To those of us who exist in the real world, the United Nations is a well-intentioned international project that, despite piloting some of the best humanitarian and cultural programs ever, somehow wound up with all the cons of government but none of the perks. As an example of this, the general assembly voted — unanimously — to elect Sam Kutesa, a Ugandan lawyer and politician, the next president of general assembly. Kutesa is a wealthy business man who dodged corruption charges and is an ardent supporter of Uganda’s anti-gay law.
Which is to say, United Nations elected a thoroughly homophobic oligarch as the General Assembly President.
Slate has more on the recent election:
In a controversial move on Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously elected Uganda’s foreign minister Sam Kutesa as the president for its 69th session, which will begin in September. According to the Associated Press, the position is “largely ceremonial but prestigious” and “rotates annually by region”; Kutesa garnered the uncontested nomination of his region’s African Union Executive Council after Cameroonian Foreign Minister Pierre Moukoko was withdrawn as a candidate. Critics of the choice, including many LGBTQ and human rights activists, are concerned that honoring Kutesa and, by extension, Uganada in such a way will send the wrong message with regard to the country’s recently imposed anti-gay legislation.
He’s got a sketchy history, too; he has close ties to the current Ugandan President, the authoritarian Yoweri Museveni, and he’s been hit with allegations of bribery involving foreign oil companies. The AP reports:
A wealthy businessman and longtime member of parliament, Kutesa is widely seen by critics to have benefited from his close ties with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, an increasingly authoritarian leader who has held power for nearly three decades. Kutesa’s daughter is married to Museveni’s son.
Kutesa, 65, was ousted as a junior investment minister by Ugandan lawmakers over charges he abused his office. Since 1999, he has been implicated in at least two more scandals including bribery allegations involving foreign companies seeking oil contracts in Uganda.
So far, Kutesa has dodged charges of corruption, but the charge of “homophobic” certainly sticks, even if he would whine otherwise. He’s recorded saying of gay rights that “we shall not accept promotion and exhibition, because we think that is wrong for our young people and it offends our culture.” He’s a staunch supporter of Museveni’s anti-gay law, which would not only punish gay people with life sentences but also punish those who promote gay rights with up to seven years in prison; and that’s the vanilla version The original version was drafted with input from daft, bigoted lunatics like Scott Lively and required the death penalty for being gay. Keep in mind, this is a law that’s wildly popular with the Religious Right here in this country.
Opponents of the decision have started a petition that calls on the Obama administration to revoke Kutesa’s visa, which would mean he couldn’t attend any of the New York meetings. It doesn’t seem an inappropriate to take this action given that Kutesa is a representative of a country that’s made terrorizing LGBTQ people a state policy.
You can find the US petition here.