Raid On Entebbe: Uganda Government Shuts Down LGBT Rights Conference
February 14th, 2012
The African web site Behind the Mask led with the story this morning:
Kasha Jacqueline, the Director of Lesbian Rights group Freedom and Roam Uganda was briefly arrested today after a Ugandan cabinet minister staged a raid on a meeting of LGBTI activists and human rights defenders.
Activists at the meeting said police were deployed to ensure activists leave the premises. …Kasha’s close friends have since told Behind the Mask that she has been set free.
The cabinet minister’s raid forcefully stopped the meeting of LGBTI activists who had gathered for a capacity building workshop for human rights defenders.
The raid was personally led by Ethics and Integrity minister Simon Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest, who accused the gay rights advocates of “recruiting children into the gay life,” according to Behind the Mask. He also ordered the arrest of Kasha Jacqueline Nabageser, but she fled the hotel and was able to avoid Lokodo’s security guards. Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, picks up the story:
“I have closed this conference because it’s illegal. We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home,” Minister Lokodo told the participants.
Hotel staff had been asked by the organisers not to direct anyone to Elgon hall where the conference was taking place unless the person had been cleared. This would have required a phone call from the organisers.
The Minister said the hotel’s management apologized for hosting the event.
According to Daily Monitor, the conference was being held over the course of two weeks at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe, and was due to wrap up today with an evening barbecue at the hotel’s pool.
Last week, Lokodo signed a statement posted on Uganda’s official press web site distancing the government from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which had been reintroduced into Parliament. While he tried to distance the government from the bill, Lokodo also lectured the international community that “cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in world,” and that “the bill before parliament even if it were to pass, would not sanction the death penalty for homosexual behavior in Uganda.” Despite Lokodo’s statement, the death penalty is still firmly in place in the proposed bill. He also falsely asserted that “the main provisions of this bill were designed to stem the issue of defilement and rape which in the minds of Ugandan’s is a more pressing and urgent matter that needs to be addressed.” A look at the bill however makes clear that the issues of “defilement and rape” are little more than afterthoughts which provide a fig leaf to cover the bill’s direct assault against Uganda’s gay community.
It is not uncommon for the Ugandan government to violate the free assembly rights of its citizens. It has been a routine practice where political opposition leaders are concerned for several years. More specific to the gay community, Lokodo’s predecessor, James Nsaba Buturo, blocked the screening of a documentary film depicting LGBT human rights workers in December 2010 .
In 2011, Kasha Jacqueline Nabageser was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.