its concerns about the anti-LGBT legislation directly and indirectly, and that Iran was “a good example of a hard call.”

In that case, they “didn’t want attention to be shifted from the legitimate concerns to the United States” by speaking out too vehemently she said.

Finally, a student asked about the role of artists in the campaign for human rights, to which Clinton said, “artists are one of the most effective tools we have” for promoting human rights.

You can watch the video of the speech here.

I’m so happy that Clinton talked about both the Uganda situation and human trafficking. If only she can hold Obama’s feet to the fire and get him to go beyond “just words.” If anyone can do that, it’s Hillary!

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