Thu, 24 Mar 2011 Uganda

UK trapped in Uganda-gays’ tangle

By Moses Okello

Several Ugandan gays and lesbians are awaiting a decision by the British Home Office to return them to Uganda after their applications for asylum due to their lifestyles were turned down by the British Government. After Uganda drew world headlines that it was planning to enact a law making being a gay or a lesbian illegal, many who were already in the United Kingdom argued their lives were in danger if returned to Uganda. Under the United Nations (UN) Conventions, Britain is obliged to protect people fleeing from persecution, which could be the reason why the government is stuffed with considerable gay Ugandans.

Whilst the UK government is still entrapped with several of these Ugandan gays and lesbians that it cannot deport them to Uganda, a country now considered hostile and homophobic, the U.S House Financial Services Committee, took a firm stand to endorse a measure that advocates cuts in foreign aid to countries based on their opposition to homosexual activity, which opposition the measure calls a “gross violation of human rights.”

Last year, in the UK's House of Commons an Early Day Motion (EDM 575) was signed by a total of 118 British Members of Parliament condemning the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The EDM which was prepared by Mr Harry Cohen MP and Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called on the Uganda Government to completely ditch the bill. Information availed to us say that a Ugandan gay, Mathew Muwonge who was deported on May 11, 2010, disappeared upon his arrival. This was a couple of months after the powerful politicians and celebrities around the world condemned Bahati's anti-gay bill. Before the murder of David Kato, a Ugandan gay rights activist, several had either gone into hiding or completely with no trace.

For quite a long time homosexuality has been considered illegal in Uganda and the country's leader, Yoweri Museveni, openly calls it 'negative culture'. President Museveni, is a strong supporter of 'Preserving African culture', the legislation which was shelved last year, but now been prioritized for discussion in the country's parliament in May 2011. Even with the current atmosphere after the brutal murder of Uganda gay rights activist David Kato, the UK considering to deporting some.

Mr Bahati does not intend to withdraw the controversial piece of legislation. He says: “It is popular here. I don't think and I shouldn't be blamed for the murder of Kato,” he said, in response as to whether he didn't feel guilty for having introduced a legislation that incited the population against the minority gay and lesbian community in the country.

Bahati who confirmed that Uganda knows such people do exist out there but fear for their safety, added: “Am advising them to come back, everything will be okay. Their security is tight here. Let them not worry about their security.”

When asked whether he could guarantee the security of the LGBT returnees when the suspected killer of David Kato has never been charged, MP Bahati's answer contradicted that of Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba had earlier given to this newspaper.

“I think the investigations are still going on, so, let us wait for the result,” said MP Bahati.

However, in what sound to be real inconsistency, in a telephone interview, Ms Nabakooba had already said: “The suspect [Enock Nsubuga] confessed and is in Mukono Kawuge Prison.” It is inconceivable that the information surrounding the alleged killer of Kato, and the only suspect, Enock Nsubuga, 23, who the Kampala authority lined-up gives a contradictory picture.

The police spokesperson Ms Nabakooba added: “He confessed to the murder and he was found with some items that belonged to the deceased.”

“There is no way police can help those people because they don't come to us and report cases of persecution to us. We just hear about it from newspapers,” Ms Nabakooba defended the force's position for not coming out to seek protection even when knows that the president himself is a critic of the gays and lesbians.

She [Nabakooba] further said that: “Those people don't come to report such case to police. A part from Kato's case, we don't have such reports. That is where police find it difficult to help. We don't just act on rumours. Let them come and report to police.”

But the officers at Mukono Kawuge prison were unaware of such a person being detained at their facility. “Please! We don't have that person here and I don't discuss gay issues on my phone,” a prison warden who requested not to be named told us.

“I find everything from those guys [Uganda authority] to be strange. One can imagine, a person like Bahati and Nabakooba mentioning about protecting the lives of the LGBT minority,” a relative of Charles Kagaba, who requested anonymity because of fear for acts of vengeance on him said. Kagaba's relative alleges that, so many Ugandan soldiers have been killed in Somalia, but the government keep it a secret from both the public and relatives. He claims that: “It is impossible, if they were genuinely meaning the real protection of the LGBT people; the first thing would have been to strike off the entire legislation.”

Kagaba's partner who is a gay himself interjected saying: “If what I hear is true that the government in Uganda can't give accurate figure of its own soldiers killed in battle field, and don't inform relatives about deaths of the soldiers who have died in places like in Somalia, how can you trust them with the people's lives anyway.”

“Such reckless remarks and legislation by politicians definitely encourage irrational hatred against people because of their sexual orientation,” said Kagaba's partner, a British gay. He added: “All along, I believed that the British government adhere to international treaties and hope it will not deport my partner, but if they decide so, I will have no option.”

