By Ronald Ssekandi, Samuel Egadu
ENTEBBE, Uganda, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-gay bill into law on Monday despite warnings from Western powers of dire consequences.
Museveni signed the bill at State House Entebbe, 40 km south of the Ugandan capital Kampala. The signing event was attended by senior government officials as well as local and international media.
"Can somebody be a homosexual purely by nature without nurture? The answer is no. No study has shown that. Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality, then society can do something about it to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the bill," the president said.
"We reject the notion that somebody can be homosexual by choice; that a man can choose to love a fellow man; that sexual orientation is a matter of choice," he added.
Despite pressure from the international community, Museveni warned that no country should dictate to Uganda what to do regarding its internal affairs, and said he is ready to strain relations with any country.
"The outsiders will have to live with us. If they don't want to, they could take away their aid. Uganda is very rich, we don't need aid. In fact aid is part of the problem," he said. "I would advise our friends from the West not to make this an issue," he added.
In the past few weeks, the Ugandan president has been under possibly the most intense pressure since taking office as the bill has drawn wide criticism from his country's Western donors.
U.S. President Barack Obama warned if Museveni dares to sign the bill, Uganda's relations with the United States would be strained.
"We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love," said Obama.
"That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality."
Washington is one of Uganda's largest donors, giving more than 400 million U.S. dollars a year. Several other Western donors, such as Norway and Denmark, have threatened to cut their aid to Uganda.
However, Museveni was also under intense domestic pressure pushing him to sign the bill into law. The country's parliament has already unanimously passed the bill, which had been on the shelves since 2009 when it was tabled.
Religious and cultural institutions have been rallying the public to get behind the bill, claiming that allowing homosexuality to prevail would be a contradiction of the country's cultural norms and customs.
Museveni had earlier put the bill on hold, saying he needed scientific proof that being gay is a "lifestyle choice" and not genetic. He also acknowledged being under foreign pressure not to sign.
Political observers said backing the bill should help him rally public support ahead of the presidential elections in 2016.
The signing of the new law will definitely have both positive and negative implications for the country's foreign relations.
Western donors are likely to cut their support to Uganda like they have done previously, especially given the corruption levels in the country.
However the situation would not be expected to last for a long time, as in previous cases Western donors have almost all resumed their support to the country just two or three months later. Uganda is a staunch Western ally in the fight against Islamic extremism in Somalia.
The eastern African country is also likely to gain support from other African countries which have passed similar laws.
Museveni has always argued that Africa should not take orders from Western powers. These pan-African sentiments are growing in Uganda as they are elsewhere on the African continent.