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Ghana doubles homophobic laws

Welcome to Foreign Policy's Africa Brief.

This week's highlights: A sweeping new law could jail LGBT Ghanaians and their allies, a crackdown against Tanzania's opposition signals a return to the past, and the African novels Longlist for the Booker Prize.

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Ghana's Comprehensive Anti-LGBT Law

This week, the Ghanaian Parliament is debating the Law Promoting Proper Human Sexual Rights and the Ghanaian Family Values ​​Act, a sweeping law that could criminalize the country's LGBT community and its allies. While the bill has gained support in the largely conservative country, it raises questions about the progressive image that Ghana has given the international community.

"A homophobe's dream." The bill would go much further than Ghana's existing laws, making it not only illegal to be part of the LGBT community but also to persecute anyone who advocates LGBT rights. The law provides prison sentences of up to five years for Ghanaians who identify as queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, pansexual or non-binary and their allies. In addition, the law advocates so-called conversion therapy, a harmful and discredited practice that claims to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

"This law is a homophobe's dream law," said Danny Bediako of the LGBT group Rightify Ghana of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “The community is shocked at how diverse it is. People are even afraid to go out now and some members say they will be leaving the country when the law goes into effect. Even those who want to help us will be afraid. "

Activists and journalists who saw a leaked copy of the bill were shocked by its harsh language and the denial of all rights for Ghana's LGBT community. It also seeks to criminalize any organization funding or news that might be viewed as promoting gay or transgender rights.

Conservative riot. So far, Ghana has had a mixed record of LGBT rights. While "unnatural carnal knowledge" and same-sex relationships have been criminalized since 1960, the law itself has been implemented unevenly, Human Rights Watch found in a 2018 report. Nonetheless, Ghana's LGBT community is regularly exposed to harassment and physical and psychological violence.

However, the opening of an LGBT support center in Accra in February has roused Ghana's conservative politicians from across the political spectrum. European and Australian diplomats attended the opening of the center, sparking outrage over international support for the LGBT community in Ghana. Police raided the offices of LGBT + Rights Ghana, the group that founded the center, and it was soon shut down after a spate of threats and abuse, fearing for the safety of staff.

The center prompted Ghanaian lawmakers, including Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, to urge “legislation in the interests of public morality”. However, it was the recently appointed Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Sarah Adwoa Safo, who took a tougher stance, telling Parliament in February: “Our laws are clear on such practices. That makes it criminal. "

Ghanaian lawmakers openly grappled with international diplomats when they pushed for the law. Another MP and sponsor of the bill, Sam George, accused the United States of promoting so-called progressive propaganda and took it on Twitter with Seb Dance of the UK Labor Party.

The matter has united Ghanaian politicians across the board with the support of religious leaders: members of the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party support the law, while Muslim and Christian groups – both evangelical and Orthodox – support the new law. After it was read out in Parliament on Monday, it will now be dealt with by the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Committee.

LGBT rights groups have sought to raise awareness of the dangers of the bill by using social media to present alternative viewpoints, start petitions and hold virtual town hall meetings. However, the odds are stacked against them. Restricted at home, groups like Rightify Ghana and LGBT + Rights Ghana have also tried to raise international awareness to put pressure on Ghana.

In solidarity with Ghana's embattled LGBT community, the US embassy in Accra hoisted a Pride flag, further angering George and other MPs. If Ghana passes the bill, it can take action in line with the February White House Memorandum on LGBT Rights Around the World or reiterate U.S. sanctions against Uganda for its homophobic laws in 2014, a world-renowned technology center.

A distraction. Ghana has been hailed as the beacon of progressive democracy on the continent. When Twitter announced this year that Ghana would host its Africa headquarters, it did so in praise of the country's freedoms. Ghana has marketed itself primarily among African Americans as a haven of cultural freedom.

Critics say the focus on the bill distracts from the inability of the Ghanaian legislature to put in place adequate oversight to end the bad governance that is still hampering the country's development ambitions – an issue that has been the subject of mounting youth protests in recent weeks was. When the hashtag #FixTheCountry briefly turned into public protests against the stagnating economy, bloated government and lack of basic services, Ghanaian politicians responded by denouncing the young protesters instead of addressing their grievances.

Ghanaian politicians trying to ingratiate themselves with the country's conservatives have in the past used homophobic rhetoric under the guise of protecting so-called family values. This bill marks a formalization of this rhetoric, which could have life-threatening consequences for LGBT Ghanans, as was the case in neighboring Nigeria.

“Homophobic laws do not preserve family values ​​either,” writes Chibuihe Obi Achimba in Foreign Policy about his own experiences when Nigeria imposed similar laws. “It feels particularly disturbing, even embarrassing, that in a year marked by the effects of a major pandemic, politicians in Africa are looking for ways to make the lives of their people more miserable than solutions for the hydra-minded To offer challenges of the continent. "

Next week

Wednesday 4th August: Samantha Power, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), travels to Ethiopia.

Thursday 5th August: The leader of Tanzania& # 39; s opposition, Freeman Mbowe, appears on trial on terrorism charges.

Monday, August 9th: Zimbabwe marks National Heroes Day while South Africa marks women's day.

