UK

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Shares Platform With UK Minister Mark Simmonds, The Same Day Two Go On Trial For Homosexuality

07/05/2014 19:16 BST | Updated 08/05/2014 12:59 BST

The government has been criticised for hosting the president of Uganda at a prestigious business forum, on the same day two Ugandan men face life-imprisonment at their trial for homosexuality.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was in London to speak at the UK-Uganda Business Forum alongside Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds, less than four months after the country's draconian anti-gay bill was passed.

That law means life imprisonment for people found to be in a homosexual relationship.

peter tatchell

Protests as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni visited London to speak at the UK-Uganda Business Forum

Today's trial of Kim Mukisa and Jackson Mukasa is the first under the new legislation. The couple were arrested in January fleeing a lynch mob, according to human rights groups.

Simmonds spoke to Museveni at the event, and on Wednesday had a meeting with Sam Kutesa, the country’s Foreign Minister.

At the forum today, Minister for Africa Simmonds was critical of the Ugandan president, and said there was a higher potential for investment in Uganda if the nation was “a country that is more accountable and treats its people with dignity is more likely to foster creativity, ingenuity and economic opportunity.”

Around a dozen gay rights activists, led by veteran campaign Peter Tatchell, held a protest outside the forum.

“Gay people are not the cause of Uganda’s problems," Tatchell said. "The government of Uganda should fight poverty and HIV, not gay people.

"It is hypocritical for the UK government to condemn homophobia while hosting President Museveni, who has backed one of the world’s most draconian anti-gay laws.

"He is a tyrant who presides over a corrupt regime that is guilty of widespread human rights violations, including the arrest of opposition leaders, torture and the suppression of free speech. The UK government should not be drumming up business to sustain his autocratic rule. ”

Godwyns Onwuchekwa, the coordinator of Justice for Gay Africans, said: “The claim that homophobia is a Ugandan value is spin used by Museveni’s government to cover up for its failure to provide basic amenities for ordinary Ugandans. LGBT Ugandans should be treated equally to all other Ugandans.”

Amnesty International UK's Tim Hancock also criticised the timing of the meeting. "While President Museveni tries to drum up business in London, with the support of our government, outrageous, homophobic persecution takes a chilling turn in Uganda.

"Ministers should ensure that business leaders know about Uganda's violation of precious, fundamental human rights," he said.

Ben Simms, the director of STOPAIDS called it "shameful" that the Foreign Office had given the Ugandan government "the red carpet treatment, with ministers speaking on the same platform as Museveni".

"It seems British business interests have trumped the human rights of Ugandans," he continued. "We are left wondering what Hague’s strategy for tackling homophobia really is."

Ugandan officials have accused Western governments applying pressure over the bill as blackmailing the country.