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The Curse Of Youthful Exuberance

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The Curse Of Youthful Exuberance

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor polite, not popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right” – Dr Martin Luther King Jnr.

Youthfulness has many advantages, oh yes; but sometimes it can also be a curse. The trend of the last few years, where youthful presidents and prime ministers have taken the reins of power in some countries, has been hailed as a very good thing, and progressive even. Barack Obama in the USA, and David Cameron and Nick Clegg in Britain. Look at their youthful and even handsome faces. They make some of us with bald heads appear quite unsexy, and those presidents of a certain age who have been in power since Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden have been told to go home and babysit their grandchildren while their sons and daughters and their wives and husbands go to work.

But judging from what “youthful” David Cameron has done with the issue of gay rights and the threatened loss of British aid to Africa and other developing countries, “youth” then becomes not the be-all and end-all after all. In fact, only a “youthful” prime minister could say what Cameron said on the fringes of the Commonwealth Summit in Perth, Australia, at the end of October, which has roused the raw fury of a normally tame and acquiescent continent like Africa.

I am writing this Beefs from the very bowels of the Mother Continent, having been on assignment in Zimbabwe and Tanzania for the best part of October and November, which takes in the time Cameron was playing macho in Perth. And I can report that the continental Africans are absolutely jumping mad at the effrontery exhibited by the young British prime minister, who thinks he can legislate, even impose on the Africans, what passes for national values and morality when it comes to sexual orientation.

Sometimes we sit in London – and in the other metropolitan capitals – and think that what goes on there must go everywhere else in the world! “This is the British way, it is a human right, and so the Ghanaians must follow suit!” Tough luck! It shows utter disrespect for the sensibilities of the other people around the world who have their own ways of life.  

Until, and unless, the Western world learns that some other people in the world are not Westerners and that they do not, repeat do not, want every Western fad slammed down their poor throats willy-nilly, the world will continue to witness red-faced Western leaders like David Cameron being told by mere mortals from developing countries to go and sit down – and behave themselves!     

Cameron was reported to have said in a BBC TV interview recorded on 30 October in Perth that countries that ban homosexuality risked losing British aid, and that this was “an issue where we are pushing for movement, we are prepared to put some money behind what we believe.” According to the British daily, The Guardian, he then said that he had “spoken with a number of African countries and that more pressure had been applied by the foreign secretary, William Hague, who deputised for him during parts of the summit”. Asked about the prospects for broad legalisation of homosexuality across the Commonwealth before the next summit in 2013 in Sri Lanka, Cameron said: “I think we will have moved on this but I don’t suspect that in two years’ time this issue will be solved. We are dealing with deep prejudices in some places.”

Deep prejudices? Really? Only a “youthful” prime minister can think he can say these things and get away with them, or worse, his wishes will be implemented by adults around the world at his say-so. Even in her heyday, the Great Iron Lady of yore, whose cabinet contained no ladies, could not say such a thing or even dream of anything remotely close to what this young man who now resides at No. 10 uttered in Perth! I put it down to youthful exuberance. Nothing more.

No wonder Cameron has succeeded in rousing the ire, the incandescent ire, of an African continent which is no longer prepared to be ordered about by the descendants of former colonial masters. Thus, right across the continent – from Sierra Leone to Ghana, Togo to Uganda, Zimbabwe to Tanzania, Kenya to DRCongo, the Africans are up in arms, and like a latent volcano firing into life, spewing raw lava at the disrespect shown them by Britain’s prime minister.

Even Ghana’s normally quiet president, Prof John Atta Mills, was moved enough to tell a press conference in Accra: “No one can deny Prime Minister Cameron his right to make policies, take initiatives and make statements that reflects his societal norms and ideals. But he does not have the right to direct other sovereign nations as to what they should do, especially where their societal norms and ideals are different from those which exist in Prime Minister Cameron’s society.

“I, as president of this nation, will never initiate or support any attempt to legalise homosexuality in Ghana. As a government, we will abide by the principles enshrined in our Constitution. Let me also say that while we acknowledge all the financial assistance and all the aid that’s given us by our development partners, we will not accept any aid with strings attached if that aid will not adhere to our interest.”
Similarly strong sentiments have been expressed across the length and breadth of the long-abused continent. This should send a clear message back to London and any such places that harbour Cameron’s thoughts that the current trend to shove homosexuality down the throats of Africans, a trend particularly driven in recent years by Amnesty International and other such groups based in the West, will not wash in Africa! It just will not! And the earlier they adopt a new strategy, the better for them.

It has taken Britain 111 long years from the death of Oscar Wilde (on 30 November 1900) to come to terms with its homosexual side – to the extent that today it is fashionable for MPs in both Houses of Parliament to openly declare their homosexual orientation and suffer no loss of votes. Wilde, an Irish writer and poet, was tried in 1895 in the heart of London and sent to jail for two years with hard labour for being gay. He was released in 1897 and died three years later in Paris from illness induced by the harsh conditions he suffered in jail.
Having given itself time and space to learn to accept its homosexual community, Britain does itself no favours at all in trying to disrespect the feelings of other nations and peoples by threatening to use aid as a bribe to force homosexuality down the throats of people who don’t want it.

It is an indictment of a British nation that has totally lost its sense of place and time, and is as a result threatening to force other people to accept something that Britons found so abhorrent only a few years ago. As recently as 2003 – just 8 years ago – David Cameron voted against the repeal of Section 28, the  controversial Tory legislation introduced in the 1980s that banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in British schools.

Even now Britain cannot bring itself to call a “gay marriage” by its proper name; it calls it a “civil partnership”, which is viewed as less than a proper marriage; and the first “civil partnership” was allowed in Britain only in 2005! – in Belfast (Northern Ireland), not even in fashionable and elite London! So who does Cameron think he is deceiving? Morgan Tsvangirai?

Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister is now in hot water back home for saying in an interview he gave to the BBC while in London soon after Cameron had issued his edict on homosexuality, that gay rights must be respected and enshrined in Zimbabwe’s new constitution, a U-turn on his own anti-gay views expressed a few weeks before the London trip. After rolling over in London, Tsvangirai returned home to meet a furious nation waiting for him to explain himself. The mauling was so savage that after a particularly torrid time at Prime Minister’s Question Time in the lower house of the Zimbabwean parliament, where even some of his own MPs showed him no mercy, Tsvangirai did a runner by failing to turn up in the Senate 48 hours later to face a similar mauling.

If Tsvangirai loses next year’s presidential election, his U-turn on homosexuality will be one of the reasons why, and David Cameron will be responsible for the loss. Zimbabwe is that angry at Tsvangirai for betraying their national and cultural values!

So where will it all end? We all know that over the last few years the Conservatives have been assiduously rebranding themselves as pro-gay in order to tap into the influential gay vote. David Cameron has even predicted – at a gay pride event two summers ago – that a Conservative would become Britain’s first openly gay prime minister. Good for them. But for the love of God, they should learn to give Africa the same time and space that Britain and the others gave themselves to come to terms with their homosexual side. Will they?

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Written by Baffour Ankomah

Baffour Ankomah is New African's current Editor at Large. He has spent much of his 39 years of journalism at the magazine, having served as its Assistant Editor for 6 years, Deputy Editor for 5 years, and Editor for 15 years, retiring from active service in 2014. In 39 years of his journalism career - Africa and his many causes have been his passion. His personal column, Baffour's Beefs, which has been running continuously in New African since 1987, is a big hit and a must-read for the magazine's worldwide readers. He is now based in Zimbabwe, where he and his wife Elizabeth run their own media consultancy and fashion house called "African Interest" which trades under the trademark "I am African".

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