Homosexuality in Uganda

My lunch was not great anyway. Some ill prepared Pakistani rice, nearly mashed beans and beef. I didn’t mind the beef because for a while now, I’ve been steadily growing into a vegetarian.

A banana and fresh mango juice was a relief after such a below per meal. Food is like medicine. A great meal usually equates to a great prescription in the medicine world. A bad one on the other hand is as good as a failed prescription.

My Monday afternoon could thus be anything but slow. I sat back at my cubicle trying to look for inspiration from the different social media platforms. Kenya for example was trending on twitter with the hashtag #Primitiveenergy (derogatory line in an online Korea Air advert, announcing their entry in the Kenyan aviation market)

But before I would scroll through all the #Primitiveenergy tweets, a call came from a colleague at 1400hrs.

“Edward, where are you?” In town (Kampala) I responded. “Please find your way to Najjera (Kampala Suburb) now. A source has just called me claiming an LGBT ( Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) meeting at Esella Hotel is about to be stormed by police.”

In a flash, I was on a boda boda (Motor Cycle) to Najjera, some 8.6km north of Kampala, Uganda’s capital from my location. On arrival, it was extremely calm, quite the opposite of my expectation.

There were already a couple of journalists waiting for the police to arrive. Meanwhile, the LGBT participants who were having a workshop on human rights had just finished lunch and were preparing for an afternoon session.

“As far as I am concerned, we are continuing with our workshop. I’ve not heard anything like that (Police coming to stop the meeting). Besides the constitution provides for freedom of expression and assembly. We are law abiding citizens simply having a workshop on human rights,” One gay participant said on the way back to the conference hall

It was now 1530hrs and still no sign of police except a couple of plain clothed men we suspected to be from the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) department of police who were clearly trying to playing proxy to the whole situation.

With my colleague, we made a call to The Right Reverend Father Simon Lokodo ,Uganda’s State Minister for Ethics & Integrity. “I am not able to come over there personally because am going for a caucus meeting but I have dispatched my men (Police) who will be there shortly.”

Lokodo recently made world headlines when he stormed and stopped an LGBT meeting in Entebbe claiming the participants were planning violence.

 

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and is punishable under the Penal Code by life sentence. On the African continent, it’s considered a taboo, evident in its illegally in 37 countries on the African continent, including Uganda.

Since 2009 a controversial bill has been before parliament that would impose the death penalty for certain homosexual acts.

We (journalists) were getting a little frustrated. The LGBT participants were also beginning to worry about a potential police arrest. Some indeed started leaving the venue.

Amidst our frustration, a big number of journalists who had spent a whole day at Esella Hotel decided to depart the venue for the newsroom. I hang in there for a few more minutes with my colleague.

The wait finally paid off when at 1603hrs, a police patrol pick-up pulled over at the hotels gate from where the police sealed off any exit or entry.

On realization of the police’s presence, nearly all the remaining LGBT’s who were still within the hotel premises jumped over the fence in fear and took off. The workshop was comprised of 70 participants.

A handful of Policemen entered the hotel premises and arrested three human rights officials.They were put inside a waiting police bus that arrived a few minutes later.

One of them was a Canadian national, Blazevic Neil (@neilblazevic),  a Research Officer at East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. Another was Njoroge Njenga,a Kenyan human rights activist plus a third unknown Kenyan woman.

After spending close to an hour in holding as Police searched the hotel rooms, the three  were peacefully released before being asked to write statements with the police.

The question of LGBT rights in Uganda remains a very sensitive topic. Many journalists have shied away from covering LGBT events for fear of being judged by those around them. Whether for the right or wrong reasons, LGBT activists continue to fight for indentify in a society where culture supersedes anything else.

15 thoughts on “Homosexuality in Uganda

  1. I knew you would go there, and not be afraid to be were attacks on human rights are going on. And it is so important. Shame on every government who bans the right to be a human. Thanks for posting, again on an important subject.

  2. Thank you for sharing this close and personal encounter, along with documentary photos, with the rest of the world. It is far too easy for us to turn the other way and say, “It’s not happening here.” We must, with a loving heart, take action to call out and condemn human rights violations no matter where they occur. We can allow future generations to see the evils of this one, and thus seek change, only when we speak out and inform.

