Why the African LGBTI community should be concerned over US policy in Africa and AFRICOM

Something momentous happened this past week in Uganda – the first ever PRIDE celebration [organised by ] which included the showing of the film “Call Me Kuchu” and a march through the streets of Entebbe. It was truly a proud defining moment for all African LGBTI people. If Ugandan Kuchus could march through the streets then so could we all – Nigerians, Liberians, Cameroonians and well the whole continent!

The risk taken by everyone present and their courage cannot be underestimated given the history of continuous raids on LGBTI workshops and events by the police.  At the PRIDE event the police once again stormed the venue arresting  the organizer Kasha Jacqueline] the director of Freedom and Roam Uganda -FARUG, Jay Abang; the programs manager of FARUG; Ms. Stella Nyanzi; a Human Rights Defender; Sandra Ntebi and Julie; Lerato a South African on media team, Rachael Adams and visitors from other counties.  As Jay Abang pointed out in a press statement the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has not yet been passed but still…

I feel like our rights have been trampled upon. It is becoming a habit of police to interrupt our gatherings. It is as if a section of Ugandans do not deserve certain rights. The laws and bills have not been passed but police is already enforcing them”

As inspiring and important as the Ugandan Pride event was there are deeper  issues bound up with our freedoms as I pointed out in a comment on the US organised Pride event in Nairobi last June.

as well as the presence and role of AFRICOM which is closely tied with various Anti-Terrorist legislations and increased US surveillance across the continent .  As Beth Tuckey shows“it is not the militarisation of Africa that will guarantee security for [Africa] or the US but justice and equitable trade”.  It is highly disappointing that some African LGBTI activists are comfortable with the US and it’s poor human rights record.   This speaks, to some degree,  to the professionalisation of social justice whereby funds are provided by US and European non-profits to service work that under the guise of being apolitical, seeks to maintain existing local and international power structures

In his article “Why African LGBTI communities should say NO! to US Imperialism” [See also Statement against the US organised Pride event in Kenya] Kenne Mwikya  raised  serious concerns over aid and trade conditionality….

Topping the list is the requirement that the beneficiary promote “a market-based economy that protects private property rights… and minimises government interference in the economy through such measures as price controls, subsidies, and government ownership of economic assets.” In addition — and here’s the big one — the beneficiary must make progress toward “the elimination of barriers to United States trade and investment.”

To further the discussion on why LGBTI communities should be wary of US policy in Africa, Scott Long in response to the “US Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa” shows how  US imperialism is propping up the same governments that are oppressing us
Shortly before the strategy paper’s launch, the Washington Post revealed that the US has set up networks of secret bases across the continent, to use surveillance technology and Special Forces incursions against alleged terrorists and other undesirables. Special training for African militaries is part of the package. So, too, are murders:Why should LGBTI activists care? Well, Hillary Clinton is, with quite genuineélan, promoting the liberties of LGBTI folk on the continent. The right hand is on your side. But US military policy is propping up exactly the regimes – in Uganda, the DRC, Ethiopia,and elsewhere – that relish your oppression. The left hand doesn’t give a damn about you. For how can there possibly be any benign result to all this: secret US aid to train secret African military forces in secret strategies of murder and oppression? What can this conceivably achieve but to prop up dictatorships, and threaten even democratic governments with armed coups and dictatorial control?
 Those countries that border the Sahara are ranked some of the poorest in the world – Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad where land  and water are being sold to prop up US pension funds and feed countries in the middle and far east.  Compounded with the land and water grab is the burden of having to comply with neo-liberal polices that put debt repayment and corporate investment at the center  of government policy; AND the now  insidious presence of the US through AFRICOM and its pretense of Security for the continent.  Only recently the US military presence in Mali was revealed following a plane crash in which three US Commandoes were killed.   Again as Scott Long shows, Uganda is now a premier military ally of the US and has received millions of US$ in military aid. Who is it that speaks with ‘forked tongue” – Hilary Clinton in her public admonitions to President Museveni  on LGBTI rights or Museveni in his insistence that African armies  must resist foreign exploitation !
Since the 1990s, Washington has viewed Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s government as a key regional ally against the Sudanese government during Khartoum’s wars in South Sudan and Darfur, the “terrorist” threat of the L.R.A., and most recently Al Shabab in Somalia. Washington’s political, military and economic aid to Uganda has propped up Museveni’s regime and strengthened the role of the armed forces in everyday politics.
In the world of high gloss,  Africa is opening for investment along with the new crop of African run neo-NGOs, many run by ‘power women’,  for whom the word transformation has become the buzz word  but without the accompanying interrogation of the superstructures that maintain globalized capitalism and social order.   Its not simply an either or Africa and it is disingenuous and a false reality to speak of transformation whilst remaining silent on  rampant  militarism across the continent.  This silence by Africa’s new NGO, powered elite – many  of whom describe themselves as ‘feminists’ and LGBTI  ’activists’ is nothing more than an affirmation of  the institutionalisation of the status quo.   The drive for economic prosperity, progress and justice have to be conducted side by side otherwise we just end up replicating the same unjust oppressive economic and social structures and what Firoze Manji described recently as the ‘miltiarisation of development’ [Africa Today 23rd July, KPFA.org] And where there is militarisation as always it will be women, children, the urban and rural poor and LGBTI communities who will be impacted the most.
“Their principle interest is to protect their own perceived interest of what American interests are the military has been used and other forces have been used to ensure that American interests are protected. They dont care a damn about the interests of African citizens . They dont care a damn about developing anything of the productive forces of Africa – only in so far as it benefits the US corporations and international finance institutions.  So you have a really destructive period. I think we are entering a period where we will see an increasing militarisation taking place.”