The Ugandan government paid a US public relations firm $262,000 to combat the negative publicity caused by its controversial homosexuality ban, a local report has revealed.
Uganda’s Observer newspaper said the government had paid the Washington-based Scribe Strategies and Advisors “to prop up Uganda’s image” after it was “tarnished by the Anti-Homosexuality Act”.
“It’s quite unbelievable that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could use this money to clear Uganda’s image, yet us as Ugandans we are against this issue of homosexuality,” Florence Nebanda, one of several reportedly furious MPs, was quoted as saying.
The report said many MPs in the east African nation’s parliament, where support is strong for tough anti-gay legislation, were now refusing to approve the payment to the firm.
A harsh bill that could have seen gays jailed for life was signed into law by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni last February, but was struck down six months later by the constitutional court on a technicality.
The law drew widespread international condemnation, with US Secretary of State John Kerry likening it to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany.
Since then MPs have proposed another law criminalising the “promotion” of homosexuality, although activists say it would be equally repressive.
Aston Kajara, a state minister, defended the PR payment – recalling that the fall-out from the controversy had resulted in Mr Museveni having trouble finding a hotel room in Texas in September last year, when he visited the US state to drum up investment.
“There were campaigns against the government of Uganda to the extent that even the hotel they had booked for him had to change,” he said.
“We engaged consultants to intervene and stem the hostility against the president on behalf of Uganda.”