I have been reading comments about the recently passed anti-gay bill- a second piece of legislation in the realms of sexuality in as many days- and quickly, the sheer degree of ignorance among those posting the comments comes to the fore. Because of that, I have chosen to use 20 minutes of my lunch break to write this, hoping to both educate (performing my duties under Part 29 of the Preamble?) and to challenge Ugandans to read the Constitution.

The argument, on Social Media at least, has been on whether President Museveni, the bearer of the Executive prerogative to assent to bills passed by parliament before they become law, will indeed assent to the said anti-gay bill or not. Here is the news (maybe not news anymore, since this has been around for nearly two decades now): he doesn’t have to sign the bill to make it an Act of Parliament or law, because Parliament has the legislative powers, stated at least thrice in the Constitution, to make it law with or without a presidential assent.

Without going into the merits of the act, I would suggest that those squandering precious time debating that would rather go and read Article 91 in Chapter 6 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. Nay, I will make your job even easier and copy and paste excerpts from the Constitution here:

(2) A bill passed by Parliament shall, as soon as possible, be presented to the President for assent.

(3) The President shall, within thirty days after a bill is presented to him or her-

(a) assent to the bill;

(b) return the bill to Parliament with a request that the bill or a particular provision of it be reconsidered by Parliament; or

(c) notify the Speaker in writing that he or she refuses to assent to the bill.

(4) Where a bill has been returned to Parliament under clause (3) (b) of this article and the bill is passed for the third time, with the support of at least two-thirds of all members of Parliament, the Speaker shall cause a copy of the bill to be laid before Parliament, and the bill shall become law without the assent of the President.

(6) Where the President-

(a) refuses to assent to a bill under clause (3)(c) of this article, Parliament may reconsider the bill and if passed, the bill shall be presented to the President for assent;

(b) refuses to assent to a bill which has been reconsidered and passed under paragraph (a) or clause (4) of this article, the of this article, the Speaker shall, upon the refusal, if the bill was so passed with the support of at least two-thirds of all members of Parliament, cause a copy of the bill to be laid before Parliament, and the

bill shall become law without the assent of the President.

(7) Where the President fails to do any of the acts specified in

clause (3) of this article within the period prescribed in that clause, the

President shall be taken to have assented to the bill and at the expiration

Of that period, the Speaker shall cause a copy of the bill to be laid before

Parliament and the bill shall become law without the assent of the

President.

My advice to gay rights campaigners: do not waste time petitioning Mr. Museveni against signing the bill. Instead, go back to the drawing board and see what else you can do, to ensure your fundamental rights are protected. My guess is that, like in the past, it will still be hard for the government to successfully prosecute anyone, because it is just nearly impossible for them to adduce reliable evidence of guilt in courts of law. The starting point is to avoid being arrested, because, like it has been with opposition politicians, the arbitrary arrest and detention stage by the police is where rights are most abused in Uganda. Courts, with the exception of a few really politicized and corrupt judges, tend to be more sane and protective of human rights.

In the same respect, I have heard some people wondering whether Ugandans can have dual citizenship or not, because there has never been news of President Museveni assenting to the Act of Parliament that was passed in May 2009. I say, get the forms and get the applications going, because the Constitution does allow for dual citizenship, because Chapter 3 Article 15 of the 1995 Constitution, as amended, allows you to, contrary to what you may read in places like this from the Uganda Legal Information Institute guys, who have either gone to sleep, or abandoned their website altogether.

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