Uganda interview helps launch LGBTI refugee support group

FARUG logo
FARUG logo

A new European ally for African LGBTI rights activists — International LGBTI Support  (ILS) — will soon launch its Ugandan support program at the European Parliament in Brussels.  As the group prepares to unveil its  International Support Uganda (ISU) project, the executive director of ILS  interviewed long-time Ugandan activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, founding editor of “Bombastic” magazine.

Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) is the sort of long-standing Ugandan organization that a new international organisation wants to consult before launching. To make that point, Tobias Pellicciari, executive director of ILS, interviewed FARUG’s co-founder Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. (See his questions and her answers below.)  Her advice to international allies:

“We know our situation better…  always consult before taking any action.”  

ISU is a refugee-support program initiated by the Brussels office of ILS with strong support in Italy. (The ILS and ISU Web pages and Facebook page are in Italian. Some Internet browsers can be adjusted to translate such sites automatically into the language of your choice.)

International LGBTI Support seeks to help LGBTI refugees in Uganda, Kenya and eventually Senegal.
International LGBTI Support seeks to help LGBTI refugees in Uganda, Kenya and eventually Senegal. Click image to enlarge.

International Support Uganda’s program aims to support refugees in Kenya and Uganda. Many LGBTI people, particularly since the approval last year of Uganda’s anti-gay bill, were forced to leave their country looking for safety, for more freedom and tolerance.

The group is working in partnership with ILGA World, Pan Africa ILGA, ORAM and with other LGBTI organizations to create better conditions for LGBTI people in their countries, to ensure safer places for refugees and to improve the bureaucracy for asylum seekers. For further information, contact: [email protected] or visit their Facebook page.

To obtain an overview of the current Ugandan context, ISU’s Tobias Pellicciari interviewed Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who is one of the few founding members of Uganda’s LGBTI movement from the ’90s still living there.

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Photo courtesy of
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Photo courtesy of

Kasha has received numerous honors for her work. These include the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2011 and the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award in 2013.

Here is the interview:

Can you tell us about your organization? What are the main activities?

I founded and headed Freedom and Roam Uganda from 2003 to 2013. I have since stepped down from its leadership to pave the way for more growth.

We work in four thematic areas:

  1. Advocacy and lobbying. This, through policy change, international lobbying at the UN and African Commission, through regional and national bodies.
  2. Information dissemination. By providing our community and the general public with information regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in the hope of attitude change, in order to reduce and ultimately eradicate all forms of phobias directed to sexual minorities.
  3. Research and Documentation about the lived realities of our community, abuses, violations and health to use it for litigation purposes but also to use it for policy inclusion like national health policy.
  4. Movement building, so that we can lay a strong foundation for the future generation to continue the struggle. My stepping down after a decade is one example of transformational leadership.

Are there new elements in the new draft “Prohibition of promotion of unnatural sexual offence” bill?

Since it is not an official document of the state, I cannot really talk much about it until it is published in the Gazette as a formal document. We have not done anything about it.

What kind of actions will you take in order to fight against the “Prohibition of promotion of unnatural sexual offences” bill?

If and when it becomes a formal document, we shall also challenge it in the constitutional court. But for now, I don’t want to give it much weight by speculating about it.

After the approval of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in February 2014, many people left Uganda and asked for asylum in other countries. Do you think that it will happen again if the government approves a new law?

There is no doubt that many people will continue to leave the country as long as the environment remains harsh and hostile; people need to live healthy and secure lives and many don’t feel they can do that in Uganda right now.

So we support all those who don’t feel safe anymore so that they can go and look for safer places. It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, that many people are being forced out.

It breaks our heart when we see our friends and family leaving all their lives behind, and that’s why we continue to strive every day, waiting for the day when they will return in a safer place than it is today.

On December 3rd you attended a conference in Brussels called “Europe, Let’s Speak Out for LGBTI Rights in Africa.” What were the outcomes of the conference? Would you share a comment with us?

The aim of the conference was to share with our European partners our stories and to explain to them how they can support us on the African continent without causing more harm. That was the main objective and we did give great strategies that they can use to support us.

What could International Support Uganda and other LGBTI rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) do to help Uganda? Would you like to say something to other activists?

Already by starting such an NGO, it shows how much support and love they have for us. Please continue the support in many ways: technically, emotionally and yes, financially as we need a lot of all this support to execute our objectives.

But also remember, we know our situation better. So please always consult before taking any action. Always consult.


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 [email protected]


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