  3. Just reminding you that your posts are wonderful. I really like how you capture emotions in your pictures and, particularly this post, how you put the story to it. It makes me really upset these people can’t be themselves without going to jail- or getting questioned. I really hope for the best for them all, and everyone in Uganda

  4. There are lots of unsaid things in the stories of the Entebbe meeting and this one. The unsaid in my view are; It seems the information of the break-ups of the meetings travels freely, so freely both participants and the police, and journalists as well prepare for it and even wait – see, some even get frustrated from the waiting. Then, the arrests that follow – no prosecution, no nothing. Then, the timing of these meetings break-ups. We need to read through the unsaid facts in these stories. It serves the current political class well for gay-rights stories to dominate the world media than talk about presidential succession. And so, we have to be ware of the advantages that flow from this issue, it diverts the country from so many core issues of governance. To isolate gay rights from other human rights in Uganda is the first way the state benefits from this. This isolation galvanizes the homophobic public on the side of the state, this pushes so many human rights issues under the bus! Yet you can’t attain gay rights without other human rights issues being addressed. In all this, the people, the citizenry, the public lose, including the minorities, the state evades its duties.

  5. Reblogged this on Brian Bwesigye Speaks and commented:
    There are lots of unsaid things in the stories concerning Lokodo and gay rights advocates, from the Entebbe meeting breakup, to the Najjera one. The unsaid in my view are; It seems the information of the break-ups of the meetings travels freely, so freely that both participants and the police, and journalists as well prepare for it and even wait – see, some even get frustrated from the waiting and leave. Then, the arrests that follow – no prosecution, no nothing.

    At least the seemingly choreographed Besigye arrests would end up in him spending days, weeks in prison at time, but not these ones that also continue to look choreographed – Then, the timing of these meetings and their break-ups. We need to read through the unsaid facts in these stories. It serves the current political class well for gay-rights stories to dominate the world media than talk about presidential succession, or about maternal health. Discussing sex and sex styles does not in any way challenge the power of those who control the state today. And so, we have to be aware of the advantages that flow from this issue, it diverts the country from so many core issues of governance, human rights etc. To isolate gay rights from other human rights in Uganda is the first way the state benefits from this. This isolation galvanizes the homophobic public on the side of the state; this pushes so many human rights issues under the bus! Yet you can’t attain gay rights without other human rights issues being addressed.

    In all this, the people, the citizenry, the public lose, including the minorities. The homophobic public gets a chance to say all the rubbish they want, forgetting that roads are so poor even if they wanted to kill a gay person, they may die in an accident before they reach the gay person’s house. The state evades its duties equally. That way, Lokodo helps the state through the diversionary things. And we have come to be party to this diversion! We also join the bandwagon, but wait a minute, gay rights are human rights and so we should talk human rights rather more and see – otherwise, we are being f*cked, left, right and centre by the state and though we tell ourselves that we are fighting for gay rights, we may be playing in a larger scheme of things that the state is benefiting from. Meanwhile, we wait for the next closure of a workshop, we will be looking for the same script, and it will also come to cover up some other story that the state is uncomfortable with.

  6. Kenyans are already dead. homosexuality is killing them alive en they want to spread their death to UG…. Nooooo… Uganda is still a country which protects its values. keep it up UG.

  7. Hej from Sweden!
    So sorry to hear of this treatment of people who are like anyone else, looking for companionship and maybe even love. This makes my heart ache!
    It has to be told, this I know, but sad nevertheless. Thank you for sharing!

    • Yes, people who are like anyone else, except for enticing children to their ACTS. When yoy talk of rights, think of the poor parent who sends his/her child to school. Then these who are like anyone else storm them with funds collected from abroad for recruitment. Why recruit/promote if it is personal rights. And why target the most vulnerable in our society??? WE NEED PROTECTION. GOVT SHOULD PROTECT US. YES OUR CULTURE IS IMPORTANT TO US; AND PLEASE RESPECT US FOR WHAT WE ARE!!!

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