Sexual Minorities Uganda joined the LGBTIQ community in Uganda at Claire Byarugaba’s private residence in Kampala for an impromptu commemoration of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia- IDAHOBIT. This after the meticulously planned event was rudely interrupted and taken over by armed Uganda Police officers who thronged the preferred venue at Chapter Four Uganda. They took positions in different areas of the office space openly brandishing their weapons and threatening the few LGBTIQ people who were at the venue.
The police had the nerve to lock the gates at Chapter four Uganda and refused any other LGBTIQ individuals from joining the rest at the venue. They later allowed the various diplomats who’d come to support our event into the venue where a certain visibly egotistical officer informed our guests that they were required to vacate Chapter Four Uganda office premises because the activity taking place was a “security threat”.
Sexual Minorities Uganda Programs Director Pepe Julian Onziema said “As someone who’s been arrested over 6 times for what I do, IDAHOBIT is important for me. I was really looking forward to this commemoration because last year our event was raided. I was glad that the LGBTIQ Ugandans outside the Chapter Four Uganda gate stayed calm despite the invasion. That’s what helped me keep it together too.”
All this intimidation didn’t faze us and we quickly proceeded to serve the few people at the event. After they had had the snacks and drinks, we packed the rest and headed to the new location.
Claire had earlier engaged with the police in the Chapter Four Boardroom for hours in the hope that they would go away from the venue allowing our commemoration to begin on time. She wondered why they were surveying the area while brandishing weapons. Police were adamant to let the event happen because they were acting on the orders of Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, who had gotten intelligence that there was an “illegal” gathering planned.
It should be noted that in 2018 the minister misused state security to intimidate peace loving Ugandans who had gathered to celebrate the same event.
When we got to Claire’s place of residence, we got the opportunity to showcase various performances by members of the community. Sexual Minorities Uganda ED Dr Frank Mugisha, PD Pepe Julian Onziema and Admin Diane Sydney Bakuraira received awards from The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries -TFAM for their hard work towards supporting Church activities in Uganda.
Despite the continuous blatant abuse of our human right to assembly, other members of the community put on brave faces and enjoyed the event. We were able to share lots of food and drinks, rainbow flags and armbands. We must say those that were able joined us at the impromptu venue had a good time.
“It is going to take us a long and hard time to get another gathering like this because the country is experiencing a shift in the religious arena. Extreme evangelicals are continuously flying into the country under the cover of supporting/funding orphans and widows or some development work but their actions and teachings stifle the little gains made by LGBTIQ community in Uganda.” -Pepe Julian Onziema.
Claire thank you so much for offering us your space, it is people like you that give hope to this movement and keep us strong during hard times. Bless your heart.