President Barack Obama’s head honcho at the Bureau of African Affairs has defended America’s bold pro-gay foreign policy as not new.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Standard, at the conclusion of a two-day familiarisation visit to Botswana on Friday, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of African Affairs, Dr. Reuben Brigety II, rubbished the notion that America wants to impose her moral values on other countries and undermine their culture through her latest foreign policy.
“We have long held the view that they (gays and lesbians) have fundamental rights – free from harassment, free from physical harm and free from the laws that single them out from other citizens as criminals on the basis of their sexual orientation. We don’t think it’s proper to have laws that discriminate people on the basis of their sexual orientation,” Brigety said.
Obama, together with his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, this month ordered diplomatic missions and federal agencies outside America to strengthen efforts to fight international discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals.
Botswana is one of the countries in Africa that criminalises homosexual acts but does not persecute people who associate on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Brigety said the argument that Washington is all out to impose her moral values on other countries is not new. He said some countries were, for instance, opposed to children’s rights and democracy, claiming they were an infringement upon their cultures.
“We have heard this culture argument being used for every development of human rights for about 60 years. We are confident there are significant differences of opinion over decriminalization of same sex relationships,” he said.
Brigety praised Botswana for her good governance and respect for human rights.
“Botswana is tremendously impressive with its management of mineral wealth and a deep tradition of good governance, which work hand in hand to give Botswana a middle income GDP per capita,” he said.
The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State revealed that Obama’s administration was committed to finding a way to assist American businesses to invest in Botswana. he said the US priorities on Africa are consolidation of democratic governance and the spread of economic development.
“The US firmly believes this is Africa’s moment, which comes with enormous opportunities,” he said, observing that some African countries, like Botswana, have taken advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
Brigety said he was impressed by the country’s efforts to diversify the economy and its commitment to the fight against the HIV/AIDS scourge, noting that Botswana has made incredible progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He pointed out that his country is equally committed to helping Botswana, having sent 125 Peace Corps volunteers to help the country in its fight against the scourge.
“We are deeply impressed by the commitment of the Government of Botswana in terms of funding directed to fight the HIV/AIDS scourge. The challenge, however, is that the virus still remains a great threat that requires a sustained effort by the government and the people of Botswana to make healthy choices,” said Brigety.
Quizzed on the just ended COP 17 climate conference in Durban and America’s apparent unwillingness to sign legally binding agreements on cutting carbon emissions, Brigety said America was committed to finding a way to continue to work with a number of the developed world to cut down on carbon emissions.
“Climate change is the most difficult collective problem the international community has had to deal with by far. President Obama has been active in trying to find an alternative form of energy. We consistently encourage others to do the same thing. Collectively we will come to some solution,” he said.
On the accusations that America and her allies use the International Criminal Court to target Africans, he described the notion as false and inaccurate, wondering how it can be so when America is not a signatory of the ICC. “Milosevic was not from Africa,” he said, adding that there are never complaints from families of victims of repressive regimes whenever the despots are handed over to the ICC.
Appointed on November 14 this year, Brigety is responsible for Southern Africa and regional security affairs.
Other countries he has visited or has still to visit are Namibia, South Africa, Malawi and Mozambique.