Monday, March 3, 2014

Word of the Day: UPRISING [Part 3 of 3]

Uganda is my focus today.  The uprising there is of a different kind than Venezuela and Ukraine, and can be summed up as manufactured homophobic hysteria.

The issue at hand in Uganda is gay rights. One week ago, on February 24, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, which makes all same-sex relationships illegal in the country, and even allows for extradition of Ugandan citizens for committing homosexual acts abroad.  Persons, entities, corporations, or those in the media who are aware of someone being homosexual can even be punished for not reporting those individuals.

Two key terms are included in the law's wording.  One is "the offense of homosexuality", which is defined as someone engaging in anal and/or oral sex with someone of the same sex, using anything to arouse another person's sexual organ, or touching another person (where does not matter) with the intention of sexual acts.  The other term is "aggravated homosexuality", which is defined as someone engaging in homosexual acts with someone who is under age (under 18), someone who is HIV positive, a parent or guardian engaging in homosexual acts with someone under age, an authority figure of the victim, someone engaging in homosexual acts with a disabled person, a serial offender under this law, or someone who uses means (drugs or drink) to disable someone in order to make homosexual advances easier. Conviction for either one can result in life imprisonment.

The law was originally nicknamed the "Kill the Gays Bill" because the potential life imprisonment sentences were originally written to be death penalty sentences.

Let's take a few steps back...
In 2007, The Red Pepper, a Ugandan newspaper, published the names of men who were believed to be gay -- not known to be gay, just believed to be gay -- and those men were subsequently harassed throughout Ugandan society.  The initial bill that would eventually result in the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 was introduced in the Ugandan government in 2009.

In the Fall of 2010, another Ugandan newspaper, Rolling Stone, had the following as its front page:
This time, the story included the names and addresses and photographs of 100 homosexuals.  The story also claimed homosexual were trying to recruit young children into homosexuality.

A banner next to the pictures read: "Hang Them".

In January of 2011, David Kato, a teacher who worked for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an activist group fighting for LGBT rights in Uganda, was murdered.  His name was one of the 100 listed in Rolling Stone newspaper just months earlier. 

Further action on the bill was delayed as global opposition to it grew stronger.  However, the bill resurfaced and passed in the Ugandan legislature on December 20th of last year.  As I mentioned earlier, President Museveni signed it into law one week ago today.  One day after signing the bill The Red Pepper newspaper published the names of the "200 top" homosexuals in Uganda.

In the days since signing the bill into law, various countries have voted to stop aid to the East African country.  Just three days ago, the World Bank said an upcoming loan in the amount of $90 million would be withheld.

A point necessary to be made is that of Christian evangelicals who have been going to Uganda for years and raising public condemnation of homosexuality to a fever pitch.  Before going any further, let me be clear.  I am not making this point to bash the entirety of Christianity.  I am only speaking of the actions of certain Christian evangelicals who, in my opinion, have decided to preach a gospel of hatred rather than love.

Their interest in the country goes back thirty-five years to the fall of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

The influence of Christian evangelicals, such as Lou Engle and his International House of Prayer, is brought to light in a powerful 2013 documentary titled God Loves Uganda by filmmaker Roger Ross Williams.
The film is in limited theatrical release throughout the United States (with dates being added) and Europe (at the time of this posting, in the Czech Republic and Switzerland).  Here in the United States the documentary can be seen on Public Television stations on Monday evening, May 19th, and a DVD release of the documentary is due at that time.

It is clear that the levels to which the societal condemnation of homosexuals in Uganda has risen, to the point of basically outlawing homosexuality, is troubling at least, horrific at most. It is one thing to disagree with something based on religious principles.  That, in and of itself, is fine.  However, when those disagreements turn into acts of inciting violence against other human beings, then those acts need to be stopped.  That includes getting others to do your killing, imprisoning, and vilifying for you.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Word of the Day: UPRISING [Part 2 of 3]

My focus today is on the Ukraine, a country deeply divided and possibly on the brink of war.

Perhaps many of you watched the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia.  There were numerous stories in the weeks and months leading up to the Games regarding serious security concerns.  Here in the United States, there were plans in place to get athletes out of the country should the need arise.  There were news reports of several American Olympians telling their parents to stay home.

