Sexual Minorities Uganda-SMUG calls on LGBT identifying Ugandans to exercise their right to vote in the forthcoming elections, whether you are a first time voter or participating for the fourth or fifth time in electing your leader, this election is in many respects a special election and the choice you will be making is of paramount importance.
SMUG also calls upon LGBT identifying Ugandans to remain calm and avoid conflict although electoral violence remains a serious threat to the February 18th 2016 elections as evidenced by some of the incidents that have so far happened during the on-going political campaigns it should be noted that Uganda is capable of holding free, fair, peaceful and representative elections and it starts with you as an individual.
SMUG calls upon candidates to desist from acts that could orchestrate unnecessary anxiety and violence during the voting period such as homophobic comments this after several presidential candidates have come out to condemn homosexuality a move that is expected to earn them votes from a generally homophobic country. The most homophobic candidate People’s Democratic Party candidate Abed Bwanika said when elected president, he will set up a moral correction center that will tackle social evils such as corruption and homosexuality since “Uganda is no area for homosexuality.” We cannot accept to be pushed into homosexuality by the West. All homosexuals (in Uganda) will be rehabilitated because they have demons and we have specialists to chase out demons.”
Towards the close of Uganda’s first debate when each aspirant was allowed to ask a question to another candidate Presidential Candidate Joseph Elton Mabirizi dared to bring up homosexuality. He wanted to know what former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who some Western media have reported as the first Ugandan presidential candidate to openly support gays, is going to do about homosexuals. Mbabazi, in the characteristic deflationary way in which he handled the entire debate, feigned ignorance.
“Which gays?” Mbabazi asked, highlighting the historical and social invisibility of sexual minorities in Uganda.
Abed Bwanika, who could be seen breathing fire chipped in, vowing that Uganda could never be a homosexual country with him as president, introducing the novel idea that countries, too, have sexual orientations.
According to the Observer Magazine Mbabazi did not only distance himself from homosexuals, whose rights he had earlier pledged support for in front of the international media, he threw in an insult to the speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga. He accused her of being childless, opining that she is more likely to be gay than he is.
The icing on Mbabazi’s discrimination cake was the revelation that he, a married man, had invited a female MP, Betty Amongin, to come and test his manly prowess if she thought he was gay.
Never has discrimination, homophobia and sexism been wrapped so neatly and served so publicly. What we do not realize is that patriarchy and discrimination are at the root of our problems as a country.
Despite all that LGBT identifying Ugandans are urged to remain calm;
SMUG ED Dr Frank Mugisha says “All LGBT identifying Ugandans that are eligible to vote should go to their polling centers and cast their vote for leaders that will support the rights of LGBT identifying Ugandans, regardless of our political differences let us also unite against violence before, during and after elections. It is the right of every Ugandan to enjoy violence free elections.”
SMUG PD Pepe Julian Onziema says “To every LGBTI and queer identifying Ugandan voter, it is time for us to exercise our right to vote, we have the responsibility to vote for our leaders our vote counts, therefore let’s come out and vote. To all Ugandans, safety first. We are evidently the soft target that aggrieved people will look out to harm.”
Below are some of the tips on how to effectively go through the elections period as compiled by Douglas Mawadri the head of SMUG’s legal department.
- Have sufficient airtime on your phones at any given time for cases of emergency.
- Try to keep informed via the media, esp. radio stations, on the current security situation in your area and the wider surroundings.
- Familiarize yourself with the local area chairperson for cases of emergency.
- LGBT identifying Ugandans eligible and intending to vote should communicate their polling stations to the next of kin or people they live with.
- All voting LGBT identifying Ugandans should closely observe the situation at the polling stations and withdraw in case of imminent danger.
- Other movements on the voting day and the subsequent weekend should be minimized where possible. A family member or other relevant acquaintances should be informed of one’s whereabouts at any given time.
- Be aware of alternative routes to your residence or any other destination.
- Avoid demonstrations and immediately leave areas that show signs of demonstrations or unrest.
- Avoid areas that are prone to riots e.g. local markets or where there are many people.
- Movement to places of social activity should as much as possible be avoided and if not possible then it should be in places where there is security.
- Indulgence in any activity that impairs judgment e.g. drinking alcohol should be limited.
- All LGBT identifying Ugandans should move with their relevant identification documents
- Be aware of the police station nearest to your residence furthermore at all times have access to the police emergency number.
- LGBT identifying Ugandans should ensure sufficient food and water supplies at their homes for a couple of days in cases of widespread unrest that makes leaving the house inadvisable.
- LGBT identifying Ugandans should keep an appropriate amount of cash at home.
- Keep your entrances and windows locked.
- Keep basic first aid kits at home eg bandages, pain killers, wound disinfectants.
- In case one gets caught up in a demonstration or unrest, remain calm and try to move away from the hotspot slowly.
- In case one gets arrested, keep calm and inform community lawyers, the LGBT security team or REAct coordinators.