Uganda Persecution of Gays Starts before the Kill the Gays Bill Passage

Do Western Activists have a role? This Article explores that question only in part, intending to set up the discussion.

By Melanie Nathan, Feb 19, 2012

It seems as if the Ugandan Minister Lokodo thinks he has the right to autocratically order arrests of gays and lesbians before the new  (anti-gay) law in Uganda that would allow such arrests passes its legislation.  The West, is seeing fit to interfere – is such interference sufficient and should it be happening at all?

Ethics Minister Fr. Simon Logodo, last week ordered the management of the luxury five star hotel,  Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe, to “kick out the gays from the group ‘Freedom and Roam Uganda,’ since announcing arrests orders for the leadership attending the meeting, who had to flee from the scene.  EARLIER REPORT AT

It is widely believed that Lokodo acted maliciously and without authority and now HR foundation, based in the UK is calling upon the Minister to retract his lawless order.

Two weeks before the conference and ensuing arrest warrants, the Ugandan Cabinet had decried the newly re-introduced Anti-homosexuality Bill in Uganda’s parliament, purporting to oppose it, yet their government seems to be acting as if it has already been enacted; unless the Minister was acting of his own accord, without authority, in his individual capacity.

In the latter event and also because there is in fact no law in Uganda that justifies an arrest of this nature, the West is showing support toward the Ugandan LGBT activists caught up in the persecution.

Below a letter from The Human Rights Foundation to Minister Lokodo.

Dear Minister Lokodo,

I am writing to express the Human Rights Foundation’s utmost concern regarding the recent raid of a civil society gathering taking place at a private hotel in Entebbe and the order for the arrest of its organizer, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagasera, founder and executive director of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), an internationally-renowned NGO focused on the rights of sexual minorities in your country.

It is HRF’s understanding that on the morning of Tuesday, February 14, 2012, a private organizational meeting (a workshop) for sexual minority activists at a hotel in Entebbe was disrupted by you, accompanied by uniformed and armed police. We were informed that you interrupted the meeting and announced that the workshop was “illegal” and ordered the participants to disband. Eyewitnesses indicate that the threat of force was used against both activists and members of the hotel staff. After you ordered her arrest, Ms. Nabagasera fled from the hotel premises.

HRF is greatly concerned about the safety and welfare of Ms. Nabagasera and that of her co-workers and fellow individual rights activists. In light of the recent re-tabling of the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” in the Ugandan Parliament, a crackdown on sexual minority activists is especially troubling.

We would like to remind you of your response to the international criticism of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. On February 8, 2012 you stated that the Bill “does not form part of the government’s legislative programme and it does not enjoy the support of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.”

You further stated, “no one in Uganda has ever been charged with the criminal offence of homosexuality.” It is therefore surprising and profoundly disconcerting to receive information from trusted sources about the events that took place in Entebbe this past Tuesday where you personally ordered the arrest of Ms. Nabagasera which is especially surprising given that she has a sterling track record of serving the struggle for human rights in your country—to the point that she is celebrated globally and that her integrity, consistency, and bravery has earned significant recognition including the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

HRF is committed to doing what it can to ensure Kasha Jacqueline Nabagasera’s safety and that of other human rights advocates in Uganda. They have a constitutional right to organize, seek the redress of grievances, express themselves freely, and be free from arbitrary detainment or arrest. The disruption of a civil society group’s workshop and intimidation of its members violates the right to freedom of assembly under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Uganda in 1995 and Article 10 and 11 of the African Charter On Human And Peoples’ Rights ratified by Uganda in 1986.

If what HRF has established in the course of its investigation is true, we ask you to immediately desist in your behavior and uphold the Ugandan constitution, as it is your duty, which allows for peaceful assembly under article 29. Further, the Ugandan constitution requires you to respect and uphold the international treaties signed by Uganda.

We ask you to dismiss your order for Ms. Nabagasera’s arrest and guarantee her safety and the safety of her colleagues.

I urge you to respond at your earliest convenience.

Very truly yours,

Thor Halvorssen

Human Rights Foundation

A human rights advocate Thor Halvorssen founded the Human Rights Foundation in the spring of 2005 has taken the reigns in his request on behalf of Kasha or of his own accord?   Halvorssen, who  began advocating for human rights in 1989 in London by organizing opposition to South African apartheid, means well and is concerned just as all activists around the world are.  But could such a letter be counter productive?

Halvorssen was instrumental in creating and developing the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, serving as its first executive director and then CEO from its founding in 1999 until 2004. Under his leadership, FIRE became the nation’s pre-eminent student rights organization.  Some may contend that his interference is imperative.

Western activists speaking out on behalf of Ugandan activists has recently met with criticism on Facebook social media pages, where those in Ugandan have expressed concern that such could cause backlash against them in their own country.

What these activists fail to note is the simple fact of history.  Surely the world that once said “never again” cannot sit back at the behest of a few in Uganda who think that having formed a coalition they have the situation under control.  It seems that the action of Lokodo should serve as evidence to Ugandan LGBT activists and the community, that once the scapegoating starts it can get out of control.  I do believe that the noise of the West has done far more to stall the Anti gay legislation rather than promote it.

I told my friends in Uganda, before this outrageous move by the Minister, that they may have to go underground to be effective and I was criticized for my statement. However we would rather have them alive and active and reporting to us in the West so we can effect some pressure to Uganda when it comes to this human rights infractions such as this as well as to help other LGBT members of the community deal with persecution.

It is also us in the West who get to decide whether or not we want to continue to support a country that considers our sexual orientation criminal. On a global scale, we have that right to decide and in doing so Uganda may have to learn the lesson of isolation. Yet we musty still question our effectiveness and how we are going to provide support.

The serious help that assisted in bringing  the Apartheid South African Government to its knees, ultimately, was international sanctions, tourist boycotts, sports exclusion and divestment and it happened too many years later than it should have. The South African populace was willing to suffer for liberation. They were liberated.

Clearly the difference lies in the fact that Ugandan gays are a minority and not majority population, but quite frankly, I do not see any other way through this than a strong advocacy from the West in conjunction with help to educate Ugandans about the truth of homosexuality and away from the myths – if Ugandan gays choose to view this as paternalistic on the part of the West and hence unwelcome they may as well sign their own arrest and death warrants.

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  1. Sweden Threatens to Deport Persecuted Lesbian back to Uganda | O-blog-dee-o-blog-da - May 14, 2012

    […] Uganda Persecution of Gays Starts before the Kill the Gays Bill Passage […]

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