You have no right, David Cameron!!!!!!

The adage, ‘one man’s meat is another’s poison’, is a truism that can also be applied to different cultures. For instance, it is the height of rudeness in my culture to greet, gesticulate, give or receive with the left hand because that is the hand used for all dirty work, including after using the toilet. I remember during my primary school days so many decades ago, left-handed children were forced to learn to write with their right. Also, I learned during my year’s sojourn in Zimbabwe in 2003 that a man could not hug another’s wife in friendly greeting.

Until the so-called swinging 1960s, homosexuality, was a taboo in many western societies and many gay men had to conduct their affairs in secret for fear of persecution or prosecution. The famous English novelist, Oscar Wilde (who once said the only thing he couldn’t resist was temptation), was tried and gaoled for being a homosexual. Even as recent as the 1980s, most gay celebrities went to great lengths to hide their sexuality in case their fans turned against them. But the world (the western world, in particular) has moved on and nowadays it is generally accepted. Gay couples can legally marry and adopt children. That is part of the giant economic, social, technological and cultural strides the west has made.

What about Africa? Despite centuries of western political and economic domination and adoption of most aspects of western culture, some aspects of our traditions and beliefs are still deep-seated, as they should. After all, every race or creed is identifiable not only by their skin colour, but by their traditional beliefs. The open practice of homosexuality is slowly creeping into Africa, but the large majority of Africans abhor it. That abhorrence, in my opinion, doesn’t constitute bigotry or discrimination. It is just an African belief, generally, that sexual acts between members of the same sex is unnatural.

I was once accosted by a gay restaurateur in a posh nightclub in London’s West End in 1986. This guy tried to ply me with expensive champagne, ostensibly to ‘put me in the mood’, but much as I enjoyed the expensive tipple that I couldn’t afford to buy myself, I politely made him aware that I was a hot-blooded male with a preference for women. He understood and gracefully left me alone. One of my rock music idols, the late Freddie Mercury, was gay. But his sexuality didn’t lessen my admiration for him as a musician and a human being.

But to use economic power to try to coerce African countries to relax laws against that practice is very paternalistic, to say the least. UK prime minister David Cameron’s recent threat that his government would withhold aid to African countries that do not allow homosexuality to me is a warning too far. Ending bans on homosexuality was one of the recommendations of an internal report into the future relevance of the 54-member nation Commonwealth.

Predictably, Commonwealth leaders, at their recent summit in Australia, failed to reach agreement on that report. Cameron said those receiving UK aid should ‘adhere to proper human rights’, adding that British aid should have more strings attached and that he had spoken with a number of African countries and more pressure had been applied by his foreign minister William Hague. The UK has already suspended aid to Malawi, partly because of the country’s treatment of gays and lesbians. If that action was meant to serve as a warning to other Africans, then Cameron and his ministers have failed miserably.
It is heartening to note that African leaders have stood up to his bullying. Tanzania, which received massive aid from the UK says the UK has gone too far this time with its aid strings by trying to enforce practices that are alien to the country’s culture and religious values. Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete says his country will not be cajoled into accepting this at any cost. The normally amiable and almost placid Ghanaian president John Atta Mills has also told UK to keep its aid saying, he would ‘never initiate or attempt to legalise homosexuality in Ghana’.I believe the UK, and for that matter, western countries, cannot dictate to our governments on how to behave. We have swallowed their bitter prescriptions for economic reform. Some of those prescriptions might have been necessary for our economic well-being, but they cannot play God and tell us to change our age-old traditional and cultural values. Polygamy is not illegal in Africa. But it is known as bigamy in the west, and is a crime punishable by law if practised here. Are we going to ask them to decriminalise bigamy so that we Africans who live here can marry more than one wife if we choose to without going to jail?

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