Violence in Uganda: Anti-AIDS conference cancels 2021 plans

The sponsors of the African anti-AIDS conference ICASA have decided to move the gathering out of Uganda because of civil unrest there. Human rights activists had launched a petition seeking the move because of abuses by Uganda’s police and security agencies.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

Ugandan police officer strangles an unarmed suspect. (Photo courtesy of New Vision)

“Without peace, security, and a conducive environment for all, we have no option but to revoke the hosting rights of Uganda,” declared the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA), which organizes the International Conference on Aids and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA).

The SAA stated that conference dates would be unchanged — Dec. 6-11, 2021 — and that a “new host country and venue will be announced in the coming days.”

Activists Denis Nzioka from Kenya and Phillipa Tucker from South Africa had urged the SAA to condemn the human rights violations in Uganda.

Their petition came in late November at a time when 49 people were reported dead during two days of violent riots in Ugandan cities and towns.

The petitioners criticized the administration of President Yoweri Museveni for “crushing opposition voices and presence while trampling human rights” during political protests during the run-up to Uganda’s upcoming national election in January.

Museveni has blamed the protests on “homosexuals who do not want a stable Uganda.”

This is the text of the SAA announcement:

Logo of the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA)

The Society for AIDS in Africa was founded in 1989 at the fourth International Symposium on AIDS and Associated Cancers in Africa (now ICASA) held in Marseille France by a group of African scientists, activists, and advocates in response to the HIV epidemic. The establishment of the Society was the effect of the agitations of some African scientists for the conference to be organized on African soil. These agitations had begun the previous year (1988) at the third meeting in Arusha, Tanzania. The conference had until then been organized outside the African continent. The cause of these scientists was supported by the then Director of WHO, Dr. Peter Piot.

At the 1990 conference held in DR Congo, an executive committee was formed to oversee the establishment of the society and to coordinate subsequent ICASA conferences. The society was officially registered in Nairobi, Kenya with a functional Secretariat in Nigeria. Since 2009, the Society for AIDS in Africa has its permanent headquarters established in Accra – Ghana.

The Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA), organizers of the International Conference on AIDS & STIs in Africa (ICASA), would like to inform with deep regret, all partners, stakeholders, delegates and the international community, that unfortunately ICASA 2021 will no longer be held in Kampala, Uganda from 6th – 11th December 2021 as planned as a result of circumstances beyond our control.

The Society for AIDS in Africa acknowledges that without peace, security, and a conducive environment for all, we have no option but to revoke the hosting rights of Uganda. The Society for AIDS in Africa apologizes for any inconveniences this might cause.

A new host country and venue will be announced in the coming days. However, the Society for AIDS in Africa wishes to assure its partners, stakeholders, esteemed delegates, and the International community that the 21st edition of ICASA will still be organized from 6th – 11th December 2021.

The Society for AIDS in Africa would like to reassure the people of Uganda, despite the fact that ICASA 2021 will not be hosted in Uganda, we will continue working with you towards our common goals, which is a continent free of HIV, TB, Malaria and emerging infections, where our communities are empowered; with zero stigma and discrimination against PLHIV & Key populations, where there is social justice and equitable access to services, care and support for all.

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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