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Dec 13, 2010
As we reported last week, Bahati was barred from attending a conference in Washington, DC organized by the International Consortium of Governmental Financial Management. His subsequent decision to tape an interview with Rachel Maddow during his U.S. visit must have come as a surprise to some, but arguably, it makes a great deal of political sense. I don’t doubt that it will be easy for Bahati to brag to his supporters about this brave television appearance — look at me, I stood up for our values in front of this lesbian and liberal gay rights activist, etc. etc..
You’ve got to hand it to Maddow. Other primetime talk show hosts have made it their operative shtick to interrupt and berate their guests. In this interview, though, Maddow gives Bahati ample room to lay out his argument. She herself is direct and on point, and asks Bahati some simple, insightful questions — questions that uncover the vacuum of an argument that Bahati depends on in order to defend his "Kill the Gays" bill.
Near the beginning of the interview, Bahati claims that foreign money is being used to recruit Ugandan children into homosexuality:
"…We have a huge problem in our country…the problem of people who are coming from abroad…investing money to recruit children…into a behavior that we believe is a learned behavior and can be unlearned…"
Later on, Bahati gets more concrete: he claims that, in the last seven months, close to 15 million U.S. dollars have been invested in part in this harmful recruitment program. When pressed by Maddow to present some actual evidence, though, the Ugandan politician can’t muster anything. He only says that he is "very willing to publish these facts" on this deliberate targeting of Ugandan children. (Honesty, we hope to see Maddow follow up with Bahati regarding this offer.)
All in all, it’s a compelling interview. And for U.S. LGBT rights and human rights activists, I hope that they can read between the lines when Bahati says in the interview that he is willing to drop the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s "aggravated homosexuality" clause — a stipulation that would impose the death penalty on certain LGBT Ugandans. Here, it seems like Bahati is pushing his grand bargain: he’s willing to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for keeping the life imprisonment clause and other odious stipulations in the bill. Hopefully that’s a "compromise" that the Ugandan Parliament and Uganda President Yoweri Museveni — and we (as shown in our continued activism) — won’t accept.
Watch the two-part interview below: