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Kanye West gifts Yeezys to Ugandan president
Kanye West gifts a pair of Yeezys to Ugandan president Yoweri Musevenivia

Kanye West criticised for gifting signed Yeezys to Ugandan president

Yoweri Museveni has presided over decades of anti-democratic policies and a crackdown on gay rights

Kanye West recently delayed the release of his new album Yandhi in order to travel to Africa and record new music. While in Uganda, where he is reportedly filming a music video, he and his wife Kim Kardashian West met with the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni. As BBC News report, West gifted a signed pair of Yeezy trainers to Museveni – but the meeting was met with controversy.

Museveni has been president for 32 years, initially coming to power after his National Resistance Movement took over the government. He subsequently banned political parties, saying that people would have to run for office as individuals, and has more recently been cracking down on democratic opposition through violent attacks on candidates and dispersing rallies. He has also amended the country’s constitution to abolish two-term presidential limits, allowing him to stay in power, as well as removing the age limit of candidates, which allows the 74-year-old to continue running in future.

Bobi Wine, a musician-turned-lawmaker who says he was tortured after being arrested in August, said that it was “immoral” of West to “rub shoulders” with Museveni, TIME report. “He is hobnobbing with a president who has been in power now for 32 years and restricts any freedom, a country where opposition activists are tortured and imprisoned,” Wine said.

Besides Museveni’s anti-democratic policies, he has also presided over a crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights in the country. In 2014, he toughened the country’s anti-homosexuality laws, pushing through the Anti-Homosexuality Act that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment (some MPs argued it should be punishable by death). Although the law was invalidated by the Constitutional Court, gay people still face extreme discrimination in the country. “There’s absolutely no respect for LGBTQ people in Uganda,” Jide Macaulay, founder of House Of Rainbow, an international non-profit that encourages dialogue between religious and LGBTQ+ communities, told Dazed last year.

“Hopefully Kim & Kanye are in Uganda advocating for its LGBTQ citizens who face a government that has one of the worst records on LGBT rights & safety anywhere in the WORLD, giving President Museveni a pair of shoes, while he advocates for gay men to be burned in public,” tweeted Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness.

Speaking to BBC News, Dr Jonathan Fisher, an expert in African politics at the University of Birmingham, said that he believed the meeting was to put Uganda on America’s radar thanks to West’s connection to Donald Trump. The benefits to Uganda could come in the form of “military training, arms, and development money” from the US. “It is an odd meeting, but President Museveni is known to be quite savvy with the media,” Fisher said.

The meeting came just a few days after West met with US president Donald Trump in the Oval Office. West is increasingly aligning himself with reactionary figures who wield incredible amounts of power. There’s not much else to add at this point – it’s just a grim spectacle to witness.