By Melanie Nathan, June 20, 2012.
Uganda’s persecution of its LGBTI community is heating up with recent lashing out on the part of one Minister who has decided to take the law into his own hands by breaking up peaceful lawful meetings and trying to de-register NGO’s.
Ugandan Fr. Simon Lokodo, a catholic priest with a clear anti-gay agenda and who happens to serve as the Minister for Ethics and Integrity in President Museveni’s Cabinet told reporter Angelo Izama on a radio show, that he had finalized arrangements to de-register 38 NGO’s in Uganda “for supporting homosexuality under the guise of fighting for human rights.”
According to the journalist’s post “The Minister was a guest of the Hot Seat on 933 KFM in what was a rather disturbing show yesterday. He had come to explain why his ministry was focusing on breaking up “gay promotion” meetings. Amongst other things when I asked him why he was not as outspoken about the perils of child trafficking, child sex abuse or even the plight of men in Uganda’s prison system where non-consensual sex and congestion is pushing up HIV numbers he retorted that he embraced prostitution because it was a lesser evil.”
The full list of 38 NGO’s likely, which includes non-LGBTI NGO’s, is not public at this time but includes the Uganda Human Rights Network [HURINET].
If licenses are revoked this could cause a huge strain on the AIDS/HIV communities as well as other NGO’s operating to support the issues involving persecution against the LGBTI community in Uganda.
The question is whether or not the Minister has the power to revoke the licenses or whether he will be infringing upon the constitutional rights of the groups and its members.
The Minister has already demonstrated his autocratic disregard for law by personally gate- crashing a private resort event to halt a lawful meeting being conducted by a local LGBT group. A second incident occurred this week where he ordered police to close a conference being held by a foreign organization at a Ugandan hotel.
These clamp downs portray the frustration of a man unable to separate his religion from his secular duties and his attempts to exercise an action that will only be lawful when the Anti-homosexuality Bill passes. The Bill seeks to criminalize the so called “promotion” of homosexuality, but has yet to pass.
It is no coincidence as The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has recently been back in the news with a call for its passage by clerics in the region.
If this behavior is anything to go by, while perhaps Lokodo’s actions are indicative of his disappointment that the Bill has not yet passed, it is clear that if it does pass the LGBT community and its local allies will see an immediate clampdown and arrests will be made.
The Bill could be passed at anytime and if the NGO’s are prevented from operating it would be very difficult for LGBTI people to find help or their way out of the country if the need should arise.
Last year I asked David Bahati if Ugandan’s would be allowed to leave Uganda upon passage of the Bill and he told me that once the Bill passes and they are criminals and would not be allowed to leave – but arrested instead.
I urge NGO’s to look at this latest move by Lokodo as denoting grave danger – and to consider serious action on behalf of members. It would be wise to liaise with the US State Department and the other Governments impacted to determine the best way to deal with the situation.
As I see it there is an internal clash in Uganda when it comes to passage of the Bill. Satisfying the clerics and the popular parliamentary demand to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is in direct conflict with the huge international outcry against passage bringing the threat of cutting AID and possible trade boycotts.
Either way all of this detracts from the serious problems facing Uganda as alluded to by Angelo Izama on the radio show.
Now curbing the license of NGO’s could bring the anti-gay sentiment to fervor, to a much quicker head. Perhaps that is what Lokodo is indeed trying to accomplish.