, KAMPALA, Feb 4 – Uganda\’s ethics minister on Thursday dismissed virulent criticism of his country\’s proposed anti-gay law by US President Barack Obama and warned that any interference would be "unacceptable".
"Somebody should tell President Obama that the parliament is doing its legislative duty in the interest of the people of Uganda," James Nsaba Buturo, Ugandan minister of ethics and integrity, told AFP.
Obama described the Uganda bill as "odious" in remarks at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, a bipartisan gathering of lawmakers and religious leaders in Washington DC.
US presidents traditionally attend the event, but it sparked controversy this year because the Christian group that is a sponsor of the meeting has been linked to Uganda\’s much-criticised anti-homosexual legislation.
Buturo, one of the main Ugandan proponents of the bill which would further criminalise homosexuality and even gay rights advocacy, vowed that Ugandan MPs would not be swayed by US or any outside criticism.
"We cannot tell the Senate what to do. We cannot tell Congress what to do. So why do they feel that they can tell us what we should do in the interest of our people?" he asked.
"It is totally unacceptable," Buturo added, in reference to any attempt by some of Uganda\’s partners to reverse the adoption of the bill.
"Members of parliament have a constitutional duty to choose between what the people of Uganda want and what others want, and I am sure they will choose what the people of Uganda want," he said.
Uganda\’s proposed bill would impose the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," applicable in cases of rape of a minor by a person of the same sex, or where one partner carries the AIDS virus.
It would also criminalise public discussion of homosexuality and could penalise an individual who knowingly rents property to a homosexual.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, punishable by life imprisonment in some instances. The penal code identifies "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" as an offence.
While a conservative wing of the Ugandan regime continues to push for the bill, some politicians have warned that its adoption could cost the country dearly in foreign financial assistance and image.