The United States and European Union have expressed disappointment in the Ugandan government for quashing a recent LGBT Pride celebration for the second consecutive year.
A week of Pride events was scheduled this August, 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.
He accused the organisers led by Robert K.Sengooba, a Ugandan based in Switzerland, of attempting to stage an illegal gathering aimed at recruitment, exhibition and promotion of homosexuality.
Police officers were stationed at Sengooba’s Lusam INN on Namirembe road 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 said, adding, “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.
Sengooba’s friends sought assurances that this year’s events could proceed without interference, but police were evasive and Lokodo unresponsive, according to Sexual Minorities Uganda’s page.
“We are utterly appalled by the minister’s actions,” Lokodo noted, adding, “The government crackdown on our events is abuse of our freedom of assembly and association. We have a right granted by the Ugandan constitution.”
Labelling him a “criminal”, Sengooba was told to focus on organising more LGBT pride parades in Switzerland where he is hiding, but not in Uganda.
When asked about arresting, Sengooba, the minister recalled that Switzerland and Uganda have no extradition treaty “so there no way we can ask for Sengooba’s extradiction/arrest”.
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,” said Nicholas Opiyo, executive director of civil liberties group Chapter Four Uganda.
The U.S, EU and Swedish embassies in Uganda condemned the government’s action. “We are utterly appalled by Minister’s Actions,” they posted on their social media pages.
“The US is disappointed with reports that the Ugandan government has forced the cancellation of LGBTI pride week events,” US Mission said in statement.
“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.”