03 Mar Day 2: Who Is Imposing Their Culture On Africa?
The ambassador was formal and dignified as he welcomed me into his office.* Not wanting to waste even a moment of such an important man’s time, I immediately presented him with our gift of UFI’s UN Negotiating Guide and proceeded to show him how to use the electronic CD to benefit the delegates in his UN mission. He listened intently and I could tell he was sizing up my message; trying to determine which side of the political and policy spectrum I was on. Quite frankly, I was doing the same with him.
Most countries in Africa are very pro-family, pro-life and conservative, but not all. The formatting of the guide gave him enough clues as to my pro-family position. Within a few minutes he surprised me with this strong and out-of-context-to-our-conversation statement: “Our greatest concern as African nations is the influence that the gay rights groups are having on our continent.”
He explained that what he needed is a “report;” he needed information on the strength of the gay rights coalition. Who are they specifically? How much money do they have? Who supports them? What is their connection to the U.S. administration? What is their plan for his country and for Africa? He explained that his colleagues from other African nations have the same concerns. He noted the “gay rights groups” disproportional influence in his and other African nations.” He shared his concern that these groups had access to power sufficient to impact international aid and that ultimately his country would be forced to accept and condone “this gay rights thing” or forego critical help for citizens of his country. He concluded in almost Churchhill fashion: “We will never, never accept homosexual behavior as normal. We never have and we never will. Never.”
With that message ringing in my ears, I left his office and a few hours later ended up in a CSW side-event sponsored by the Council for Global Equality. I listened with interest as a presenter proceeded to inform the crowd that “Africans by nature are not homophobic.” She blamed any resistance to gay rights as the work of the “Religious Right” who have recently “infiltrated” these countries promoting “hatred.” She continued: “Legal homophobia is being imported into African nations. There are attempts to silence the voice of ‘progressives,’ but there are thousands of cultures in Africa. They’re not monolithic and they will welcome us if we can just end the pernicious influence of the Christian Right.”
Hmmm…. I guess my ambassador friend and his colleagues did not get the memo.
*In order to protect my source, I intentionally did not reveal the name of the country whose mission I visited.