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Ugandan fear of Covid-19 leads to 23 arrests at LGBT shelter

Uganda police on March 29 arrested 23 LGBT Ugandans on charges of enabling the spread of Covid-19 by living together in a homeless shelter.


From the African Human Rights Media Network


Police and army flanked by Kyengera town council mayor Haji Abdu Kiyimba beat the shelter residents during March 29 raid. (Screen shot from BBSTV video)
Police and army flanked by Kyengera town council mayor Haji Abdu Kiyimba beat shelter residents during March 29 raid. (Screen shot from BBSTV video)

By Kikonyogo Kivumbi

Uganda police charged the 23 LGBT Ugandans with disobeying a presidential directive against large meetings, aimed at curbing the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19.

The March 29 raid by police and army targeted the shelter of Children of the Sun Foundation Uganda (Cosf Uganda), a local LGBT organisation on the outskirts of the Ugandan capital, Kampala.  The LGBT community members were beaten and forced to take a “walk of shame” through the village from their shelter to Nkokonjeru Police Post in Kyengera town council, about 20 minutes’ drive from Kampala City.

Villagers accused the shelter residents of homosexual acts. The villagers, speaking in the Luganda language, told BBS TV that the shelter residents had an “abnormal mannerism.”

“They walk like girls.” “They put on make up.” “They are young. Why can’t they marry?” were some of the comments by the villagers.

Other villagers accused the shelter residents of bringing the curse of the coronavirus on their village. A suspected case of coronavirus, of a Ugandan who returned from Dubai earlier this year, sparked fears and frustration among the locals. Local residents have been aroused by their leaders and evangelical Christian pastors who have claimed that homosexual practices in Africa are the cause of the coronavirus pandemic.

See the article “Calamities where gays get the blame: 28 and counting” for other baseless accusations that LGBT people are responsible for natural calamities ranging from hurricanes to earthquakes and from plagues to swarms of locusts.]

The mayor of Kyengera town council, Hajji Abdu Kiyimba, beat the victims and demanded to know where they had come from to gather at the shelter. The shelter had a clinic, and some of the victims were receiving treatment following a raid last year at Ram bar in Kampala, a gay-friendly night spot.

Cosf shelter residents were paraded before the media at the police station in Kampala today.

Police and Army speak out

In a joint statement Monday evening in Kampala, the Police and Army have indicated that the people arrested at the Cosf shelter will appear in court tomorrow, 31 March 2020, on charges of::

“1- Doing neglect act likely to spread infection of disease contrary to Section 171 of Penal Code Act.

2- Disobedience of lawful order.

3 – And, any other charges that may arise from investigations by the close of today’s business.”

The statement indicates that “the assembly of twenty-one adult males with no known kinship linkages and their unusual home environment indicate that they could have been engaging in some criminal activities, a matter that Police is investigating”.

It adds that “the Security Joint Task Force hereby re-echoes the directive of observing social distance and hence passes an early warning to all individuals and companies accommodating in school-like dormitories and any type of dormitories to immediately disperse to avoid arrest and being charged.”

The Joint Task Force further reminds the management of factories to ensure that the work environment in their institutions conforms to the safety directives issued by the President and the guidelines by the Ministry of Health. People in charge of food markets are also beseeched to ensure that traders and their customers observe the safety guidelines guarding against the spread of Covid–19.

“We reiterate our gratitude to the concerned members of the public who have always reached us to report cases of non-compliance by some individuals on the observance of the measures the nation has embraced to defeat COVID-19 pandemic in the country,” they stated.

Uganda now has 33 confirmed cases of Covid-19.


Kikonyogo Kivumbi, the author of this article, is the executive director of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association.

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