More LGBT Ugandans placed at risk of death while Project left with no choice but to suspend activities
By Melanie Nathan, April 4, 2014.
According to a Ugandan Government spokesperson, and confirmed by an OBLOGDEE source at the scene, as well as AP reports, the Ugandan police raided The Makerere University Walter Reed Project in Kampala, which provides HIV/ AIDS resources which may include LGBTI Ugandans.
The new anti-Homosexuality Act was cited as the reason for the raid on the project, which receives funds from the United States of America.
Our source noted:
“Walter Reed Project is an American research project on the spread of HIV that has been working on key populations in Uganda and the offices were closed and surrounded by police.”
The project was targeted for the so called “training youths in homosexuality,” according to anti-gay rhetoric of spokesman Ofwono Opondo, through a tweet,Friday. According to an AP report Opondo noted that a “top diplomat” was involved in the alleged training. This rhetoric is further evidence of the direct persecution by authorities on Ugandans. The sad thing is that this hurts much more people than the LGBTI community.
“The project said in a statement Friday that it was suspending its activities in Uganda after one of its staff, a Ugandan citizen, was arrested and briefly detained by police on Thursday.”
“We are working with police to understand the circumstances under which this person was detained,” the statement said. “Until we have greater clarity as to the legal basis for the police action, the operations of the program are temporarily suspended to ensure the safety of staff and the integrity of the program.”
Frank Mugisha, a gay leader in Uganda, said the project -a nonprofit partnership between a Ugandan university and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program – was known to offer services to gays who suffer from AIDS, he said.
“A lot of LGBTI people found it comfortable to go there for anti-retroviral treatment,” he said.
Further according to AP:
Patrick Onyango, a spokesman for Ugandan police, denied the raid, saying a man pretending to represent the police threatened workers at the project. He said that authorities were now looking for the man, after police in his jurisdiction briefly arrested him and then freed him.
Daniel Travis, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, declined to comment.
Uganda’s president in February enacted a new measure that allows up to life imprisonment for those convicted of engaging in gay sex and sets a seven-year jail term for the offense of “attempted homosexuality.” Despite criticism from the U.S. and other Western countries that say the law is draconian and should be repealed, it has wide popularity among Ugandans.
On February 24, 2014, president Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act and it was printed in the Gazette on March 10, making it the law of Uganda. Now LGBTI people can be imprisoned for between 14 years and life for homosexual acts, as defined by the law, and it is illegal to engage in the so called (though mythological) promotion of homosexuality.
We at OBLOGDEE are currently in contact with over 50 Ugandans who have been forced to run into hiding, with many seeking refuge out of the country. Some were outed by Red Pepper Magazine, the most widely read newspaper in East Africa, after which they were threatened and attacked by communities, families, friends, neighbors, landlords , employers and are now destitute without any support.
The attack on this project has left many who are in need of HIV services, to include the medications that keep them alive, in dire medical need.
The project’s website notes that it monitors trends in the HIV epidemic in Uganda and is conducting HIV vaccine trials. This could set the research back enormously, rendering much of the funding spent thus far, useless. “The project opened in 2002 and has since expanded its activities to include HIV prevention, care and treatment. Through the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, the project has been running HIV programs across Uganda.”
About 1. 5 million Ugandans are infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS, the United Nations program on HIV and AIDS. Before the Bill was enacted UNAIDS’ Michele Sidibé strongly urged the Ugandan authorities to reject the bill and “ensure the human rights and dignity of all people in Uganda,”
“Uganda was the first country in Africa to break the conspiracy of silence on AIDS – and to give voice to the most marginalized – but now I am scared that this bill will take Uganda backwards, relinquishing its leadership role in the AIDS response,” Mr. Sidibé .
It seems this prediction was correct. Our source informed us that even if the Police deny responsibility, it is likely that the raid was instigated by Fr. Simon Lokodo, Minster of Ethics and Integrity, who has conducted similar anti-gay measures and raids even before the law was enacted. It is also a well known fact that Fr. Lokodo had a witch hunt target list to include organizations, which he promised to close down.
It is my opinion that if any deaths result from the harm caused by this law and the inability of LGBTI people ito receive much needed continued follow up and treatment, that Red Pepper’s ownership, editors and staff as well as all the government officials involved right up to the top, will be directly responsible and possible even accountable to the international Criminal Courts.
Now the USA has been left with little choice but to suspend the project and funding as the danger to the LGBT community is far greater as well as to all associated with the work.
In the words of one LGBT person who is in hiding:
“ I have got friends who are HIV+ and they have been getting services from Walter Reed at Makere, like ARVS and now what are they going to just die like insects.”
Another source informed me:
” The private files for Gays who have been getting services there have now been confiscated by the police and will be used to target the LGBTI community as evidence of being gay under the new law. They will hunt one by one perhaps put them in news again and again until they are attacked. They have names and addressed now and even who the families and partners can be.”
Now more people will scramble to find shelter to go into hiding. There is no money available by any single organization to provide safe housing for those in hiding, or food and medical necessities.
NOTE: Section 13 of the law bans promotion of homosexuality. A person who participates in production, dissemination, marketing, publishing or broadcasting of pornographic materials, funds or sponsors homosexuality-related activities, offers assets to support the promotion of homosexuality, etc, is liable to five thousand currency points or imprisonment of between five and seven years or both. This will result in the closing down of ALL services and help and support offered to LGBT people. This is also why so many landlords and employers and HIV/AIDS services are turning LGBT people away.
U.S. on Raid on the Makerere University Walter Reed Project by Ugandan Authorities
Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf U.S. Department of State
We are deeply concerned that a U.S.-funded health clinic and medical research facility, the Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP), was raided by Ugandan authorities on April 3, leading to the arrest of one of the facility’s employees, allegedly for conducting “unethical research” and “recruiting homosexuals.”
While that individual was subsequently released, this incident significantly heightens our concerns about respect for civil society and the rule of law in Uganda, and for the safety of LGBT individuals.
The MUWRP is engaged in efforts to improve public health and save lives. The Ugandan government is responsible for protecting all of its people, and attacks and intimidation of health care workers are unacceptable. The safety of health workers must be respected. We have temporarily suspended the operations of MUWRP to ensure the safety of staff and beneficiaries, and the integrity of the program.
I started the Rescue Fund which has already provided shelter and food and other much needed help to over 37 LGBTI people in hiding. Contributions can be made via Paypal at the Rescue Fund Page at http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/escape-funds/