UK’s Lord Bellingham Calls for Regime Change in Uganda Amid Growing International Pressure

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Lord Henry Campbell Bellingham, a former barrister and British Conservative politician who sits in the House of Lords has called for regime change in Uganda.

“My Lords, will the Minister not agree that one thing that could make a really big difference to this appalling situation would be a change in regime and free and fair elections?” said Bellingham during a plenary discussion in the British Parliament after Uganda’s Constitutional Court upheld the Anti-Homosexuality Law. 

The law provides for a death sentence for aggravated homosexuality. 

The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. It plays a crucial role in examining bills, questioning government action and investigating public policy.

This is the first time in recent history that a member of the House of the Lords is openly calling for regime change in Kampala.

Bellingham, who served as MP for North West Norfolk between 1983 and 1997 and was re-elected in 2001, noted that “the European Parliament concluded that the last (2021) elections (in Uganda) were neither free nor fair and were violent.”

He added: “ What more can we do to ensure there is multi-party democracy? Will he (Minister) find time to meet the outstanding new leader of the opposition, Joel Ssenyonyi, who is a brave young politician who deserves our support?” 

Bellingham’s remarks underscore the potential challenges the Ugandan government faces in the international community following the enactment of the anti-gay law. 

Fire

It all started with Lord Cashman asking His Majesty’s Government what representations they had made to the government of Uganda regarding its Anti-Homosexuality Act.

In response, the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Lord Benyon said Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act had increased violence and discrimination against LGBT+ people. 

“The UK has made its opposition clear to all levels of the Ugandan Government,” said Lord Benyon. 

He further said, “on 3 April, the Ugandan Constitutional Court struck down some provisions. However, the legislation remains, including the death penalty for so-called aggravated homosexuality.”

Lord Benyon emphasised that the Deputy Foreign Secretary met the Ugandan Justice Minister Norbert Mao on 3 April and “underlined the importance of ensuring that people are free from persecution regardless of sexuality and stressed our concern at this legislation.”

Minister Norbert Mao

Unlike the Americans who prefer megaphone diplomacy, Britain practices quiet diplomacy. 

The fact that the UK’s House of Lords can openly rebuke President Museveni’s government over the anti-gay law and root for the opposition demonstrates the damage inflicted on the Ugandan leader’s reputation in the eyes of the international community.

However, in conservative Uganda where the majority of the masses abhor homosexuality, the law remains popular. 

Members of the House of the Lords are not elected and do not directly represent citizens in the same way as MPs. 

However, the Lords are very influential and devote much of their parliamentary time to considering specific policy issues in detail.

Like MPs, they scrutinise the work of the government and recommend changes to proposed legislation. 

Indeed, during the same debate in Parliament, Lord Cashman called for targeted sanctions against officials behind the new law.

Sanctions 

“The situation is dire and worsening, with arrests, people going into hiding, blackmail and service providers closing. Therefore, I ask the Government to mirror the actions taken by the United States, Canada and the World Bank: targeted sanctions on named individuals and on access to individual assets held in the UK and an immediate pause on development support that could be used by discriminatory actors. Finally, they should call on Uganda to end implementing the law with forced anal examinations. Such barbaric human rights abuses must be vigorously denounced,” said Lord Cashman. 

Sanctioned: Speaker Anita Among

In response, Lord Benyon said, “No one in Uganda can be under any illusions about the UK’s position on this. We have raised it at every level of government and we will continue to do so.”

He added: “We do not discuss openly what plans we have on sanctions, but we will look at all opportunities to continue to raise this and ensure that the Government of Uganda, the Parliament of Uganda and those proposing this legislation understand how devastating it is and what enormous damage has been done to Uganda’s reputation in the world. I will continue to work with the noble Lord and others to ensure we are taking every action we can.’

A few days later, the UK government slapped sanctions on the Speaker of Parliament Anita Among and two former ministers over the alleged theft of relief items for the Karamoja region.

This was the first time the UK used the Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions regime on individuals allegedly involved in corruption in Uganda.

Deputy Foreign Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said:  “The actions of these individuals, in taking aid from those who need it most, and keeping the proceeds, is corruption at its worst and has no place in society. The Ugandan courts are rightly taking action to crack down on those politicians who seek to line their own pockets at their constituents’ expense.”

Ugandan officials believe the Karamoja iron sheet saga was used as a cover to sanction Among for supporting the anti-gay law.

***

Chimp reports

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