Lonely Planet, the widely-respected travel information and guidebook company has chosen one of the world’s most homophobic and gay-violent countries as their number one pick for “Best in Travel” listings for 2012 –Uganda, Africa. A country where human rights should more correctly be called religious fundamentalist rights or in-power political rights or corrupt police rights.
Surely the Lonely Planet committee that picked this country out of many other more humane destinations were aware of the abysmal violations of its citizens and especially the LGBT (gay) population. Uganda already criminalizes consensual adult same-sex behavior and more recently the Parliament is dithering with a new law that would penalize such behavior with the death penalty–including jail time for anyone who knows of homosexual behavior and does not report it.
Around the world, other countries have threatened to cut off foreign aid to Uganda if the bill passes. All major human rights organizations as well as the UN, UK Prime Minister Cameron, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu and President Obama oppose this egregious proposal.
Where is Lonely Planet’s head to value human abuse over human dignity. With the abundance of knowledge that LP has about Uganda this is no mere oversight. Diminishing the horrors there by referring to them merely as “issues” in the abstract (as said in their blog) only makes LP seem more the blind fool who is indifferent to the wide-spread persecution and abuse going on there. Clearly wild animals and pretty waterfalls in Uganda–wonderful as they are–cannot count for more than human conditions there.
Lonely Planet says, “stability is returning and it won’t be long before visitors come flocking back.” Not true. The appearance of stability is due to the stranglehold that President Museveni on political power. His presidency has been impaired by invading and occupying Congo during the Second Congo War (which has resulted in an estimated 5.4 million deaths since 1998) as well as conflicts in the Great Lakes region. Rebellion in the north of Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army continues to perpetuate one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Museveni also manipulated the parliament to abolish presidential term limits in 2006 and has harassed the democratic opposition. (photo right, rural children)
Lonely Planet says, “Human rights abuses aren’t uncommon, and the country breathes a collective sigh whenever President Museveni thinks of another ruse to stay in power for a few more years.” This is a myopic an distorted view of life on the ground. Human rights abuses are not “aren’t uncommon”. This double negative mutes the real brutality that is launched on gay people, political opponents, tribal minorities and the impoverished. And only the military, religious right and the corrupt welcome more years of Museveni. as if 26 years in office are not enough repression and flawed elections. Human Rights Watch criticizes Uganda for unlawful prosecutions of civilians in military courts as well as health neglect, hard labor, and abuse in Ugandan prisons.
Lonely Planet needs to remove Uganda from it’s list of favored tourist nations. At the very least, move it to the bottom of the list.
If anyone doubts this reasoning, let them read the following 55–and growing–news and reports archived by GlobalGayz.com; and these are only for 2011. The archive goes back to 2002:
Gay Uganda News & Reports 2011 Sep-Dec
Gay Uganda News & Reports 2011 May-Aug
Gay Uganda News & Reports 2011 Jan-Apr
By Richard Ammon
November 5, 2011