The “Ex-Gay” Star of the Uganda Anti-Gay Campaign
March 26th, 2009
I reported yesterday afternoon on the Uganda media circus surrounding the anti-gay activists who held a press conference, where an ex-gay by the name of George Oundo claimed to have spent a lifetime recruiting schoolchildren into homosexuality. The widespread media coverage of that press conference, along with Oundo’s fanciful statements, may well set the stage for yet another orgy of anti-gay violence and public vigilantism.
Timothy Kincaid followed that up with a report on a meeting held in Kampala on March 22, which featured more outlandish claims by George Oundo. That meeting set the stage for yesterday’s press conference.
Who is George Oundo?
I asked around among contacts in Uganda who wish to remain anonymous. The picture that emerges is both strange and disturbing.
George Oundo was known in Uganda’s tight-knit gay community as Georgina, a “flamboyant, no holds barred homosexual activist.” She had spoken at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya in January 2007, and she was known for being very outgoing and confident. But because of her “flamboyance” she drew considerable attention and was arrested by police numerous times.
There are reports that she also had some personal difficulties and, some say, was emotionally unstable. Whether it was because of her arrests, or whether she had problems beforehand, it’s unclear. Given what we know about police brutality and torture of LGBT citizens, the former is certainly plausible. She had a difficult time holding down a job, and was dependent on handouts from friends.
She was arrested again on September 10, 2008 along with Brenda Kiiza outside of Kampala for “recruiting homosexuals” — which is not a crime under Uganda’s criminal code. The Uganda constitution provides that suspects cannot be held for more than 48 hours, but she and Brenda were held for eight days and released only after their lawyer threatened to take the police to court. During their detention, they were reportedly beaten and denied food, and Oundo was denied treatment for her diabetes.
And that’s where the story gets really strange. On September 8, just two days before her arrest,Oundo appeared on the pages of the Uganda tabloid The Red Pepper. In this article, she appears with Kiiza talking about a previous arrest that they had experienced and the trouble they were encountering since then. In the article headlined “Stranded Gay Couple Pondering Suicide,” Ounda complains of being shunned by Ugandan LGBT activists, a charge that was denied by Victor Juliet Mukasa of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).
What makes this appearance in the Red Pepper strange is that this was the very paper which had earlier been the instigator of previous anti-gay vigilante campaigns. The Red Pepper was notorious for publishing names and identifying details of gay Ugandans, calling on citizens to take action and for the police to round them up. Many gays in Uganda went into hiding or left the country to avoid getting caught up in the violence. Others saw their lives shattered as their identities were splashed across the pages of the Red Pepper. The paper’s reputation as the prime instigator of hatred and violence was firmly established in the gay community, both in Uganda and abroad.
So why did Georgina go to that particular paper to tell her story? It’s not as if the Red Pepper decided to turn over a new leaf in its coverage of LGBT issues. Look at this article from March 5, 2009, just as the anti-gay conference was getting underway:
MPs To Discuss Bum Shafting
Members of Parliament are set to discuss the rate at which bumshafters are slowly but surely entrenching themselves in Uganda, Red Pepper can exclusively reveal. The meeting which is to take place on March 5 at the parliamentary conference hall will be officiated over by the first lady Janet Kataha Museveni.
Snoops have seen an open invitation to all MPs in which the organizers of the meeting want the legislators to among other things understand the Gay movement’s agenda which is bent on destabilizing society. The MPs will also have to understand in detail the Gay blueprint for transforming this nation and also how Uganda can respond to the bumshafters’ secret agenda.
“This is an executive sensitization meeting themed ‘Exposing the truth about bum shafting and the homosexual agenda” part of an invitation seen by RP reads. Recently, State Minister for ethics and integrity Nsaba Buturo informed MPs at Imperial Royale hotel that a group of bum shafting leaning donor countries had approached him seeking for his nod to start funding and campaigning for bum shafting in Uganda, but he refused.
This vice of homosexuality has been reported in several institutions including churches, schools and high institutions of learning.
We don’t know why she chose to be interviewed and photographed by the Red Pepper, despite its well-earned enmity in the gay community. Did she finally break under repeated police torture and mistreatment? Or were other factors also in play? There are rumors — some pretty wild ones of jealousies, betrayals, recriminations and more — which need confirmation before we can repeat them. And that confirmation will undoubtedly be difficult to obtain, if not impossible. But it does appear that whatever Georgina’s motivations may have been, her appearance in the hated Red Pepper gave the the gay community reasons to became suspicious of her, and she became seen as being too dangerous for the besieged gay community.
And now, barely five months later, those suspicions are confirmed in the minds of many who knew her or knew of her. Georgina — now George — is a confirmed danger to the community. Oundo knows many people in Uganda’s gay community — who they are, where they live and where they work. This newest development threatens to inflame an already tense situation in a country that has witnessed repeated campaigns of public vigilante acts and widespread extrajudicial detentions, beatings and torture of LGBT people.
Oundo is back in the spotlight again, completing a journey that began on the pages of the Red Pepper last October. And his statements to the media are particularly inflammatory, claiming that he had been trained and paid by foreign gay activists to recruit Ugandan schoolchildren into homosexuality. With statements like that receiving wide media attention, the ground is now well laid for a fresh round of violence against Uganda’s beleaguered gay community.
And all of this began when three Americans — Exodus board president Don Schmierer, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, and Richard Cohen Protege Caleb Lee Brundidge — spoke at a conference in Kampala in early March and endorsed proposals to strengthen Uganda’s criminal code which bans homosexual acts with a lifetime sentence, with the penalty of compelling gays and lesbians into forced therapy.