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The truth behind Parliamentarians Enacting Conservative laws

The Midweek Sun (5 June 2024)

The Botswana Gazette (5 June 2024)

The Mast Newspaper (7 June 2024)

By: Bradley Fortuin and Anna Mmolai-Chalmers.

In the last year, we have seen Parliaments in Africa enact laws that contradict court rulings in Namibia and Kenya. In Uganda, and Ghana, new laws go as far as to criminalising anyone who advocates for LGBTQI+ rights. You may be wondering why Parliamentarians elected by the people passed these scary and draconian legislations; let us clue you in.

On 23 August 2023, SALC’s Anna Mmolai-Chalmers wrote an article about how the anti-rights movements seeking to weaponise LGBTQI+ rights. The movement you were warned about has gained momentum and penetrated African Parliaments. At the end of April 2024, National Assemblies sent delegations of legislators to attend the second African Interparliamentary Conference on Family Values and Sovereignty from 1 to 3 May 2024, convened by the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on the Family, the African Bar Association and the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage. According to a report from a Ugandan newspaper, African legislators from 24 African countries attended the conference, including Burundi, Botswana, Cameroon, Eswatini, Ghana, Gambia, Kenya Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and religious leaders from these countries.

On 9 August 2023, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the International Commission of Jurists wrote a statement warning South African leaders against participating in a conference sponsored by the African Bar Association in collaboration with Family Watch International because they attacked the South African Constitution, human rights, equality and the spread misinformation and advocate against LGBTQI+ and women’s sexual and reproductive rights. This is the same convener who is notorious for pushing the anti-rights and anti-gender agenda on the African continent, primarily funded by American conservative groups. Their identity is further revealed in a report by the Health Policy Watch dated 21 May 2024 as anti-vaxxers who paddle conspiracy theories against a range of vaccines, including HPV, malaria, tetanus and COVID-19.

In a YouTube video of the Uganda conference proceedings from 1 to 3 May 2024, accessed here, the speakers encourage parliamentarians to oppose the Samoa Agreement. This agreement aims to promote democracy, human rights, economic growth, climate change, peace and security and migration. The speakers push conspiracy theories that the deal threatens Africa’s health sovereignty and gives the World Health Organisation power to decide on global and public health with no input from African healthcare providers and legislators. They aim to lobby African legislators to formulate laws and policies banning democracy, human rights, sexual reproductive health rights, LGBTIQ+ rights and equal rights. They further lobby Parliamentarians to amend their Constitutions to curtail rights. Do you see where the motivation to review Constitutions and introduce new Bills comes from? This is how Family Watch International, a conservative movement from the US, is penetrating either naïve, or even worse, self-interested and opportunistic, African Parliamentarians and taking the designing of laws away from the citizens.

The anti-rights movement, through these conferences targeting legislators, is pushing an agenda where parliamentarians are used as their proxies, rejecting democracy, the rule of law and human rights and instead put in place laws that are aligned with the US conservative right.

What the African citizen needs to know is that, through these conferences, the anti-rights movement is paving the way for a scary agenda described in what is now known as Project 2025. This is a Presidential Transitional Project preparing for when a conservative representative, such as President Trump, takes over office. As if Trump winning elections is not scary enough, what’s even more horrifying is the conservative policies they have already drafted that include banning Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRH-R), bringing back fossil fuel extraction, dismantling climate change policies and doing away with democracy and human rights. These convenings are all part of that bigger plan described in Project 2025.

In Africa, their work is already visible. In December 2023, CNN reported about the involvement of groups like Family Watch International in drafting anti-rights bills in Uganda, Ghana, and Kenya. Uganda’s, passed legislation in May 2023, mandates life imprisonment for homosexuality and severe penalties for supporting and promoting LGBTIQ+ rights. Ghana imposes harsh penalties on LGBTIQ+ individuals and those advocating for equal rights. At the same time, Kenya’s Supreme Court faced backlash from Parliamentarians for recognising an LGBTIQ+ advocacy group. These Parliamentarian tactics have not spared Southern Africa. In Namibia, the Civil Registration and Identification Amendment Bill seeks to redefine marriage strictly as a union between a cisgender man and woman, effectively nullifying previous recognitions of same-sex marriages and erasing transgender identities.

The African Parliamentarians’ participation in these conferences raises serious concerns. Particularly given Africa’s already weakened democratic institutions and legislators contesting with the judiciary, the power pressure from the American conservatives mobilising for authoritarian regimes that undermine human rights and the wishes of the citizens. Citizens have no choice but to wonder if their members of Parliament are making laws informed by the needs of the citizens or whether they are pushing ideologies and needs of the imperialists who masquerade as protectors of African Family values. Are they representatives of the people or puppets of imperialists such as American conservatives? Is their involvement in the best interest of African citizens or is it influenced by potential campaign funding from anti-rights American organisations?

The public must critically examine such alliances’ intentions and possible outcomes. Refer to the sources in this article and find out what Parliamentarians from your country have been up to. Is this really about protecting African values, or is it about imposing a narrow, oppressive agenda on our diverse and vibrant communities? As we commemorate Africa Day, let’s remember the suffering we endured as Africans from slavery and colonialism, the very same arguments our own representatives are now using to erode our hard-won rights.

*The authors, Bradley Fortuin and Anna Mmolai-Chalmers are consultants at the Southern Africa Litigation Center (SALC). SALC promotes and advances human rights and the rule of law in Southern Africa, primarily through strategic litigation and capacity-strengthening support to lawyers and grassroots organisations.