While the US Vice President’s visit to Africa was ostensibly meant to counter the rising influence of China and Russia in the continent, Kamala Harris lost no chance in trying to advance the LGBTQ agenda.
She visited Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia-all countries that have advanced or proposed anti-gay legislation.
In Ghana, a new bill on the “Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Value” is being discussed — a bill that would imprison those that identify as LGBTQ and criminalizes advocacy for LGBTQ rights.
Gay sex has been made a crime in Tanzania, and in Zambia, same sex relationships are outlawed.
‘It’s a human rights issue,’ Harris said during a joint press conference with Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo.
“A great deal of work in my career has been to address human rights issues, equality issues across the board, including as relates to the LGBT community. I feel very strongly about the importance of supporting freedom and supporting the fighting for equality among all people, and that all people be treated equally. I will also say that this is an issue that we consider, and I consider to be a human rights issue, and that will not change,” she explained.
Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo appeared to soften his stance on the issue when he said that “substantial elements” of the draconian anti-LGBTQ bill being considered by its parliament “have been modified.”
“The bill is going through the parliament. The attorney general has found it necessary to speak to the committee (the constitutional and legal committee of parliament) about the constitutionality … of several of its provisions. The parliament is dealing with it. At the end of the process, I will come in,” he said.
“My understanding … is that substantial elements of the bill have already been modified as a result of the intervention of the attorney general,” Akufo-Addo said.
But one of the Members of Parliament who introduced the bill threw cold water on the President’s softening remarks when he insisted that the proposed bill remains “rigid and tough.”
“The bill has not been substantially changed. The bill remains as tough and as rigid as it was,” Samuel Nartey George told the local press.
He added: “When the bill is laid before the House (of parliament), you will realize that the focus of the bill which has to do with avoiding (gay) marriages, preventing them from adopting or fostering children, the clampdown on platforms and media houses that are going to do promotion and advocacy or push those materials still remain enforced.”
“So, when he (Akufo-Addo) says the bill has been watered down, he doesn’t know what he is talking about.”
Besides the LGBT issue, Harris used her Africa visit to harness economic ties between the US and Africa, especially as China and Russia are taking up significant space in the continent.
“The president and I had a conversation on this very topic,” Harris said during the presser with Akufo-Addo.
“But the conversation was not about China as much as it is about the enduring and important direct relationship that the United States has with Ghana and with African nations.”
Harris announced the U.S. will provide $100 million to support stabilization in Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Togo.
Talking about the economy, Harris said she recognized “the challenges that Ghana is facing, especially in the wake of a global pandemic and the disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
“We must work together as an international community to ease the debt burden that is facing far too many countries,” Harris said.
In Tanzania where the first woman to be a US Vice President met with the first female President of the Est African nation, the issues on the table were about the economy, women’s empowerment, and democracy.
Harris qualified as “important and meaningful steps” toward democratic reforms the lifting of the ban on opposition rallies and the granting of more press freedom by the administration of President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Hassan has rolled back some of Tanzania’s obnoxious oppressive policies and introduce significant democratic reforms that make for more participation in the political process.
“You have been a champion in the sense of democratic reforms in this country, and in that way have expanded our partnership,” Harris said.
Hassan noted Tanzania’s participation in a virtual summit on democracy hosted by the White House this week, saying it “sends a clear message that the fathers of democracy recognize our efforts in building a democratic nation.”