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Uganda activists in NY: ‘We are here, we are you, we are proud!’

Clinton Global Citizen award winners Pepe Julius Onziema, left, and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo at Clinton Global Initiative 2012 in New York. at

Clinton Global Citizen award winners Pepe Julius Onziema, left, and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo at Clinton Global Initiative 2012 in New York. at

Two activists for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda today delivered a strong, optimistic message about the future of LGBTIs after they received Clinton Global Citizen Awards from President Bill Clinton.

The honorees were Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, who heads a gay-straight alliance in Kampala, Uganda, and Pepe Julius Onziema, a leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda, or SMUG.

In prepared remarks, Bishop Senyonjo said:

Thank you, President Clinton, distinguished guests of the Clinton Global Initiative.

Tonight is a holy moment. There are only a few moments like this in a person’s life.

The first one for me, personally, was my marriage to Mary 48 years ago. I shall never forget that special, holy moment … or this one.

We are so grateful for this honor and this opportunity to speak on behalf of the people of Uganda and those in societies all over the world who are marginalized and who live in fear every day of their lives … people who have done nothing wrong.

It is time to legalize love for everyone. We ask that you bring back to your businesses, communities, places of worship our message: the fight for human rights is not a fight that knows borders  – and it will only be won with all of us standing together in solidarity, one voice, as one people.

I’m thankful to God that I’m not only a Ugandan citizen but am also a Clinton Global citizen. Thank you for this prestigious award.

In Onziema’s prepared remarks, he said:

Ugandan activists Pepe Julius Onziema, left, and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo at Clinton Global Initiative 2012 in New York. at

Ugandan activists Pepe Julius Onziema, left, and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo at Clinton Global Initiative 2012 in New York.

Fellow Honorees, CGI team, distinguished guests, I bring you greetings from Sexual Minorities Uganda, SMUG, and the LGBTI community of Uganda. President Clinton, thank you.

I’m sincerely humbled that you chose to honor our work with this extraordinary award tonight. Mr. President, I must confess, however, that I had a tough decision.

I am one of four people taking the Minister of Ethics and Integrity to court. The hearing was scheduled for this morning in Uganda. I had to choose between attending court and being here to receive this award.

I felt as though I would be abandoning the very work that has brought your recognition to our struggle. But after careful consideration, it seemed to me that more good could come from being here.

For tonight, I wish to speak on behalf of thousands of Africa’s LGBTI people. Although current legislation targets sex between men, and between women, the lived reality is that it is transgender-identifying persons who suffer the wrath of state and non-state aggressors alike in the country’s quest to eradicate homosexuality from Uganda.

Against these odds, in 2007 some of us — in masks — told Ugandans and the world that we are present and we want to live in peace.  We have taken government officials as well as ordinary citizens to court and have been granted justice in some of these cases.

However, even in this year 2012, we have had our workshops shut down. Our lives have been threatened. Despite this, last month we held our first Pride March at a public beach –without masks. This proves two important facts:

  • We have the power to change our destiny…
  • And we have to take the first step.

I would like to recognize the tireless efforts of my team at SMUG and that of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law for raising their voices, exposing their faces and their lives, in the quest for justice and equality for all. This prestigious award is very significant to our struggle because it opens many doors and amplifies the voice of our struggle in Uganda.

We are here. We are you. And we are proud! Together let’s keep exploring the impossible and work tirelessly for a more compassionate and peaceful world. I am proud to accept this on behalf of Uganda, Africa and all of the 76 countries where it is illegal to be LGBTI.  Thank you.

One thought on “Uganda activists in NY: ‘We are here, we are you, we are proud!’

  1. Pingback: Germany blocks Ugandans’ trip to safety seminar | 76 CRIMES

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