February 15th, 2012
Dr. Hilda Tadria, co-founder of the African Women’s Development Fund, was giving a talk at the LGBT conference in Entebbe, Uganda that was raided by Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo. She has issued this statement describing the raid:
At a hotel in Entebbe this week, I was subjected to an experience that I would not wish upon my worst enemy. I am a recently retired (but not tired) almost 70 year old married mother of two and grandmother of seven. For many years, I have trained and mentored young people in leadership skills and the art of advocacy, particularly in connection with the subjects of Gender and Human Rights. On Tuesday I was invited to facilitate a session on leadership, using the the Four Frames of Leadership to a group of sexual minorities. Another facilitator at the meeting was Hope Chigudu. Like me, Hope is a law-abiding married mother of senior citizenship. A few hours into my session, the Hon. Rev. Simon Lokodo—Minister of Ethics and Integrity—walked into the room.
The Minister introduced himself and proceeded to give a lecture on ethics and morality. In addition, he accused the gathering of being an illegal assembly ‘recruiting’ people into homosexuality, even insinuating that we were having sex in the meeting room. Then, in a strange twist of events, the Minister declared the meeting disbanded. Everybody was just told to go home. Kasha Nabagesera, activist and conference Convenor was threatened with arrest, while one of the participants who came from Sweden was challenged to explain how she had even entered the country. Soon after closing the meeting, the Minister was heard telling somebody over the telephone, “Yes, I have just disbanded them.”
Prior to his entry into the meeting, the Minister sent a message to the conference Convenor requesting details of the meeting. The program and all the training materials relating to the conference were sent to him, and the Minister asked to sit in on the proceedings. There being nothing to hide, the Convenor invited him to attend the meeting. Little did we know that the Minister would flare up in anger, make baseless accusations about the gathering and order the meeting closed. I was personally shocked by the action of the Minister, and the level of violent infuriation and intolerance he displayed. For a man of God, I saw no compassion, a great deal of prejudice and an utter unwillingness to listen. The Minister was too angry to hear good sense and simply failed to respond to any pleas for reason, ignoring both myself and Hope.
Reflecting on what happened on Tuesday, it is quite clear to me that the Minister over-stepped all boundaries of rational behavior. But more importantly, he blatantly violated the Law. In the first instance, every Ugandan has the right to assemble, speak freely and to have an education. This was a workshop convened to conduct training in skills that every citizen is entitled to. Secondly, although the Minister even went so far as to make the laughable claim that the gathering could have been planning a military coup or was plotting to disrupt national security, there is not an iota of evidence to support either claim. But I was most shocked that the Minister asserted that the government had all the right and the power to stop any kind of gathering that was taking place anywhere in the country; what a statement of arrogance and unbridled power! I find this wholly unacceptable and unsupported by any provision in the law. It is well known that if a gathering is to be stopped, there must be reasonable grounds to do so accompanied by the relevant legal documents, such as a court instruction or a Police order. The Hon. Minister was in possession of neither.
Tuesday’s actions by the Hon. Minister do not have any support in the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, or in any law known to me. Indeed, as I look ahead to the future Uganda that I want my grandchildren to live and thrive in, it is not the one I witnessed on Tuesday. Impunity comes in many guises; while the fascist actions of that day focused on a small group of activists, there is no telling who the target will be tomorrow. Autocratic government officials like the Rev. Simon Lokodo belong to an era I thought we had left far behind.
Despite earlier reports that Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera was detained by police, LGBT advocates in Uganda say that she escaped detention, although she may still be in hiding. According to the online news portal UGPulse, “Lokodo says as the person mandated to maintain good morals in Uganda, it was his duty to ensure people do not meet to discuss ‘immoral acts’ in public places like hotels.” Uganda’s Observer reports that Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest, claimed the conference gatherers were “planning violence” and were “gathered to recruit people into the practice of homosexuality.”
Sexual Minorities Uganda has condemned the raid:
SMUG condemns this outright abuse of office by the State Minister of Ethics and Integrity.
According to Frank Mugisha one of the Coordinators of the Capacity Development workshop and present at the time; ”Closing our workshop today totally violates our constitutional rights and this intimidation will not stop us from fighting, for equal treatment of all Ugandan citizens.” Frank Mugisha is the Executive Director of SMUG and 2011 Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award Laureate
The Minister also ordered the arrest of Kasha Jacqueline Nabagasera, the Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda and 2011 Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders when she dared to challenge him for disrupting the workshop. Kasha with the help of colleagues was whisked out of the hotel to safety.
The State Minister’s actions are illegal and in direct contravention of the Constitution of Uganda, The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other international human rights covenants to which Uganda is a party. These human rights instruments all robustly promote and protect the rights to Freedom of Speech, Expression, Association, Peaceful Assembly and the Right to Information of all citizens and human beings, without discrimination.
Sexual Minorities Uganda strongly condemns this notorious and continuous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda. Our campaign for equal rights is rooted in the fact that, as Ugandans, we are entitled to the respect and protection of the law just like all other Ugandans.
1. We call on the Government of Uganda to protect the rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and associate as is guaranteed in our Constitution and in international human rights law.
2. We call on the Government of Uganda to protect all peoples within her borders against threats, violence and harassment by state and non-state actors, irrespective of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
3. We call on the Government and people of Uganda to reject the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would only serve to further violate international human rights law and plant seeds of hate, intolerance and violence in Ugandan society.
4. We call on the Ugandan people to reject the government’s move to use homosexuality issues to divert Ugandans’ attention from the most pertinent issues that are affecting the nation.
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project has also condemned the raid:
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) condemns this infringement on the right to freedom of assembly and association as provided by the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, and calls on the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity to explain the grounds on which the actions were taken. EHAHRDP recalls the rights of human rights defenders to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without harassment or intimidation as provided by the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
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