Ugandan Tabloid Sparks Vigilante Campaign
February 25th, 2014
Just one day after Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, the tabloid Red Pepper has launched a massive vigilante campaign on the front page of its latest edition. Four photos appear on the front page, with additional photos on the inside pages along with names, addresses and other identifying information on 200 people that the paper says is gay.
Two of the four front-page photos are of well-known LGBT rights activists. Sam Ganafa, executive director of Spectrum Uganda Initiatives and board chair for the Sexual Minorities Uganda coalition, had been arrested with four others by police last November and spent two weeks in jail and charged with “unnatural offenses,” which carried a potential lifetime imprisonment even without the Anti-Homosexuality act being in place. The five were finally released on bail, awaiting trial. Transgender rights activist Victor Musaka who won an important High Court case in 2008 which stemmed from his arrest and personal body examination by police seeking to determine his so-called “real” gender. The High Court issued a landmark ruling stating that police had violated his right to privacy and that the principles of equality and non-discrimination are applicable to the LGBT community.
The other two photos are of popular cultural figures in Uganda, Fr. Anthony Musaala and a hip-hop performer who goes by the stage name of Keko. Fr. Anthony Musaala is a recording artist known as “the singing priest.” In 2009, in the anti-gay hysteria stirred up by the infamous conference conducted by Scott Lively and two other American Evangelicals, Musaala was named by the Ugandan organization that sponsored Lively’s talk, and later by a lacky by a lacky of rival pastor Martin Ssempa. Musaala is a well-known figure and the Catholic church is seen as a rival to Uganda’s evangelical churches. Musaala’s name appeared in another tabloid’s outing campaign in 2010 when Sunday Onion (no relation to the satirical U.S. publication with a similar name) published his name and photo. Musaala has never publicly discussed his sexuality.
Keko experienced Red Pepper’s retaliation last week when Keko took to social media saying, “If Sevo signs the anti-homosexuality bill, we are always going to be third world. Development is tolerance.”
Red Pepper’s outing campaign this time takes up three interior pages with more names and photos of LGBT Ugandans. Some of the names and photos are well-known: Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank Mugisha, transgender rights activist Pepe Julian Onziema, and Freedom and Roam Uganda executive director Jacqueline Kasha. Onziema told the Associated Press that he knew of six arrests since Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act yesterday. Police have confirmed two.
But the overwhelming number of those named by Red Pepper are private citizens and not well-known activists or celebrities. The names listed are often those of ordinary salespeople, shopkeepers, and ordinary employees of larger firms. The evidence for their alleged homosexuality is not given, and many, in fact, may not be gay or transgender.
Red Pepper’s web site is currently off-line as of this writing.
In 2011, the tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name) published a list of names and photos of LGBT Ugandans under the headline “Hang Them!” One of the photos to appear on the front page was that of LGBT rights activist David Kato, who was a spokesperson for Sexual Minorities Uganda. Kato and others sued the tabloid and won a court order barring the tabloid from publishing any more names and photos as part of an outing campaign. The tabloid’s publisher, Giles Muhame and advertising manager Cliff Abenaitwe both attended Martin Ssempa’s Makerere Community Church. Just three weeks after that court victory, Kato was found bludgeoned to death in his home.
Red Pepper has has a long history of stoking anti-gay vigilante campaigns. In April 2009, just one month after Scott Lively’s conference in Kampala, Red Pepper published a list of names, photos, occupations and other identifying information — their “killer dossier,” as they put it — of more than fifty Ugandans accused of homosexuality. Red Pepper followed in December with another so-called “exposé” of “city tycoons who bankroll Ugandan homos.”