US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday praised activists who opposed a tough draft law in Uganda targeting gays and lesbians, calling them an inspiration for others struggling to secure equal rights around the world.
Clinton presented a coalition of Ugandan rights groups with the State Department's 2011 Human Rights Defender Award, a signal to African and Islamic nations that Washington will not backtrack in its fight against the legal and political persecution of homosexuals.
"It is critical for all Ugandans - the government and citizens alike - to speak out against discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of anyone. That's true no matter where they come from, what they believe, or whom they love," Clinton said.
Clinton said she raised the issue in talks on Friday with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose government has been accused of allowing political and religious leaders to drum up anti-gay feeling in the deeply conservative East African nation.
The bill, which spurred a global outcry, stalled in parliament but has been reintroduced in a watered down form by a member of Museveni's party. The new version dropped the death sentence, but would still outlaw the "promotion" of gay rights and punish anyone who "funds, sponsors or abets homosexuality".
Clinton's strong expression of support for Uganda's beleaguered gay community came as she continued a seven-nation trip across Africa. She began Friday with a visit to South Sudan, Africa's newest nation, where she urged the new government in Juba to make a deal with their old rulers in Khartoum to resolve a dispute over oil revenues which has driven both countries to economic crisis.
Today, she will continue on to Kenya, before heading south to Malawi and South Africa.