The Minister of State for Trade (Industry), David Bahati, has spoken out on the decision by the United States to disengage Uganda from the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) market, saying Uganda won’t sacrifice its culture and values to the altar of homosexuality.
“We took it (decision on Anti-Homosexuality Act) soberly, consciously knowing that those who oppose us would blackmail us and want us to take some decisions that affect us both economically and even politically. So we still stand, and we shall forever stand for the decision we made against homosexuality in this country, and whatever comes, we are ready to find alternatives to mitigate the effects of that decision,” said Bahati.
Bahati made the remarks during a media interview with journalists who cover Parliament and urged Ugandans to understand that the decision made by Parliament on homosexuality in Uganda was intended to defend the institution of family and reaffirm Uganda’s belief that marriage, as understood biblically and culturally, is meant to be between the union of a man and a woman.
“We aren’t really scared about this market; it is a market that we would have loved to supply, but if it comes to making a choice between allowing homosexuality in our country and going with the American market, then we choose to fight homosexuality. That is our choice, and that is a choice that we stand with and we aren’t scared about this because we know that we have alternative markets and what we need to do now which we are going to do, is to continue improving the standards of our goods so that we can supply the markets in Europe, Asia, African market alone, is enough to consume what we are producing now,” said Bahati.
Minister Bahati said that he is going to continue praying for Americans so that they change their minds against supporting homosexuality and said the NRM Government will also continue defending human rights both in Uganda and in Africa.
“It is unfortunate that the Americans have taken this decision; it is unfortunate that they have chosen the wrong path of history which is supporting a man marrying a man or woman getting married to a woman and we continue to engage them, we continue to pray for them so that they can change their minds, but Uganda will never ever change our position on the issue of homosexuality. We still believe in our culture and the institution of marriage.”
The Minister added,
“We hope that at one time, they realize that the decision that they have taken is a wrong decision. We will continue to defend human rights because the NRM Government is a chief defender of human rights even on the continent, we still have that good record and where there have been abuses of human rights, those abuses are punishable according to the law.”
The Minister, who rose to prominence after moving the Bill for the enacting of a similar law in 2014 before it was annulled by the Court, asked the other African nations to learn from Uganda’s ordeal and use this as a lesson for Africa and its leaders to build a base for the continent’s economic survival, in order to avoid such scenarios from happening in future.
“What Africa needs to do and which we are going to focus on is to look at our infrastructure to facilitate our trade within the continent because it is a bit costly to move from Uganda to Mombasa to be able to access the West African market, so African countries must build infrastructure to facilitate trade. We need a railway line from here to West Africa, we need cargo planes to be able to transport our goods and these are also opportunities for infrastructure development, at the same time trade opportunities,” said Bahati.
Bahati also said that he is analysing the situation and see whether Uganda will vanish from planet Earth by February, following the decision by the Joe Biden Administration to lockout Uganda from the American market, saying Uganda can do away with the American market because Uganda has only been importing second-hand clothes, which can be replaced with an increase in cotton production to bridge that gap.
The Minister added,
“We have woken up to know that unity is strength, which is why we are integrating the East African Community. So, the cancellation of AGOA will not hinder us from our belief that the institution of marriage must be defended, that man was created to marry a woman and it can never be vis-as-visa, we are proud of the decision we made to protect our children we are proud of the decision we made to defend the institution of marriage and Uganda will not bow down because of this threat and we will continue to build other markets with other countries.”
Recent trade figures
Minister Bahati also falsely claimed that Uganda is importing second-hand clothes from Americans worth over US$800m, and yet according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, in 2022/2023, Uganda exported goods worth $87.766m (UGX 333.584Bn), which is higher than $203.127Mn (UGX 770.644Bn) goods Uganda imported from the US in the same period.
In December 2023, the White House announced a wave of new sanctions to be imposed on Uganda by pausing approximately $15 million (UGX 57.031Bn) for all biological threat reduction activities with the Ugandan Ministries of Health, Agriculture, and Tourism, and will continue to review U.S. government-funded security assistance and military cooperation activities.
The U.S also announced plans to redirect more than $5 million (UGX 18.972Bn) through PEPFAR from the Government to non-governmental implementing partners due to concerns over how the AHA impacts the Government of Uganda’s ability to deliver services in a non-discriminatory manner, with the US noting that these actions are not intended to negatively impact HIV/AIDS service delivery to key populations.
The United States has continued to pile pressure on Uganda following the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, with the North American nation imposing visa restrictions and entry to the United States, including current and former Ugandan officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda or for policies or actions aimed at repressing members of marginalized or vulnerable populations.
The Biden administration also imposed sanctions against Johnson Byabashaija, Commissioner General of Prisons, on allegations of engaging in torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against prisoners held within UPS facilities.
However, despite all those sanctions, Minister Bahati has said that Uganda has built and continues to build a strong integrated market of the East African Community, which now has a population of over 300m people and we shall be around 886 million people in 2050, and this has further been boosted by the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area with a population of around 1.2billion people and it will be 2.5billion people in 2050, and these two markets will be complemented with the markets like the preferential Chinese market, European Union, the Asians, we are opening up in the Arabs.
“So, what we need to do is to continue doing what we have been doing, improving on the standards of the goods that we are producing and making sure we fight issues of toxins in our products and then, we will be able to sell in other markets,” noted Bahati.