Perezi K. Kamunanwire, the Ugandan ambassador to the U.S., was scheduled to speak at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event on Monday, but withdrew after organizers expressed concerns regarding his country’s push for a long-pending antigay bill that calls for death sentences in certain cases.
Kamunanwire stepped aside after being asked by the event’s sponsor, the United Negro College Fund, to talk about the “kill the gays” bill during his keynote, the Washington Blade reports. In a letter to the fund’s chairman of the board, the ambassador wrote that he refused to do so because he felt it would detract from the meaning of the holiday, and he called such a request needlessly “incendiary.”
“I expressed concern that changing the topic would distract from our shared commitment to honor Dr. King’s legacy and advance the discussion of education equality,” Kamunanwire wrote.
Kamunanwire asserted that Uganda’s Parliament would not reconsider the bill, which was tabled last year after members decided that current laws criminalizing homosexuality were already sufficient. The bill, originally introduced in 2009, was reopened for discussion in October, however.
Box Turtle Bulletin reports that Ugandan officials and media outlets have become increasingly defensive on the subject of the bill. Reports have also surfaced that many individuals who have spoken out against the legislation have been targets of media witch hunts.