The fear of gay people can't be totally dispelled because, whilst political peaceful protests and demonstration are heavy-handled by the country's police force in support of other state agents including militias. The protesters who support the anti-homosexuality bill, have previously been allowed by the state to carry placards with written messages such as; “Think about our children”, Together we kick homosexuality out of Uganda”, and Homosexuals beware of God's wrath.”

Those listed for deportation included: Florence Katasi whose name appeared in the Uganda tabloid, the Red Pepper on February 9, 2011. It reported that Katasi was behind the recruitment of young women into the lesbians' alliance. Katasi, who claims to have had strong ties with the late David Kato, was accused of having recruited Joan Nansubuga, Amina Kentasi, Gloria Namuyomba and Stella Babirye into a cult according to a Ugandan tabloid.

Others are: Jamal Ali Said who was last month accorded a temporary release after the Northampton Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Alliance intervened; Nicholas Atuheire Rugasira, a traumatic-looking guy, who is nursing /double injury', after splitting-up with the mother of his child. Now he faces the pending deportation. A bi-sexual, Rugasira split-up after his then wife discovered that he had a co-lover; Kazibwe Yudaya and her partner Susan Namutebi; Asuman Kabugo; Adela Ashabomwe, who was temporarily released after Kato's death but now remains in constant fear for her life if returned back to Uganda; Steven Sebaggala- who had a Thai partner in Uganda and claimed to have fled when his village-mate attacked him after discovering his sexual orientation.

John Bosco Nyombi, a gay, who was deported to Uganda against his will said: “Uganda is anti-gay and it's not safe at all for the LGBT.” He added that there is enormous evidence of human rights violation in Uganda against the LGBT Community. These people will be the next to Kato to be killed. They are human beings like anybody else.” Nyombi was forcibly deported to Uganda, but returned to the UK last year after a British High Court Judge, George Newman, ruled that the Home Office was guilty of 'a grave and serious breach' of the law. The Judge ruled that Nyombi's deportation was “manifestly unlawful”. Later Nyombi won a legal battle against the Home Office and was compensated with £100,000, last year because he was forcibly deported to an antigay country, putting his life in danger.

Commenting on gays forcibly returned to Uganda, Nyombi, who was tortured and detained on his arrival in Kampala, explained to this reporter: “Their life is in danger as they cannot be protected by the government or the public. The LGBT people live in fear 24/7 and no one turn, they can't have life at all.” He added: “There is a lot of hatred out there [in Uganda]. One has to think twice before deporting such people.”

“Returning someone where he/she going to be killed it means that you accepted to have blood on your hand,” said Nyombi, adding that: “if pretend as don't hear and this person get killed you'll be the same person saying, you have learnt a lesson which can't bring back the life.”

“When MP David Bahati says, he wants to protect the culture and moral in the country, it confuses me as which culture encourages people to kill others. In Uganda children are punished in school for speaking their mother language, is that the way the preserve culture,” said Nyombi, adding: “Why does he wear a suit and speak English, why not keep.”

Nyombi added further: “David Bahati says he wants to protect the culture and morals in the country; it confuses me. Which culture encourages other people to kill others?” Two out of several gay and lesbians from Uganda, Saida Mwebaze last year and Naluwoza Ruth Mukasa this week have been granted refugee status.

Following the brutal murder of Ugandan gay activist, David Kato, the message sent out during the burial by an Anglican clergy, Thomas Musoke, the Uganda government's stance towards the earlier shelved Anti-gay Bill, plus an antigay article appeared in a Uganda tabloid the Rolling Stone (not related to the US Magazine), calling on to “Hang Them”, the lives of gays and lesbians in Uganda are on the brink of death.

Uganda acquired a rather considerable depressing international exposure in 2009, after a Member of Parliament Mr Bahati, introduced an Anti-gay Bill which calls to enforce the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and life imprisonment for consenting adults who have gay sex. It also calls their relatives to be imprisoned for seven years when guilt for not reporting such act to the authority if they were aware of its existence among family members.

“I do not regret having introduced the bill,” said Bahati. “I have been very much discouraged in all ways.” The bill was only shelved after the intervention of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the U.S. Secretary of States Hillary Rodham Clinton and US President Barack Obama.

Separately, an amendment by Rep. Frank in clear and plain term it reads: “The committee urges Treasury to advocate that governments receiving assistance from the multilateral development institutions do not engage in gross violations of human rights, for example the denial of freedom of religion, including the right to choose one's own religion and physical persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Frank is said to specifically pointing a finger at Uganda as one of the countries that should be rejected for taking part into the physical persecution of people because of their religious beliefs, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The protesters who support the anti-homosexuality bill, have been previously give an Olive branch by the state to carry placards with written messages such; “Think about our children”, “Together we kick homosexuality out of Uganda”, and “Homosexuals beware of God's wrath.”

When contacted by this newspaper, the Home Office declined to comment on the issue, Asked how many gays and lesbians it has on the waiting list for deportation specifically to Uganda, a Home Office officer, just: “Sorry, am not helpful this time. We cannot discuss individuals' cases.”