Aid stopped in Ethiopia. USAID Administrator Samantha Power is the latest US official sent to Ethiopia to urge Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government to avoid a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region. Power is visiting Ethiopia and Sudan from July 31 to August 4, at a time when the United Nations World Food Program warned the Tigray region would run out of food.

Power joins United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, already in the country, in an attempt to negotiate a deal with Amhara fighters to allow relief supplies to enter Tigray.

Aid trucks are limited to a single route to reach the area, but aid groups blame a government blockade and fighting in the Afar area for slowing aid to a trickle. The Abiy government, for its part, blames the Tigray Liberation People’s Front, which issued ceasefire conditions calling for a transitional government. Meanwhile, the United Nations Children's Fund is warning that 100,000 children are malnourished while waiting for aid to arrive.

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from a health worker at the State House in Dar es Salaam on July 28.STRINGER / AFP via Getty Images

Tanzania's well-known crackdown on the opposition. When President Samia Suluhu Hassan received a COVID-19 vaccine on national television last week, it marked a clear break with the policies of her predecessor John Magufuli, who denied the dangers of the disease and whose sudden death in March was shrouded in rumors that he was died of COVID-19.

But Suluhu Hassan was in agreement with Magufuli when police arrested the leader of the main opposition party, Chadema, on July 22nd. Freeman Mbowe was arrested in a nightly raid with eleven of his supporters as they were preparing to hold a press conference on constitutional reform in Tanzania. Mbowe remains in custody on charges of terrorism, a development that traces back to Magufuli's crackdown on critics when his regime moved closer to authoritarianism before his death in March.

The defaulting heir of Equatorial Guinea. A French court has upheld a guilty verdict against Teodoro "Teodorin" Nguema Obiang, Vice-President of Equatorial Guinea and son of the longest-serving head of state in Africa, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. Teodorin has been found guilty of embezzlement by siphoning millions of dollars from the oil-rich Central African nation to allegedly fund a lavish lifestyle in France that included a mansion near the Arc de Triomphe and the purchase of Michael Jackson's crystal encrusted glove belonged to.

Last February, a French court fined the 50-year-old heir € 30 million ($ 32.9 million) and placed a suspended sentence. It was followed by a 2017 case where Switzerland seized its fleet of 25 luxury cars and its yacht and auctioned it off, while the United States seized $ 70 million in assets in 2011, including a mansion in Malibu.

In France, as well as in Switzerland and the USA, the proceeds from the confiscated goods are to flow back to the population of Equatorial Guinea, probably through aid projects. Still, the Obiangs remain defiant: Teodorin is also facing sanctions from Great Britain, where his father's government closed the Equatorial Guinea embassy in London last week due to similar sanctions.

Vaccination donations to Africa. Over the next month, African countries will receive 25 million COVID-19 vaccines, mostly from the United States. The doses, mostly Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, are part of a promise made by US President Joe Biden to share 80 million doses with poorer countries around the world.

The donations, which have arrived in Burkina Faso, South Africa, and 49 other countries are a welcome response to calls for vaccine sharing. Still, the donations detract from the multilateral demands of developing countries to surrender intellectual property rights to vaccine patents, which would allow institutions in Africa, Asia and elsewhere to manufacture their own vaccines.

Prayer over vaccines in South Africa. Almost half of South Africans surveyed by the pan-African group Afrobarometer said they believed prayers were more effective than a vaccine at preventing COVID-19 infection. In a sample of 1,600 South African adults, more than half said they were unlikely to get a vaccine, while less than a third said they trust the government to keep the vaccines safe.

Will an African Writer Win the Booker? The Booker Prize jury announced its longlist last week, which includes three African writers for the 2021 Fiction Prize. Two South Africans have been nominated: Damon Galgut and Karen Jennings.

Galgut, who has already been shortlisted twice, will be honored this year for The Promise, the intergenerational story of a white South African family struggling with identity problems and promises of freedom. Jennings ’An Island grapples with questions about land, friendship and the importance of home when a young refugee washed up on an island inhabited only by a lonely lighthouse keeper.

The Fortune Men by Hargeisa-born, London-based author Nadifa Mohamed is set in cosmopolitan Cardiff in 1952, where a Somali shopkeeper experiences the limits of justice. Last year, Ethiopian-American writer Maaza Mengiste and Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga were shortlisted for £ 50,000 (US $ 69,000).

The shortlist will be announced on September 14th and the winner on November 3rd.

Nigeria's post-feminist fashion is only for the rich. Over the past decade, fashion in Nigeria has become an expression of feminism – a transnational sign of empowered women with the means and freedom to express themselves. But as this conversation in Africa Is a Country between Simidele Dosekun, author of Fashioning Postfeminism, and academic Grace Adeniyi-Ogunyankin shows, this empowerment is still the reserve of wealthy Nigerian women and remains desirable for working class women.

Pan-Africanism in Times of the Pandemic. Looking back at the post-independence era when solidarity conferences helped shape a unified vision for the development of the continent, Mary Serumaga in Elephant laments that conferences these days are generally donor-organized "aid conferences" that undermine Africa's political independence. Even with Africans present and speaking, the agenda is still largely set by the rich countries and Bretton Woods institutions, reducing the African point of view to what they refer to as "the last wretched."

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