Sam Kutesa, the Ugandan Foreign Minister under President Musevini, has been chosen to head the U.N. as President of its General Assembly next month despite his consistent homophobic attitude and history of corruption. The position, which will not be voted on, has been chosen by “elect of acclamation,” after being chosen by the African Union. In a mostly “figurative” position, Kutesa will chair meetings for the assembly, including its annual event attended by all 193 nations in New York this September, which President Obama will preside over.
Kutesa’s election has been met with widespread criticism from both rights groups as well as political leaders, including New York State senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. “It would be disturbing to see the foreign minister of a country that passed an unjust, harsh and discriminatory law based on sexual orientation preside over the U.N. general assembly,” she says.
This past February, President Museveni signed into law a bill which will toughen penalties against gay citizens in Uganda, which could enforce some “homosexual crimes” as punishable by death. Years of imprisonment would act as a minimum punishment for acts of homosexuality or for providing counsel, therapy or education regarding homosexuality to children. Kutesa stood by this legislation, claiming that most Africans “abhorred” homosexuality. Now, as he gets ready to fill a prominent position in the U.N., many are wondering of the repercussions.
Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called on the government to intervene. “David Cameron [Prime Minister of the UK] and William Hague [First Secretary of State of the UK] should be lobbying the U.N. to block Kutesa’s appointment on the grounds that his political record is inconsistent with UK principles,” he says. Yet if government officials have yet to fight, the general population has already made its own aggressive stance.
A petition, made by Ugandan-born Milton Allimadi, has already received more than 7,000 signatures asking for Sam Kutesa’s future appointment in the U.N. to be revoked. Yet despite the criticism, Kutesa has rejected any plausible notion regarding his unfitness for the role. “I don’t believe that anybody should be blocking my presidency on those lines,” he says. “The issues they are raising have no basis.”
You can sign the petition here.
– Nick Magnanti