Africa

Under threat, activists cancel Pride Uganda 2017

Logo of Pride Uganda 2017

Logo of Pride Uganda 2017

LGBTI rights activists have cancelled Uganda Pride 2017 in the face of  threats of arrest and physical harm to Pride participants.

Organizers stated:

Simon Lokodo, Uganda ethics minister (Photo courtesy of Gayvasion.com)

Simon Lokodo, Uganda ethics minister (Photo courtesy of Gayvasion.com)

“This morning, we woke up to … police surrounding the venue of the opening gala and later in the day, even as talks with Police and other relevant authorities were ongoing, more deployment was made to the venues of the events that were to follow.

“[Anti-gay Ugandan Ethics Minister] Simon Lokodo, has over the last couple of weeks threatened us with arrest, and even went as far as revealing his intentions to physically harm one of the leaders within the movement if he came in contact with her. He has categorically stated, time and again that gender and sexual minorities have no rights in Uganda and today had all the venues of the planned Pride events surrounded by state militia.

“He has abused our very existence by stripping us of even the very basic of our rights, he refuses to acknowledge our humanity or right of association, speech, movement as well as freedom from degrading treatment.”

The Human Rights Campaign, a sponsor of Uganda Pride, stated:

Human Rights Campaign

Police block Uganda’s fifth annual Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

In 2016, police blocked Uganda’s fifth annual Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

For the second consecutive year, Ugandan officials have shut down Pride celebrations in Kampala, the capital. On August 16, after months of careful negotiations with their government to organize low-key pride celebrations, LGBTQ activists in Uganda received the shocking news that the events had been shut down by Minister of Ethics Simon Lokodo. This disturbing development follows last year’s police raid on the pride festival, which resulted in dozens of arrests.

HRC partnered with Uganda Pride last year and was sponsoring one of the main Pride events this year through HRC’s Global Partnerships in Pride program.

“This action by the Ugandan government to shut down Pride is a clear violation of LGBTQ Ugandan’s human rights,” said HRC Global Director Ty Cobb. “Ugandan citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and celebrate. The Ugandan government must reverse course and permit this gathering to proceed. Anything less is an assault on fundamental human rights.” …

Logo of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)

Logo of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) said the announcement came as a “wicked stab in the back” because in early August, “Minister Lokodo in his office welcomed and spoke with SMUG officials, Pride organizers and allies.” SMUG believed that meeting represented “a ray of hope,” since SMUG and their allies had agreed to Lokodo’s restrictions that there be no so-called “promotion, recruitment, and exhibition” during the events.

GayTimes reported:

Up to 300 guests from Uganda and around the world were due to attend the event, showing support and solidarity with the country’s LGBT+ community.

“I’m devastated that this precious moment of community interaction has been unjustly denied to us once again,” said Isaac Mugisha from the Pride Uganda Organising Committee.

“But I am also strong and defiant in the face of this oppression. All my community is asking for is to be treated with dignity and respect by our Government and fellow citizens.

“We won’t give up until this is achieved.”

Matt Beard, Executive Director of All Out added: “I travelled to Kampala today to bring a message of solidarity and love from All Out supporters from over 50 countries who chipped in financially to enable Pride Uganda to happen again in 2017.

“We are shocked and outraged that the opening event could not take place. All Out is so proud to be a partner of the LGBT movement here in Uganda and we will stand with them shoulder to shoulder until they achieve the equality and dignity that they deserve.”

All Out invited Pride supporters to sign a statement of encouragement to the Ugandan LGBT activists: “In the face of so much hate, please know that thousands of us around the world stand with you and will support you in your fight for love and equality.”

This is the organizers’ full statement about the cancellation, as published in Kuchu Times:

STATEMENT ON CANCELLATION OF PRIDE UGANDA 2017

It is with very heavy hearts and deep-felt sadness that we announce the cancellation of Pride Uganda 2017. Following the Police raid and interruption of the Pride parade last year, extra precaution was taken in organising this year’s festival.

2017 has without a doubt been the most challenging festival to put together — the community was still determined to have this celebration even though 2016 left us very saddened and with traumatic memories as well as some near-fatal injuries; one would have thought that we would back down this year but these radiant and brave souls said a big NO!! There were no second thoughts about whether or not Pride should happen this year, in fact there was no need for debate — we were not going to allow hate, homophobia, prejudice, and a misinformed and biased society to get in the way of the one time in the year that we get together and remind ourselves that we are no criminals, we are no misfits and we are no mistakes!

"We Are Family" was the theme of Uganda Pride 2015. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

“We Are Family” was the theme of Uganda Pride 2015. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The community realized the need for us to stand together, hold one another’s hands, celebrate our diversity but most importantly acknowledge and pat our selves on the back for the hard work we put into creating visibility and influencing policy change, all year round.

Sadly, even all the courage and determination that we carry in our hearts is not enough to put the lives of so many innocent people at risk. This morning, we woke up to a tirade of police surrounding the venue of the opening gala and later in the day even as talks with Police and other relevant authorities were ongoing, more deployment was made to the venues of the events that were to follow.

Hon Simon Lokodo, has over the last couple of weeks threatened us with arrest, and even went as far as revealing his intentions to physically harm one of the leaders within the movement if he came in contact with her. He has categorically stated, time and again that gender and sexual minorities have no rights in Uganda and today had all the venues of the planned Pride events surrounded by state militia.  He has abused our very existence by stripping us of even the very basic of our rights, he refuses to acknowledge our humanity or right of association, speech, movement as well as freedom from degrading treatment.

One of the things he so vehemently puts forward is the recruitment theory — we are not here to recruit anyone into anything. This is a misconception that has been widely spread and is sadly believed by many. We were all born this way, we have no choice over who we love or how we identify therefore it is impossible to recruit anybody or change their attraction to whoever they’re sexually or romantically attracted to.

Jamaican LGBT activist Maurice Tomlinson marches in Ugandan pride parade on Aug. 4. (Photo by David Robinson)

Jamaican LGBT activist Maurice Tomlinson marched in the Ugandan pride parade in 2012. (Photo by David Robinson)

Pride has also never been about gaining political influence. It is a celebration of hard-earned partnerships. All year round, we work tirelessly on bringing several key players onto the table right from religious leaders, parliamentarians, civil society heads, health service providers all the way to the very societies in which we live. Pride is a time for us to show our gratitude to these people who have taken the time to sit down and listen to us , understand why we are asking for policy revision and respect our humanity. We must do away with these misconceptions and narratives spread to the general public.

It is clear that we will not be allowed to exercise our freedom of association but now, more than ever, we are ready to take the existing laws and policies head on. We are not canceling Pride because of your homophobia and disrespect for our rights, this is a decision that has been taken to protect ourselves. Otherwise how else will we fight your oppression if you kill us or imprison us for no crime?

It should be clear to all our key partners and the rest of the world that the struggle for equality in Uganda is far from over. In fact, it has just begun and we will not stop until every sexual and gender minority is accorded their rights as a human being.

We applaud the community for the courage they’ve exhibited — for being willing to take the risk and face our oppressors! Let us always remember that we must be a live to push the struggle forward and one day soon, we will reap the fruits of our dedication and persistence.

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