The UN General Assembly has elected Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kahamba Kutesa as President of its upcoming 69th session, amid concerns expressed by Western nations and human rights advocates over the country’s widely denounced anti-homosexuality legislation.
It was Africa’s turn to nominate a President for the upcoming 69th General Assembly session and Kutesa was nominated by the Africa Group as its candidate in May 2013.
Kutesa would take up the presidency when the 69th General Assembly gets underway in September.
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When asked about his views on gays, Kutesa said he had “no problem” with them as long as they kept their homosexual behavior private. “As long as they respect the privacy, I have no problem with it at all,” he told reporters.
On his country’s controversial legislation, he said: “Me supporting it or not supporting it is of no consequence. It is a law.”
“I have never been found corrupt. I’m not homophobic and I believe I’m an astute person to lead this organization for the next session,” Kutesa said when asked if he is the correct person to lead the UN body given his country’s stance on homosexuality and allegations of corruption against him.
Earlier, Kutesa told the UNGA that the world “continues to be confronted with different challenges of global reach and impact”, including poverty and hunger; unemployment; myriad impacts of climate change; armed conflicts; and emerging security threats such as transnational organized crime, terrorism, piracy and human trafficking.
“Collectively, we must continue to take concerted action to address these challenges. This is what has made the United Nations a strong, unique and indispensable organization,” he said, proposing that theme of the 69th session would be: ‘Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda.’
Offering his congratulations to Kutesa, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the position of Assembly President “demands a variety of skills” – bridge-building among all UN Member States; patience to guide the body through lengthy and complex negotiations; and “as a quiet guide, a messenger, a seeker of consensus.”
The US mission to the UN said in a statement that the UN Charter places respect for human rights and dignity at its core, and it is the job of the General Assembly – and its President – to uphold these principles.
Rights group Human Rights Campaign said in a statement that it is “deeply disturbing” that Kutesa begins his tenure as president of the UN General Assembly, just four months after that country enacted the widely denounced anti-homosexuality act.
It said that Kutesa’s upcoming tenure as the UN General Assembly President will leave a “black mark” on the UN’s commitment to protect the human rights of all individuals.
Philippe Bolopion of the New York-based Human Rights Watch said Kutesa’s “defense of Uganda’s profoundly discriminatory anti-homosexuality law raises serious concerns about his commitment to the values embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and makes him a questionable choice by UN member states to lead the UN General Assembly.”