Uganda’s government has quashed an LGBT Pride celebration in the nation for the second consecutive year, provoking a condemnation from the U.S.
A week of Pride events was scheduled to begin last Thursday, but the previous day, Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, ordered the cancellation of a gala set to take place at a hotel in Kampala, the capital city, “accusing the organisers of attempting to stage an illegal gathering aimed at recruitment, exhibition and promotion of homosexuality,” reports U.K. paper The Guardian.
Police officers were stationed at the hotel and other venues where Pride events were scheduled, prepared to arrest any participants.
That led organisers to cancel all remaining events, including a parade and a seminar.
“It’s true I ordered the police to stop and shut down all the gay pride events,” Lokodo told The Guardian.
“No gay gathering and promotion can be allowed in Uganda. We can’t tolerate it at all.”
Authorities had allowed Pride observances to take place in 2015, but last year they raided an event, and organizers cancelled remaining activities.
Organisers sought assurances that this year’s events could proceed without interference, but police were evasive and Lokodo unresponsive, according to Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a coalition of LGBT groups.
“We are utterly appalled by the minister’s actions,” he told The Guardian. “The government crackdown on our events is abuse of our freedom of assembly and association. We have a right granted by the Ugandan constitution.”
The actions against Pride events have continued despite a 2014 court decision striking down Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which provided for life imprisonment for people convicted of having same-sex relations in certain circumstances.
The law was overturned because it was passed without a quorum present, not because of its content. Homosexuality remains illegal in the nation, but with lesser penalties than those contained in the act.
The crackdown is “a rude reminder that in spite of the nullification of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2014, the LGBT community still faces government-inspired and community-led safety concerns, many of which usually go unreported,” Nicholas Opiyo, executive director of civil liberties group Chapter Four Uganda, told The Guardian.
The U.S. and Swedish embassies in Uganda condemned the government’s action.
“The US is disappointed with reports that the Ugandan government has forced the cancellation of LGBTI pride week events,” said a statement issued by the U.S. mission, according to The Guardian.
“Under Uganda’s constitution, all individuals and organisations have right to associate freely in private and in public, without fear. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that human rights of all citizens, including LGBTI citizens, are respected and protected.”