Double Take

Christina Engela's picture


South Africa as yet, has remained completely silent on the issue of pink human rights in Africa, specifically Uganda - presumably on the "head-in-the-sand" principle employed by the ostrich - if you ignore it long enough, it will probably go away. Perhaps they are right, but then who am I to criticize? I live in a country which seems increasingly desperate to imitate that other bastion of third-world lunacy, Zimbabwe.

Speaking of lunacy, Rwanda has taken leave of its senses - and democratic practice, and all the lessons we thought they had learned from the tragedy they became famous for, the tragedy that comes from persecuting whole classes of people - by deciding to follow Uganda's example. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but then I suppose I like to believe in the essential goodness of people, even if I am repeatedly proven wrong.

Rwanda is yet another backward African country which officially denies the existence of its own GLBTI citizens and yet sees no contradiction in having to outlaw something which supposedly does not exist. But then, that is probably the whole point of the law?

I find myself compelled to quote Einstein, who said: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity - and I'm not sure about the universe."

I find it interesting that there are similarities between Rwanda and Uganda, and no, I'm not just talking about the fact that they are neighbors - or genocide, past in one case and impending in another - but in the cultural factors that lie behind such things. For one thing, the concept of coincidence. The idea of coincidence presupposes that something is supposedly unplanned - but happens that way anyhow, as part of a sequence or series of events - almost as if it had been. Almost. On closer inspection of the situation in sub-Saharan Africa I find myself forced to ask if all these coincidences are not too much convenient to be mere "coincidence"?

What am I talking about? Well let's look at the case of Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor from Saddleback Church in the USA, who has been the subject of much discussion and criticism for his role in mentoring one of the chief role players who tabled the Ugandan Genocide Bill, and for playing such a prominent role in Ugandan affairs leading to the tabling of this Bill. It seems our friend Warren has also been influential in Rwanda, and his church is reportedly "deeply involved" in the country. Considering how far up the ladder this goes in Uganda, I suppose we will be unpleasantly surprised to see how far the rot has spread in Rwanda as well.

It seems Rwanda has tried to push their new law to criminalize homosexuality as quietly as possible, reportedly within 48 hours - undoubtedly encouraged by Uganda's defiance of the world's condemnation. Their bill does not include the death penalty at this stage, but prescribes ten years jail time.

I only wonder what more will be uncovered if people start to dig a little deeper? Will we find evidence of more US relgious right involvement as in Uganda? Will we find Focus On The Family, Exodus International, "The Family" or any of a host of other foreign evangelical groups?

To fight this kind of mentality, this indoctrinated religious-fundamentalist drive to purge society of diversity, we need voices from the religious center, left AND right - to speak out against this grievous and terrible wrong. Well, they can't know what to speak out against unless somebody points it out to them - and what I am saying is, that this problem exists right across Africa, wherever they have set themselves up in influential positions - and not just in Uganda.

Many conservative Christian groups who were directly involved in Uganda have been in the last week or so, coming forward, mostly due to pressure exerted by the media and human rights activists, in order to denounce the Bill resulting from their interference. They claim that they did not want this Bill, that they did not want their prodigies to turn gay people into criminals and to put them to death for their sexual orientation or gender identity - but when you look at the things they said in Uganda, and the past few year's worth of warning signs I just have to quote that transphobic bigot, Dr Phil - "What were they thinking"?

Did they think a society barely able to grasp the concept of human rights, justice and democracy could differentiate between right and wrong as societies with their roots in centuries of democracy do? Did they think that their incitement to hatred and intolerance would not boil over into violence and persecution? Did they think the violent behaviour and expression of hatred and outrage caused by their lies and propaganda - which they witnessed at the Kampala conference this year - would not find expression in the political arena of Uganda?

I think this Bill is exactly what they wanted - they just don't have the balls to take the credit for it.

(Posted at Sour Grapes)

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lilacsigil's picture

Wow. For a blog that's pretty astute about the present-day actions of hate-filled Western Christian organisations in Africa today, this article contains some pretty nasty unexamined stereotypes about Africa and African people.

Firstly, like many colonised countries, Rwanda adopted anti-GLBT practices from Christian colonisers - it's not some natural state of "backwards" people or nations to hate homosexuality. There is a specific, historical cause, and these particular social divisions - like the terrible slaughter of the Tutsi people and their allies - can be traced directly to European colonial divide-and-conquer practices, in this case, the French.

Secondly, you call Rwanda "a society barely able to grasp the concept of human rights, justice and democracy could differentiate between right and wrong as societies with their roots in centuries of democracy do." Not only do many Africans (including Rwandans - the only country in the world to have a parliament that is more than 50% female!) fight relentlessly for human right, justice and democracy, but those societies with their roots in centuries of democracy only bought those centuries of prosperity and democracy by the massive looting, enslaving and exploitation of countries like Rwanda. Oh, and that democracy was pretty much limited to men of property - exactly the same people who are in the most powerful positions in Africa today.

It surprises me that you can so clearly see the interference of people like Warren today while portraying the countries in which he interferes without bothering to take two seconds to look at why he might be so influential, or the colonial power structures supporting his vile actions.

some good observations

arvan's picture

First, thanks for reading and commenting!

Second, there are many authors at this site as you know.  We're a community, collaborative blog.  So, while a few of us have written and posted about Rick Warren and other Christo-hatists, we are likely to have covered different aspects of the commercial export of Christian hate into African countries. 

Speaking for myself only, I concur that much of the hatred toward LGBTQI in the world is festered and sponsored by religious whack-jobs.  I don't like it, don't support them and will make no excuses for the violence, death and disease they cause. 

Third, the author of this piece, Christina Engela, is South African.  I am sure she'll see your comment in a few hours when she wakes.  I am used to seeing notes from her that begin at about 3 or 4am, here in Chicago.  She's extremely committed to respect for people and has always exhibited a willingess to be in dialogue about the things you mention. 

Fourth, because we are a community, collaborative site - you have an opportunity to contribute not only as a commenter but as an author.  You've already registered.  If you have something to add, some question to pose, some experience to share or any part of your sex, gender or body identity / existence that you want to share...then please do so.

Thank you again for reading the site.




Christina Engela's picture

Dear Lilacsigil,

To answer your first point, I think you are just echoing exactly what I was saying by laying (as I did) the blame squarely at the foreign evangelical organizations at work in both Uganda and Rwanda?

As for the second, I am sure that Rwanda is a very human rights-conscious country, having barely survived the 1994 genocide which stains its hands, and for which it will probably always be known for.

Yet, despite this blood-stained history, the wisdom such an experience should have brought, and the points you made about having such an enlightened Parliament with "50% or more" female representation - Rwanda still sees fit to set about persecuting yet another minority social group.

If this does not illustrate my point exactly?

I am in agreement with you

lilacsigil's picture

I am in agreement with you about your main point, definitely! But you seem to be taking rather an ahistorical view of the situation.

My disagreement is to do with characterising Rwanda as "backwards" and lacking democracy in comparison to European countries, as if the two situations are not closely linked - the democracies and wealth of Europe stem from the poverty and division of Rwanda and the rest of Africa and (to a lesser extent) Asia. There is nothing about Rwandans themselves that is inherently anti-democratic; there is nothing about Europeans that is inherently democratic.

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