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Links between Ugandan and U.S. hate groups are clearer than ever

Photocollage created by SPLC shows (left to right) Stephen Langa of Uganda’s Family Life Network, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni, and Sharon Slater of Family Watch International.

Photo collage created by SPLC, which tracks U.S. hate groups, shows (left to right) Stephen Langa of Uganda’s Family Life Network, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni, and Sharon Slater of Family Watch International.


By Joto La Jiwe

The propagators of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) 2023 have always claimed that the law is about protecting families and local cultural values from foreign influence.

Their narrative is that those advocating for LGBTQI+ people’s rights are promoting a foreign or colonial practice even though it is common knowledge that homosexuality was here before colonialism.

But now the true background of the Ugandan law has been exposed by the U.S.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which investigates U.S. hate groups. An article by the SPLC reveals that the real backers and framers of AHA were largely U.S.-based evangelical and homophobic groups.

Sharon Slater, co-founder of Family Watch International (Photo courtesy of PRA)

Sharon Slater, co-founder of U.S. hate group Family Watch International (Photo courtesy of PRA)

U.S. hate groupos like Family Watch International and Abiding Truth Ministries, reportedly provided not only the funds but also the ideological framework, messaging, and the pseudoscience used to justify and promote AHA 2023.

The involvement of these American extremist groups and individuals undercuts the argument that the law represents an authentic African response to colonialism. It is in fact the toxic export of Western homophobia, not the preservation of local tradition.

Armed with money and aware of the weak spots of Uganda’s powerful first family, the anti-LGBTQI+ hate groups did not find a hard time in pushing their agenda. All they needed were local collaborators, who were easy to find with the money and backing of the first family.

Analysts have it that Greg Slater, Intel’s vice-president of global regulatory affairs, has been “actively responsible for exporting, financing, and spreading hate, homophobia” in Uganda and other African countries through the American conservative organization, Family Watch International, which is run by his wife Sharon Slater.

The tactics deployed by the groups include lobbying government leaders and lawmakers to block LGBTQ rights, and promoting disinformation and pseudoscience like ‘conversion therapy.’ Conversion therapy is an internationally disavowed and discredited practice hinging on the unsubstantiated belief that LGBTQ+ people do not exist, and their identities are the result of mental illness and can be “cured.’

An article in The Guardian reports that Family Watch International (listed as a hate group by the SPLC) has sponsored trips for politicians and diplomats from Kenya, Uganda and other African countries to train them on their extremist agenda against homosexuality, sexuality education, and reproductive rights. Many of these politicians go on to sponsor or support cruel legislation like the AHA in Uganda.

Agaba Denis, who describes himself as an independent thinker and the ruling party local mobilizer, says AHA was a diversion from the deteriorating human rights space in Uganda. According to him, AHA briefly became the talking point in media and in public, buying some time for the state to breathe. But he says investing in AHA was not a smart move.

“AHA was a foreign and dirty deal wrapped in family or African values and delivered by the Slaters, whose hatred for LGBTQI+ people speaks for itself. It was a raw deal. Our leaders used their hearts instead of their brains,” he says.

Still, even Denis is quick to denounce LGBTQ people.

“We are all against homosexuality, but that is not the way to fight it,” he says.

President Museveni and first lady Janet Museveni met with Sharon Slater and members of her organization Family Watch International (FWI) in April. Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) reported that during the meeting, Slater suggested that AHA provisions include facilitating conversion-therapy options. After this meeting, Museveni refused to sign the act into law until parliament reconsidered adding in “rehabilitation,” in other words conversion therapy, as confirmed in a letter to parliament.

The provision outlined in section 4 demands those previously involved in “acts of homosexuality to present themselves to the relevant health or other authorities for purposes of seeking help.” This option is only available for those who are not charged with “aggravated homosexuality.”

