Early in my writing career, I was contracted to write a book about Uganda by an American publisher. According to the agreement, I would write it and an American academic would then look at the book and have his say (and his name on the cover) and then I would be given the proofs of the final copy with the edits and I could decide if I wanted my name on the cover or not. I was never given the proofs. The book went to publication after the publishers accused me of plagiarising and threatened not to pay me. I didn't plagiarise anything and they never gave me the option to remove my name from the cover. I was not happy with the final book which turned a Uganda I saw as a success story into another African basket case. I try to ignore I was part of the book's propaganda and I often feel ashamed about the whole thing.
Time has passed and things have changed. President Museveni has gone from being the saviour of Uganda to being the chain around its neck. His iron grip on power is killing a country that has had more than its share of suffering. Now thanks to influence from an American Christian cult, The Fellowship, he is attempting to get a bill passed that could give homosexuals the death penalty for loving each other.
One thing you can say about Christians, when it comes to Africa, they have some serious staying power. The seeds they planted have taken root and grown filling the entire space. There is a passion and vehemence about African Christian churches that I've not seen in other places. Perhaps it is some amalgamation of traditional religion with the teachings of Christianity, I don't know. It's funny how the typical response of Africans who are against homosexuality is that it is an imported concept, some Westernised activity imposed on Africans. I wonder why they never see the same thing can be said about Christianity.
The fear now is that Museveni's vehemence against gays will spread. Already a Malawian gay couple who married were arrested in December. Mugabe has not been quiet about his views on gays. Even here in Botswana it is illegal to be gay though no one has been arrested. The non-governmental organisation Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) is unable to operate properly in the country as it is unable to be registered, as such there is no organised way for gays to fight against the unfair and out-of-date legislation.
I sometimes can't quite feel a problem that is far from me, that I have no personal connection to. So when I hear about the terrible, stupid, preventable shortage of food that Zimbabweans will have in the coming months, for example, I don't let the words flow in and out of me. I stop them along the way and think of people I know in Zimbabwe- personally- people who will miss meals to feed their hungry children. Only then does the impact of what is happening find its true space in me.
In 2007 Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko won the Caine Prize for her story Jambula Tree about the two girls Anyango and Sanyu and the forbidden love that they had for each other. It was a painful story to read and it stuck with me. Characters tend to live on in my mind, in some sort of semi-real state. And as I watched Museveni joking on the TV about how overseas leaders were calling him and tell him sending gays to the gallows was not a good move diplomatically, I thought of Anyango and Sanyu.
In this world, where hate is everywhere, how does one's thoughts get so mixed up so as to get to a position where love is wrong? I don't believe Jesus or God would be on Museveni's side; if they are I don't think I can follow along behind them.