Olusegun Obasanjo Condemns Homosexuality As An 'Abomination'
An African statesman who shares a political platform with Kofi Annan, Tony Blair and Bob Geldof has condemned homosexuality as an "abomination", dismissing individuals' right to privacy with the riposte: "You want to make love to a horse?"
Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, indicated his support for the sentencing last week of a gay couple in Malawi to 14 years in prison with hard labour, insisting that countries have the right to enforce their own laws.
The remarks, coming at a time of huge sensitivity around gay rights in Africa, have the potential to embarrass Obasanjo's colleagues on the Africa Progress Panel, a respected body that monitors development across the continent. Chaired by Annan, its members include Blair, Geldof, economist Muhammad Yunus and Graca Machel, the women's and children's rights activist and wife of Nelson Mandela.
Annan, the former UN secretary-general, and Obasanjo, a UN special envoy, appeared united on stage yesterday at the launch of the panel's latest report in Johannesburg.
But whereas Annan described last week's imprisonment of Malawians Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza as "very regressive", Obasanjo, a devout Christian, offered a very different view in an interview with the Guardian.
"I believe that God who created man, male and female, is a wise God, is to me a God who doesn't make a mistake," he said. "If he wants sexual relationship between man and man, and between woman and woman, God will not have created them male and female. For me it is an abomination in my part of the world and if anybody practices it then he must be unbiblical, and anything that is unbiblical for me as a Christian is not right."
He continued: "If a country makes it a law then he should be punished according to the law of that country. If a law in my country says we shouldn't shake in public, that of course would be ridiculous, but let's say that is what the law says, until you can get that law repealed, you must not shake in public. If you say you will defy that law and you shake in public, and the law says if you shake in public you go to prison for three months, then you have to go for prison for three months."
Obasanjo, whose human rights record was questioned during his two separate spells as president of Nigeria, denied that consenting adults have a right to privacy in their own homes. "What is the privacy of your home? Why don't you take an animal and say look, the privacy of your home, you want to make love to a horse? Bestiality. You say that is right? No.
"If the privacy of your home means a socially condemnable act, then you have no privacy. You have done what you should not do and if the law says you should be punished for it, whether you do it in public or the privacy of your home, you have breached the law and you must be punished, according to the law."
Immediately after the interview, Obasanjo could be seen discussing the difference of opinion with Annan. Later, on his way out, Annan smiled and told the Guardian: "I'll work on him."