In the face of much evidence this United Nations delay is dangerous and inexplicable. Ugandan gays and those perceived as gay, are targets while refugees in Kenya and their cases must be expedited.
By Melanie Nathan, December 05, 2014.
After you have finished reading this story, I ask you to consider this question: Should Andrew SSebulime, now a refugee in Kenya, still be waiting, after almost 12 months, for a conclusive decision by UNHCR to resettle him- or should this be a slam dunk and expedited decision? Here is Andrew’s story:
In 2012, Andrew SSebulime was excited to start his new job as a journalist for Record TV. A bountiful future lay ahead for him. Soon thereafter his professionalism and ability to analyze in-depth news helped elevate him to assistant news manager and then came the much coveted promotion to a presenter, taking on the morning program called UG ON AIR. In the program he would focus on Uganda’s political, economic and social life, discussing topical issues from news articles and Parliament.
In December 2012 when Parliament started to debate the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHA), his journey to fame, started in earnest. He would speak out about how Parliament should rather spend its time on the real issues facing the country. He believed there were pressing and urgent issues facing government that were being ignored, replaced by too much focus on the AHA. He spoke about the need for the enactment of laws that would serve to strengthen and empower the judiciary, to take on corrupt officials, as being an imperative use of Parliament’s time, rather than the scapegoating of LGBTI people through the enactment of the AHA.
In January 2013, Andrew began reporting direct news from Parliament, including hosting guests on his popular morning TV program. He notes: “From UG ON AIR, news anchoring and reporting, I was given another program Public Platform, addressing local issues of the grass root citizens which all made me famous. It was because of my work on these programs that WBS TV which was more advanced, with a bigger viewership, and great command of the market share spotted me and head-hunted me from Record TV.”
A big step forward in his career, Andrew started working on June, 01 2013, as a news anchor and reporter for WBS TV. He also started taking on feature writing in a segment called Kampala Amakula running a feature entitled “Male Sex Workers Depicting the Ugandan Gay Community”. It was a topic that was to be a significant part of his undoing. In one foul swoop – life as he knew it was over for Andrew.
Andrew’s appointment letter:
On December 23, 2013, mere days after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act by Uganda’s Parliament, Andrew SSebulime received his marching orders, and in no uncertain terms. He stood accused – for his reporting the story in a manner that “condemned Parliament’s passage of the Bill” – denoting, according to the Station, his support of the so called ‘promotion of homosexuality.’ Andrew was accused of breaching the Stations moral obligations by supposedly “supporting the promotion of homosexuality.”
Within hours of the AHA becoming law, through the signature of President Museveni, the journalist was a target, and immediately arrested.
Andrews termination letter:
The rest of this story in Andrew SSebulime’s own words:
“MY ARREST AND JAIL
Events after the passing of the bill by parliament on the 20th of December 2013 and my subsequent dismissal from WBS TV because of my support to the gay community which happened on the same date turned tables and ironically, I became the hunter being hunted. Thinking that termination of my contract was only enough, things just got hard as I was arrested on the 25th of February 2014 only a day after President Museveni had just signed the bill into law. Luckily enough, I managed to skip out of jail on a police bond of 800,000.
CROSSING OVER TO KENYA
With these happenings, noon was turned into darkness and I knew the next step would be lynching me since people had started taking matters into their own hands and yet I was outed on the morning program as a gay journalist, I had to run for safety and on the 23rd of April 2014, I crossed over to Kenya through Malaba border.
UNHCR UNENDING PROCESS
I had my written interview on the 24 of April followed by oral face to face interview on the 28th of April, after which I was told to go for the decision on the 28th of June. I was called for clarification on the 17th of June but I didn’t appear at UN as I was down with a serious fever and when I appeared on the 19th of June, I was referred to 30th June. I was told to check back on the 3oth of July. From July I was told that the mandate with UNHCR was ready awaiting at the Kenyan Government for approval and was thus told to check back on the September 23 and then on September to 23rd , I was told check again on the 23 of January 2015.
I am exhausted, I am hungry, I am uncomfortable, I am losing my health and I am not safe here. I cannot work – I am degraded as a human being – so I inquired by writing to a person named Kenna at UNHCR, who then told me that my file was still under assessment.
I joined other gay Ugandans who mostly have now left for resettlement by UNHCR to the United States and Sweden, while I have been left behind in uncertainty. Waiting to hear my fate. I have no decision. But I know I will die if I am sent back. I may even die waiting here to get my mandate.
Melanie, it beats my understanding to see to it that a person outspoken, being sought after by the TV, outed and in dire need to scamper for safety am still at large and yet all others have been cleared, what even complicates the matter is the fact that even the January appointment lies in balance. Please tell the world my story.
I stay with a group of five people at Kawangware – we are living in sickening unsafe and deplorable conditions. It has been 8 months of hell.”
Today I will be writing a letter to UNHCR on behalf of Andrew to inquire as to why this courageous ally of human rights is not already safely in a country where he will be treated with the respect and dignity he deserves. If we do not receive a favorable response – we will start a Petition – in the meantime, if you read this story and it moves you to sign on to the letter that is being sent to UNHCR, please submit your name to me at [email protected] .
The Anti-Homosexuality Act was rendered null and void by the Ugandan Courts in August 2014, based on the fact that the Ugandan parliament had passed the Bill without the requisite quorum.
NEW LEGISLATION UPDATE:
In the meantime just today the Ugandan Monitor is reporting that Parliamentarian, Kawempe North representative, Latif Ssebagala, is pushing Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to (yet again) deliver the New anti-homosexuality legislation, The Prohibition of the Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill of 2014, as a Xmas gift to Ugandans. The anti-gay sentiment as at an all time high in Uganda since the previous Act, AHA, was invalidated by the Courts due to a technicality, where Parliament failed to vote with a quorum. The new bill, also a private member’s bill, does not use the word homosexuality but refers to “unnatural sex acts.”
In contrast to the nullified Act, the new draft Bill avoids any explicit references to homosexuality, but seems to co-opt sections of the Penal Code, which prescribes, among others, a life sentence for “unnatural sexual practices”. Unnatural sexual practices are defined in the Bill as sexual acts between persons of the same sex, or with or between transsexual persons, a sexual act with an animal and anal sex. The proposed legislation also expands the definition of “promotion of unnatural sexual practices” and proposes a prison sentence of up to seven years for the promotion of homosexuality. On many level this Bill is worse and may find itself able to stand the test of constitutionality better than the nullified one.
According to the Monitor: “Speaker Kadaga promised to put the Bill on the order paper as soon as she gets the text of the Bill. “You asked me to explain the stage at which the Bill is; I cannot know because it is a private members Bill. I can also not explain anything about the committee that was formed to harmonize the clauses because it was done outside this House. But I will put it on the order paper the moment I get the text of the Bill,” she said.”
Ugandan gays and their exiled allies, who are refugees must receive their UNHCR mandates as soon as possible. Do you think that Andrew SSebulime should still be sitting as an non-mandated refugee in Kenya, after almost 12 months, without any conclusive decision on the part of UNHCR? He has been told to come back at the end of January.
Melanie Nathan, [email protected] Melanie Nathan©2014