|Apinda Mpako, Pan Africa ILGA|
|Apinda Mpako, Pan Africa ILGA|
For several weeks and with great excitement Ugandan LGBT activists have been building a Beach Pride event. The idea was to celebrate with friends and to hold a private party for those who wanted to attend. Activists kept the Pride event under wraps and a few of us bloggers in the international community, who had knowledge of it, decided not to report the event until it was successfully over.
However it would seem that the police persecution included spying on the privacy of the group of activists who had been organizing the event as a private party. Instead of reporting purely on its success I have to report on the unwarranted arrests.
Yet in doing so and after speaking to activists, I soon realized that even with police harassment, the event was full of fun and pride, with its success enhanced by the unyielding and brave determination of a group of people so severely persecuted.
In Uganda it is illegal to commit an act “against the order of nature.” Homosexuality has been interpreted as illegal under this definition. But nowhere is it legal to break up an innocent party, even if the attendees proclaim to be LGBT. The law seeking to ban the so called and ill defined “promotion of homosexuality” has yet to pass Parliament.
Nonetheless Entebbe police raided the party and have arrested my friends.
Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) under the strongest terms condemns the raid of the Uganda Beach Pride Parade and arrest of Human and gay rights activists, who included the Director of FARUG and the coordinator of Pride Uganda; Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Jay Abang; the programs manager of FARUG; Ms. Stella Nyanzi; a Human Rights Defender; Sandra Ntebi and Julie; Lerato a South African on media team, Rachael Adams and visitors from other counties.
Police stormed the venue where people had gathered after a beach march and ordered the party to stop and that no one should leave the area.
Police are believed to have been tipped off by either a small group of Christians who were for baptism a few yards away or by the local of the area who had gathered to witness the pride event. However according to word I have received the police told activists that they were arrested because of “orders from above.” This indicates the authorities were spying on organizers and knew about the event which was not made public. Iy also indicates a continued drive to persecute the LGBT community in Uganda, regardless of the legality of the gatherings.
Police alleged that there was a gay marriage taking place and that two gay men were seen kissing. They then declared that the gathering was unlawful and wanted to arrest the whole group.
Kasha and group then volunteered to go to the police station to give a statement. Upon arrival, they found another group that was part of the pride team that had prior been arrested.
By press time, they had been all been released. In an interview with Jay Abang, she said “…I feel like our rights have been trampled upon. It is becoming a habit of police to interrupt our gatherings. It is as if a section of Ugandans do not deserve certain rights. The laws and bills have not been passed but police is already enforcing them”
It should be noted that police have so far raided and closed down two workshops that have been organized and attended by members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community in Uganda, earlier this year, one being a capacity building workshop which was organized by FARUG in February and another which was organized by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders in June.
FARUG is urging that the entire LGBTI community to remain steadfast and strong and continue with all the remaining activities planned for Pride parade and film festival Uganda. this should not derail us form our objective of pride.
We call upon the judicial system of Uganda to order an injunction against interruption of any activities organized and participated in by the LGBTI community in Uganda.
“We call upon human rights activist, civil society, the nation and the international community to condemn police rampant and unlawful arrests of gay rights activists.”
The Ugandan activists are amongst the most profoundly courageous human rights campaigners I have yet experienced.
The amazing part of this story is that activists did not allow the arrests to stop the proceedings and a Pride event went on regardless with the continuation of the planned after party. The sad part was that Kasha, due to her detention was unable to attend. I checked in with her. She has been released and is doing well. But it was a great day for her she said, adding the fact that she had the great honor to meet U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who is visiting Uganda.
” We are going strong till we end our planned activities,” Kasha told me. “Even as I was put on the police van I kept telling our people do not be intimidated and that they should keep going on until pride is officially over.”
I hope our international community will lend support.