On February 7, the 2014 Winter Olympics began with much pomp and circumstance.  Russia president Vladimir Putin was, no doubt, basking in the glory of the Olympics Games taking place in his country.  Regarding security concerns, it would seem that Russian authorities were able of handling security for the Games quite well, despite concerns in the U.S. and abroad to the contrary.

Although not at any sites in or near the Olympic Village, twelve days into the Games, protests erupted in Ukraine's capital city of Kiev.

No doubt, President Putin was not feeling so proud, as he was with the Sochi Olympics, with this news.

The whole issue within the Ukraine can be described as having as much to do with national identity as it does with political and economic alliance.  Ukraine has ties to both Russia, on their east, and the European Union, on their west.  Ukraine became its own sovereign state in the summer of 1991 when it broke from the Soviet Union.  Its ties with Russia include ten-year gas supply and transit contracts negotiated in the beginning of 2009 and a gas import contract which continued Russia's lease of Ukraine's naval base in Crimea.  The initial 2009 gas and transit contract with Russia, however, contained so many restrictions that Ukraine's national gas company, Naftohaz, which was already struggling, was strapped even further.

The national economy of Ukraine decreased by fifteen percent in 2009.

Ukraine's ties to the European Union (EU) began back in 1998, seven years after becoming a sovereign state, with the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the two entities.  The EU negotiated the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the Ukraine as well.  The DCFTA would replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.  Both the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, as it's come to be known, and the DCFTA were initialized within four months of each other in 2012.

The EU has maintained that it wants to sign and ratify both the DCFTA and the Association Agreement.  At the last minute, however, Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych decided to not sign on, opting instead for a $15 billion bailout (approximately 10.85 billion) from Russia, one week before the Agreement signing was to take place in November of last year. Yanukovych's refusal to sign the agreement resulted in the beginning of protests in his country, which came to a fever-pitch level near the end of the Olympics.

About a week ago, Yanukovych went missing, believed to have left the country, and was charged with murder in relation to the deaths of protestors last month by the still-standing Ukraine government.  He was officially dismissed of his presidency by the government.

Several days ago, Russian military forces were sent to the Russia-Ukraine border for what were called military exercises.  Yesterday, Russian military forces entered Crimea using unmarked helicopters and unidentified soldiers on board.  In fact, it has been reported that some of these troops, while unloading an unmarked payload, told Ukraine customs officials that they had "no need of their services".

In the past twenty-four hours of the time of this posting, several very significant events have taken place:
>  Yanukovych resurfaced at a news conference at the Vertol Expo Center in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, saying he was not deposed, but left for his own safety, blaming the EU and the West. 
>  The unmarked Russian military has taken over major airports in Crimea. 
>  The Kremlin unanimously voted in favor of Russian military forces going into Crimea, a Ukraine peninsula.  In effect, a takeover of Crimea appears imminent, which would be not only a power grab by Vladimir Putin, but could prove to be a strategic geographical military advantage. 
>  President Obama opposed the moves by Russia, stating that the U.S. stands with Ukraine, and that "there will be costs for any military intervention" there.  (What those "costs" could be is unknown.)
>  The City Council of Donetsk, a town on the eastern end of Ukraine, voted to refuse recognition of the government in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, and raised the Russian flag after lowering and removing the Ukranian flag.
>  Ukraine Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said Russian military intervention would result in not only ending all ties with Moscow, but also war.
>  Acting Ukraine President Oleksander Turchynov has put the country's troops on high alert.
>  An emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council has been convened. 
>  NATO has invoked Article 4 of the North American Treaty, only the fourth time in its history, at the behest of Lithuania and Latvia, which results in an emergency council meeting on these issues.
>  Reuters News has reported that two Russian war ships have been spotted near Sevastopol, a city on the Black Sea coast of Crimea, in direct violation of naval base agreement between Russia and Ukraine.
>  Both pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine protests have taken place, and continue to take place, in various parts of Ukraine.
>  U.S. President Obama and Russia President Putin spoke on the phone regarding what has been happening in the region.

It is clear, at least to me, that this is an invasion by Russia, close to an attempted coup.  No doubt, all signs in this region are pointing to war.  Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail ... fast!