Uganda paid US PR firm ‘to clean up image’ after anti-gay bill
The row over a law to ban homosexuality in Uganda has been reignited after it emerged the government paid a US public relations firm to overcome the negative publicity it caused, a report said on Monday.
Uganda’s Observer newspaper said the government had spent 614 million shillings (206,000 dollars, 174,000 euros) “to prop up Uganda’s image” after it was “tarnished by the Anti-Homosexuality Act”.
“It’s quite unbelievable that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could use this money to clear Uganda’s image, yet us as Ugandans we are against this issue of homosexuality,” Florence Nebanda, one of several reportedly furious MPs, was quoted as saying.
The report said that many MPs in the east African nation’s parliament, where support is strong for tough anti-gay legislation, were now refusing to approve the payment to Scribe Strategies and Advisors, a Washington-based lobbying firm.
A harsh bill that could have seen gays jailed for life was signed into law by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last February, but was struck down six months later by the constitutional court on a technicality.
The law drew widespread international condemnation, with US Secretary of State John Kerry likening it to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany.
Since then MPs have proposed another law criminalising the “promotion” of homosexuality, although activists say it would be equally repressive.
But Aston Kajara, a state minister, defended the PR payment — recalling that the fall-out from the controversy had resulted in Museveni having trouble finding a hotel room in Texas in September last year, when he visited the US state to drum up investment.
“There were campaigns against the government of Uganda to the extent that even the hotel they had booked for him had to change. We engaged consultants to intervene and stem the hostility against the president on behalf of Uganda,” he was quoted as saying