Controversial Pastor Ssempa Applies to Join Defense for Anti-Homosexual law in Constitutional Court

Controversial Pastor Martin Ssempa of Makerere Community Church has petitioned the Constitutional Court to permit have him added as a respondent alongside the Attorney General in a case involving four petitions seeking to annul the Anti-Homosexuality law.

The contested law which was passed by an overwhelming majority of members of parliament and assented to by President Yoweri Museveni enjoys the support of majority Ugandans.

Ssempa’s application before Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, to join as a respondent aims to support upholding the law, citing the preservation of traditional, moral, and cultural values that endorse heterosexuality as his motivation. Presenting his case before the Court, Ssempa emphasized the significance of the matter, characterizing it as a contentious topic that triggers impassioned debates on religion, morality, African traditions, societal norms, and essential imperatives.

Pastor Sempa with his lawyer Tegulle Gawaya at the Constitutional Court in Kampala ,Uganda

He highlighted the previous challenge to the Anti-Homosexuality legislation in 2014, expressing dismay at its annulment, which he and many Ugandans perceived as a looming threat with potentially irreversible negative consequences on society if unchecked.

“The legislation under attack is a highly charged matter which has transcended national discourse, spilling over onto the international stage with western counties take the United States of America, threatening sanctions against Uganda. The Attorney General as a statutory respondent cannot be relied upon completely to defend this matter all alone, especially since the government has bowed to the international pressure before on matters of homosexuality,” reads the application.

Ssempa underlined the international ramifications of the law’s scrutiny, noting Western countries, including the United States, issuing sanctions threats against Uganda due to its stance on homosexuality. He expressed concern about the adverse opinion of Attorney General Godfrey Kiryowa and his deputy Jackson Kafuuzi against the Anti-Homosexuality Act, suggesting a conflict of interest in their defense. Asserting his role as a defender of traditional African family values and Christian faith, Ssempa argued that the court’s decision in these petitions would significantly impact family integrity, the sanctity of sexual relations, and children’s welfare.

“The nation of Uganda, its culture, its people, its children, its cherished values are facing an existential threat by virtue of an attack from the depths of hell, and in times such as these, it is imperative that the proverbial all hands on the deck approach be preferred by the court through adding the applicant as a respondent,” reads the application.

Represented by lawyer Tegulle Gwaya , Ssempa aligned his position with the Attorney General’s response while emphasizing room for improvement and his capacity to enhance the case’s defense. The Constitutional Court, led by Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, consolidated four petitions and 19 applications challenging the Anti-Homosexuality Law 2023, as requested by the Attorney General, the sole respondent in these cases.

The petitions involve various parties, including lawmakers, journalists, legal scholars, and civil society organizations, contesting the law’s constitutionality. Pre-trial discussions occurred among the involved parties and the Director for Civil Litigation, Martin Mwambustya, aiming to resolve legal issues before the case proceeds.

Before the main petition’s hearing, the Court will address Ssempa’s application to join as a respondent defending the Anti-Homosexuality Law. Additionally, Bishop James Lubega Bbale seeks to challenge the law, citing discrimination against God’s people, while UNAIDS aims to support the law’s annulment, considering its potential impact on HIV/AIDS efforts.

The proceedings are adjourned until December 11th, 2023, for further pretrial discussions as the parties continue to reconcile legal matters. In 2014, the Constitutional Court nullified the Anti-Homosexuality Act on procedural grounds, citing its passage in Parliament without the required quorum.

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