On April 4, 2023, Janet Museveni posted a picture with Slater on her X (formerly Twitter) account, calling it an “honor” to meet with the hate group leader and noting they had attended the first African Regional Inter-Parliamentary Conference in Entebbe, Uganda. The focus was global challenges that threaten African families and values.

The Slaters are also believed to have been behind Elisha Mukisa, whose controversial 2022 viral video was instrumental in the passage of the AHA 2023.

In 2014, Mukisa, a self-identified queer person, was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison for defilement (sexually abusing a minor).

After completing his sentence in 2020, he embarked on a mission of burning down the LGBTQI+ community for seemingly not “supporting” him while in jail.
In the video widely circulated by homophobes, Mukisa claims that the LGBTIQ umbrella organization Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) had “recruited” him into homosexuality as a minor and infected him with “long-term illnesses.”

He also alleged that the organization was shooting gay pornography and “luring” children into homosexuality for money, a narrative that homophobes used in support of AHA.

One of the groups that promoted the video was the Life and Family Network, an umbrella organization of anti-LGBTIQ and anti-abortion groups in Uganda led by Stephen Langa, a good friend of the Slaters.

As a result, Uganda’s charity regulator suspended SMUG’s operations and published a report listing other 22 LGBTIQ-linked organisations as under investigation for “suspected involvement in the promotion of LGBT activities.”

One thing that Mukisa never saw or even thought of coming was that he would be jailed under the very cruel law that he helped to pass. In August 2023, Mukisa was arrested on charges of homosexuality, and remained behind bars for two months. Imprisoned, desperate, helpless and confused, Mukisa’s duplicity was exposed when he suddenly retracted all his anti-gay claims. The charges against Mukisa and his co-accused were withdrawn in December 2023, with no reason given.

Elisha Mukisa (Photo courtesy of Observer.ug)

Elisha Mukisa (Photo courtesy of Observer.ug)

In an article published by openDemocracy Mukisa alleged that he was sought out by leading anti-gay rights campaigners in Uganda. They included pastors Solomon Male and Martin Ssempa, who were both involved in the first proposed anti-gay law in 2014; MP Sarah Opendi, chair of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association; and Stephen Langa.

“Mukisa also claims he was, through Opendi, connected with powerful politicians interested in seeing the bill passed, including Anita Among, speaker of the Parliament, MP Charles Onen, the original sponsor of the most recent anti-gay bill, and MP Lucy Akello, who, in an openDemocracy report this year, was revealed as one of the legislators in a WhatsApp group convening various anti-rights agitators in Uganda. Mukisa claimed Opendi, Akello and Onen had facilitated his viral video, paying for the hotel and arranging a cameraman. He also claims that they wrote the script for him. Mukisa claimed that the officials ‘wanted to use us for money from the government and from American evangelicals,’ the openDemocracy report says.

Mukisa also vowed to fight the AHA once released.

“When I come out, I will be one of the people who will lead the de-campaigning of the anti-gay law. I’ll expose everyone who used me and all the money they sent me,” he had said. “I wish I hadn’t participated in the anti-gay campaign.”

However, when he was released from prison, Mukisa switched back to his old homophobic tendencies.

In one of his Facebook posts, Mukisa is reported to have made public his admiration for MP Opendi and Speaker Among, whom he claimed were behind the withdrawal of the homosexuality charges against him.

As the constitutional court prepares its ruling on the petitions challenging AHA, Stephen Langa of Uganda’s Family Life Network and one of Mukisa’s handlers floated the idea of a “One Million Man March” originally proposed for February. Apparently, he plans to use it as an opportunity to gather signatures in support of the AHA.

Denis Agaba says this is not about supporting the AHA but about making money from the Slaters and the statehouse.

“If it is his own initiative, why hasn’t he given us the date and the full program? He is waiting for instructions from their foreign funders. I can’t be part of such,” says Agaba.

Joto La Jiwe, the author of this article, is a Ugandan correspondent for the African Human Rights Media Network. He writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at [email protected].

Source: African Human Rights Media Network member Erasing 76 Crimes.