Interview With GayUganda


 Background - May 2011

Obviously we still have discrimination in the UK, as recently highlighted by the refusal of a guesthouse owner to rent a room to a gay couple, and the incident where two men were asked to leave a pub for kissing. The key difference is that we also have the means to fight that discrimination. The guesthouse owners were prosecuted and a mass kissathon publicly shamed the landlord.

For many people in Africa, sexual discrimination isn’t just ignored – it’s state endorsed.

In 1995 President Mugabe opened Zimbabwe’s International Book Fair by stating that gay people are: “worse than dogs and pigs” and urging the public: “If you see people parading themselves as Lesbians and Gays, arrest them and hand them over to the police!”

Rwanda’s New Times published the following article in March 2008: “Rwanda has not spoken much about homosexuality, but certainly it is against the practice. If homosexuality is not African then it cannot certainly be Rwandan!” Going on to describe homosexuality as being: “like any other form of prostitution” and explaining that being gay leads to: “depressing and miserable lifestyles”.

The problem even affects international aid decisions. Ugandan clergy threatened to take UNAIDS, the United Nations’ programme on HIV/AIDS prevention, to court for its support of gay rights campaigners arrested after protests in 2007. Paul Kamya of Namirembe Christian Fellowship asserted:

“…we need a formal apology from Dr. Sibide [Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS] and his group for their continued support towards immoral activities. Uganda is a holy nation and it must be preserved…” – reported by Johnson M. Kyeswa,, 06/14/2008.

This is not just the opinion of a zealous religious minority.

On August 22nd 2007, Human Rights Watch wrote to president Museveni regarding threatening statements made by government officials against LGBT people in Uganda. Closing parliament for 2011, politicians have left hanging a debate on whether or not to introduce the death penalty for homosexual acts.

Early this year, the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone publicly outed people they believed to be gay – publishing a list of names, urging the public to ‘hang them’.


Pictures from BBC coverage.

Shortly afterwards, a prominent Ugandan Gay Rights campaigner, David Kato, was murdered.

On 3rd May 2011, another prominent activist, Noxolo Nogwaza was murdered in South Africa.

In light of all of this, I wanted to share an interview I conducted in 2008 with GayUganda. His blog is a leading light in the fight against discrimination, and his words help to highlight the role of the international gay and humanitarian communities in supporting that fight.


Interview with GayUganda - September 2008


Q: Did you always know that you were gay?

A: I did not realise I was gay until later on in life and it took a long time to accept myself. Then I knew being gay as something very bad because there are no gay role models in Uganda, only examples of pain and suffering.


Q: Is there a gay scene in East Africa?

A: Yes. In Kenya and Tanzania it is actually above ground. In Tanzania they just don’t talk about it but it is very, very active and kind of cultural, especially on the coast. In Kenya it has been coming out. In fact it is so big now that it is acknowledged, not only by the government but also the health services. In Uganda it is still underground. It came out last year in the headlines and demonstrations by the 'phobes.


Q: What has changed since the gay rights movement started in Uganda?

A: We are still writing the history on that one and the campaign itself is really only just getting underway but there are now some people that you can point to and say, those are gay. The President can no longer say that there are no gay Ugandans.

Q: Do you know where you want the fight for gay rights to be in ten years' time?

A: Well, I just hope that I am out of the brunt of the government eye by then. I don’t know where it will be. The status quo may be maintained, or we may move on to striking down the sodomy law. That would be fantastic. But it is early days.

Q: What role does the international gay community play in your fight for recognition?

A: As a matter of fact, many of us would not have had the guts to come out. The repression, especially in Uganda, is a little over the top even compared to its neighbours. The role of the International Community is mainly to highlight the abuses as and when they occur. So, when the President first said there were no gays, no one challenged him. In 1999, when he learnt that there were gays and ordered them to be arrested, the Scandinavian countries made him take that back and we were not arrested.


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