Though long-favored by the West, President Museveni has been president since 1986, a fact that troubles some political commentators. While his time in office has seen an improved economy and a favorable reaction to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Museveni is now Africa’s fifth-longest serving leader, and party pluralism has been greatly reduced. He has done nothing to improve LGBT rights, which have steadily decreased in the country.
Although he previously signed it into law, Museveni has stopped his attorney general from appealing the Anti-Homosexuality Act before Uganda’s Supreme Court, having finally come round to how adverse international reaction would be to the legislation.
Several Ugandan newspapers have published lists of alleged homosexuals as well as their addresses and photographs, encouraging readers to find and hang them. Such events have only increased since 2009, and following Museveni’s reelection this past February, activists are warning that we should be keeping an eye on Uganda and its human rights.
This week marked two new disturbing events meant to further oppress and silence the gay community.
Silencing the LGBT Community
Though there has been a Pride Parade and related events held in Uganda over the past several years, this year marked a stark change in attitude as police swept the Mr. and Miss Pride Pageant on Thursday, August 4 and arrested about 20 people.
The show was being held in a private space outside of the Ugandan capital of Kampala when police arrived and asked if the organizers were present then promptly arrested them. One of them, Frank Mugisha, executive director of the NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda, was arrested and held for about two hours before he said they were released without charge.
Largely due to this, the Pride Parade scheduled for Saturday, August 6 was canceled amidst high tensions between the LGBT community and Ugandan government. Nick Opiyo, a human rights lawyer active in the LGBT community in the country, met with Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo to discuss Thursday’s raid only to be met with threats. According to Opiyo, Lokodo said he would send protestors and rioters to the site of any pride parade, which led the event’s organizers to cancel it out of fear for public and personal safety.
But these events are not going unnoticed. Advocacy groups and human rights watches abroad are growing increasingly disturbed by the worsening anti-LGBT climate in Uganda.
“Tonight’s outrageous and unlawful government raid on a spirited celebration displays the extreme impunity under which Ugandan police are operating,” said a statement released by Health GAP, an AIDS advocacy group. “We call on governments and U.N. bodies to immediately and publicly condemn this brutal raid and call on government to take swift disciplinary action against those responsible for these gross violations of rights and freedoms.”
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