Uganda’s Christmas gift? Homophobia, violence, pogrom, witch-hunt

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. Clare Byarugaba. Julian Pepe Onziema. Frank Mugisha. Geoffrey Ogwaro. These are the names of the most prominent gay activists in Uganda today, and they are under attack. Today, the Ugandan Parliament passed legislation, `ethics laws’, that threaten the LGBT communities with life in prison, and do so using the most vague, and hence most lethal, language. The law also outlaws mini-skirts. Of course. Because really, the biggest problems facing Uganda today are homosexuality and hemlines.

Three years ago Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Julian Pepe Onziema, and David Kato sued a Ugandan tabloid for its “Hang the Gays” series in which it posted names, addresses, pictures of individuals reputed to be “gay”. Remarkably, they won the case.

Remarkably as well, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera helped found FAR-Uganda, Freedom and Roam Uganda; while Julian Pepe Onziema and David Kato led SMUG, Sexual Minorities of Uganda. David Kato was brutally murdered in January 2011.

Since then, the struggle for an end to the pogrom against LGBT people has waxed and waned, often deeply influenced by outside funders, and in particular those from the United States.

Gay activists organized and pushed back. For example, when the Minister for Ethics and Integrity broke up a gay rights workshop, run by FAR-Uganda, they sued. In fact, that case is meant to be decided next month. We’ll see.

This bill had been sitting in Parliament for two years. Last year, House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga promised passage as a “Christmas gift,” and today she delivered. No matter that the Parliament may not have had a proper quorum, no matter that proper procedures were scanted. What matters is “the gift.” After passing the bill, Parliament passed a motion thanking the House Speaker for “the gift.” Parliament was very excited to receive its gift.

And now the witch-hunt proceeds to the next level. Clare Byarugaba, of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, put it directly: “You need to deal with your personal security. Whereas we’d rather stay and fight, but we know that people in power are way too powerful, and they can push their agendas at any level. So, rather than be witch hunted in the country that I’ve grown up in, that I love, it would be important for me to get out of the country and re-strategise on the future of gay rights in Uganda.”

 Clare Byarugaba


(Photo Credit 1: PRI) (Photo Credit 2: BBC)