United Nations’ Ugandan appointee Sam Kutesa under fire

Supporters in Kampala The new law on homosexuality has a lot of support in Uganda

The expected election of Uganda’s foreign minister as UN General Assembly president in New York on Wednesday has provoked opposition in the US.

Politicians have joined thousands in signing a petition urging UN member states to block Sam Kutesa because of his country’s treatment of gay people.

Kutesa, 65, is Africa’s unanimous pick for the largely ceremonial role.

But critics are opposed because in February Uganda passed a law threatening gays with life in prison.

It would be “disturbing to see the foreign minister of a country that passed an unjust, harsh and discriminatory law” preside over the UN body, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told the Associated Press news agency.

It is Africa’s turn to make the ceremonial appointment, reports the BBC’s UN correspondent Nick Bryant, and Mr Kutesa represented the continent’s unanimous choice.

Mr Kutesa, a lawyer and MP, has been Ugandan minister of foreign affairs since January 2005.

On Wednesday, he is expected to be formally elected to the UNGA presidency.

In response, more than 9,000 people have signed an online petition urging UN member states and US Secretary of State John Kerry to block Mr Kutesa’s appointment.

Uganda's Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa appeared in New York on 21 September 2010 Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa is said to have played a role in the nation’s new strict anti-gay law

Human rights activists say the Ugandan foreign minister played a role in the enactment of Uganda’s strict anti-gay law, passed in February, which allows for sentences of up to life in prison for those convicted of having gay sex.

Mr Kutesa, previously a junior investment minister, was also said to have been ousted from that position over charges he abused the office.

He has denied all allegations against him.

Uganda deputy foreign minister Okello Oryem told US media that opponents of Mr Kutesa’s nomination ignore his “success stories” in the region. BBC