Third detention in anti-gay Uganda crackdown

Youth on Rock Foundation logo
Youth on Rock Foundation logo

Police in Uganda have detained a third youth worker on homosexuality charges,  continuing their crackdown on the Youth on Rock Foundation (YRF), which runs anti-AIDS programs for LGBT youth.

Martin (Morgan) Kanyike, executive director of the foundation, was detained Tuesday, Jan. 29, on accusations of homosexuality and recruiting people into homosexuality.  He was put into a cell for about two hours, then was released on police bond, he said. His understanding was that he had been arrested, but that’s not entirely clear. He was not required to provide money in exchange for his release, Kanyike said.

His detention followed the arrest on Dec. 31 of Joseph Kawesi, co-founder of the foundation, and the arrest of Kabuye Najibu, the organization’s finance manager, on Jan. 2. Both were released after intervention by human rights defenders from Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and  the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP).

Kanyike said that, under the terms of his release, Kawesi had to report back to the police station in Kampala on Jan. 29, at which time he was required to call Kanyike.

Kanyike’s attorney, from Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum – Uganda, had advised him that he needed to respond to police and stop hiding out with his mobile phone turned off, Kanyike said. So he responded to the call, went to the police station and was detained.

He was released with the proviso that he would return Feb. 7 for further questioning, along with other YRF officials.

The foundation continues to serve LGBT youths, most of them HIV-positive, despite harassment by police.

“We have to continue with our work,”  Kanyike said.

For example, today he helped run an HIV prevention program from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., which was attended by about 20 people, Kanyike said.

The foundation doesn’t engage in “recruiting people into homosexuality,” as police allege, he added.

Officials at the foundation have received assistance from U.S.-based Freedom House — a grant to provide a safe house for five months, he said.  YRF is still seeking money to open a new office.

In addition, a Fundrazr fund drive in support of YRF has so far collected $290.

Kanyike said he is uncertain what police are planning for him and other LGBT-friendly people in Uganda.

“I don’t know their plan. We’ll see on Feb. 7,” he said.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at


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