Her Excellency Caroline Kennedy
US Ambassador to Australia
Yarralumla ACT 2600
Re: US FOREIGN POLICY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN UGANDA AND KENYA.
I have the honour to write to you as an Australian citizen in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect between our two countries. Culturally and tactically, our nations share mutual perspectives and interests on issues ranging from human rights to long-term regional peace and strategic planning.
The United States prides itself on being a staunch advocate for human rights. Living up to this ideal is challenging, but commendable efforts are made.
For example, the US Department of State declares on its website that: ”The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States over 200 years ago. Since then, a central goal of US foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” They also indicate that “a wide range of tools” is utilised to advance this “freedom agenda” – including bilateral relations, foreign assistance, and economic sanctions.
In support of the same principles, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, criticised human rights abuses against Uyghurs in China and told CNN on 6 February 2022 that: “Human rights are front and center in our Foreign Policy. We don’t play down human rights violations anywhere in the world.”
US allies also see the necessity to speak out against horrific oppression and threats to vulnerable populations. For example, in response to the latest anti-gay Bill in Uganda, it was reported on 20 April 2023 that the European Parliament “deplores President Museveni’s contribution to the hateful rhetoric about LGBTIQ persons, adding that EU-Uganda relations will be at stake should the President sign the Bill.” Four days later, it was further reported that the EU Parliament called for “targeting and instituting sanctions against all those who instigated and supported the anti-gay Bill, including politicians and religious leaders” if the Bill becomes law.
Such principles and sentiments are consistent with the fundamental proposition upon which the US was founded: “We the people…” – opening words from the US Constitution wherein humans (and therefore human rights) are recognised as being paramount and pre-emptive. Marginalised people comprise an important component of this principle, as the modern world recognises the increasing importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.
In further support of such values, I am mindful of the intersectional nature of human rights. While we all admire and support the #BlackLivesMatter principles, we must also recognise that this US-based social movement encompasses diversity and inclusion of all who are marginalised. On their website, BLM state unambiguously:
We affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. Our network centers those who have been marginalised within Black liberation movements.
We are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise.
These human rights values should make the US feel justly proud.
By contrast, however, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Meg Whitman, recently stated publicly that every country “has to make their own decisions about” LGBTQ and intersex rights. According to the Washington Blade, on 3 March 2023, she told reporters that the $123,124,278.40 (16 billion Kenyan shillings) in aid the U.S. has given to Kenya for food and drought relief “is not connected to the country’s LGBTQ and intersex rights policies.” This disconnection of human rights from foreign aid would appear to be an abrogation of US foreign policy and a capitulation to homophobia.
Her comments also contradicted a tweet that the Ambassador later issued on 15 March, in which she declared: “The US proudly advances efforts to protect LGBTQI+ persons from discrimination & violence and will continue to stand up for human rights & equality.” Such inconsistency in her public statements confuses the otherwise fine human rights principles of current US foreign policy. This ambiguity is unhelpful to those whose human rights are at stake.
Accordingly, out of respect for universal human rights, and in defence of the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for LGBT+ people across Africa, I respectfully ask you to please convey to your government my following requests:
1. That the United States revisits aid to Kenya, Uganda and aligned nations, not to hurt the ordinary people of those nations, but rather to keep human rights violations as “front and center” and to sharply focus on the corruption of those leaders who seek to deflect domestic attention away from their own shortcomings by scapegoating the LGBTQ+ community. A limited and targeted form of sanctions, along the lines of those proposed by the EU, might be one wise and ethical approach.
2. That a review be undertaken of US foreign policy statements and practices. Please take the opportunity to ensure consistency in all future deliveries, in word and deed, linking US foreign policy and human rights.
3. That the USA take a leading role in overseeing the prompt resettlement of LGBTQ+ refugees/citizens currently living in Kenya, Uganda, and associated Eastern African nations. This might include nations such as Tanzania, South Sudan, Zambia, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.
• Such resettlement would enable your nation to lead the world by demonstrating its uncompromising and principled stand for human rights, and its protection of minorities under threat.
• It would also reinforce the commendable principles of increased humanitarian refugee resettlement announced by President Biden on 3 May 2021.
• This would be beneficial for international relations between all nations involved, as it would save lives by removing vulnerable people from threat, and defuse the political powder-keg of homophobia in nations where political and religious cultures remain intolerant of LGBT+ people.
• It would serve an educative role around the world regarding the inherent dignity and equality of LGBT+ people, it would reinforce the principle that #BlackLivesMatter, and it would elevate African nations onto the world stage as active and involved members of the modern world community.
• History would record this initiative as averting a genocide in slow motion, and being a decisive step towards the total abolition of modern-day forms of Black Holocaust.
I feel confident that if the USA led the way on these matters of universal human rights, its allies (including Australia) would move quickly to assist with this resettlement scheme under US leadership.
Madam Ambassador, please accept that I make these requests purely in the spirit of respect for universal human rights and in recognition of the mutual friendship between our allied nations. We both live in countries and cultures that value humanity, seek to uphold human rights, and work to protect the disadvantaged and empower the oppressed. I am confident that you share these values and that your work is motivated by such noble sentiments.
I hope that your government will seize this opportunity to demonstrate their world leadership in human rights.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to receiving your reply to inform me as to your government’s response.
I have the honour to remain, Your Excellency,
Yours most respectfully,
30 April 2023
©2023 Geoff Allshorn