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Uganda's Controversial FM Elected to Head UN Body

  • VOA News

FILE - Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa.

FILE - Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa.

Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa defended his position on homosexuality and domestic corruption allegations shortly after he was tapped to be the next president of the U.N. General Assembly.

The Assembly unanimously elected Kutesa Wednesday to serve in the high-profile position. The role includes presiding over meetings at the 193-nation assembly.

Kutesa recently gained international attention for defending Uganda's harsh anti-homosexuality law. The measure, signed by President Yoweri Museveni in February, criminalizes homosexuality with punishments as harsh as life in prison.

The foreign minister also survived a political censure by the Ugandan parliament, following a corruption scandal. No formal charges were brought against him.

Reporters at the U.N. questioned Kutesa about both issues shortly after his election.

''First of all let me tell you this, that I have had a conspiracy by members of the opposition in our country, both inside and outside, who have tried their best to malign my name. I have never been found corrupt, I am not homophobic and I believe that I am the person to lead this organization for the next session,” said Kutesa.

More than 13,000 people had signed an online petition against his presidency. Some human rights advocates had urged the U.S. to revoke his visa so that he could not travel to the United States.

Nonetheless, he was congratulated by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said Kutesa brought "wide-ranging experience to the job" as a lawyer, parliamentarian, finance minister and foreign minister.

Kutesa pledged to focus on employment, economic growth, gender equality and eradicating poverty during his term as president, which begins in September.

"I'll focus on further advancing gender equality and empowerment of women in the the 69th session in which we will mark the 20th anniversary of the ground-breaking Beijing meeting, which provided a framework and roadmap for achieving gender equality and women's rights,” said Kutesa.

Kutesa will replace John Ashe, of Antigua and Barbuda, as president. The largely ceremonial post rotates annually by region.