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– by Wolf Dagmar
Participant in a rally in Nairobi in February, protesting against Uganda’s anti-gay legislation.
Uganda adopts homophobic law
In late February, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-gay legislation which the country’s parliament had passed December 2013. According to the new law, homosexual activities can be punished with lifelong prison sentences. The propagation of homosexuality is prohibited, and citizens are requested to report gay people to the authorities. Those who are aware of gay relations and do not inform government agencies are threatened with harsh punishment too.
An earlier draft of the law demanded the death penalty for "severe homosexual activities". This paragraph was dropped in view of international pressure. The same kind of pressure was probably the reason why Museveni did not sign the law immediately.
The international donor community expressed criticism of Museveni’s decision. When D+C/E+Z went to press, Sweden and the United States were considering to cut aid disbursement, and the Netherlands froze funding earmarked for supporting Uganda’s justice system. The World Bank stopped a loan worth about $ 90 million. In the eyes of Gerd Müller, the German minister for economic cooperation and development, Uganda has crossed a „red line". Müller expressed himself in favour of not disbursing the EU’s next installment of budget support worth € 20 million. In mid February, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch had predicted on twitter: "In the name of African culture Uganda Pres will sign anti-gay law pushed by US evangelists toughening British colonial ban."
One day after the Museveni signed the law, an Ugandan newspaper published a list naming 200 suspected homosexuals. According to Ugandan gay rights activists, homosexuals were beginning to flee from the country. (stob)
Even western democracies are curtailing the freedom of the press, warns the non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders (RWB). "The USA and the UK are accusing investigative journalists and whistleblowers of being close to terrorists," says Michael Rediske, who heads the German section of the international organisation. In his eyes, it is unacceptable that western governments that have "a long history of press freedom" are now displaying the same "kind of security-minded impulses" as dictatorships. According to RWB, this attitude is making life harder for journalists who risk their personal liberty and health in authoritarian-ruled countries.
In February, RWB published the 2140 World Press Freedom Index, compiling data on media matters in 180 countries and regions. The result is that journalists have the best working conditions in northern and western Europe. Finland, the Netherlands and Norway are at the top of the ranking, while Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan are at the bottom. Germany is in the 14th place. (sb)
Record number of wars
Humankind has never seen a year with more wars than 2013. That is the result of an assessment done by scholars at the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK). Their recent publication "Conflict barometer 2013" counts 414 conflicts around the world and considers 45 of them "highly violent". The document lists 20 wars in 15 world regions. Since the end of World War II, only 2011 was marked by that number of wars. Most of them are civil wars, according the HIIK, and especially Africa and the Middle East are affected.
Sub-saharan Africa was rocked by eleven wars in 2013. That was the highest number since they began counting, the scholars report. Relevant examples included Sudan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali. Simon Ellerbrock of the HIIK points out, however, that the rising number of conflicts is driven by better reporting and documentation of violence to some extent.
North Africa and the Middle East also had several theatres of war in 2013. Examples, according to the HIIK, include the strife in Syria and violent clashes in Egypt after the military toppled the Muslim-Brothers backed government last summer. (sb)