by Isaac Mugisha
LGBTI people have for long been considered beyond the social pale in Africa, however, the fight for LGBTI rights and equality have come a long way in Uganda, which planned to be holding its 6th Pride celebration in August 2017. Pride Uganda is an annual celebration by the Ugandan LGBTI community that has been on-going since 2012 and has steadily become an important cultural fixture on the social calendar within the LGBTI community in Uganda as well as the wider community in the East African region.
As LGBTI Ugandans we appreciate the support from other LGBTI comrades from across the East African Region. Recognizing that over the years that Pride Uganda has been celebrated, we have had an attendance from our brothers and sisters from Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi and Tanzania and even when we feared for the worst during the Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2014, these comrades showed us immense support. This year we celebrate the togetherness, the support, the comradeship of all the East African LGBTI persons. It is a show of solidarity with our sister movements in the East African region and a call for all LGBTQ identifying people and allies in East Africa to unite in the fight for equality, celebrate what we have achieved and brace ourselves for the fight that is still ahead of us.
Report on Pride Gala 2017
On December 8th, 2017, the Uganda Pride committee decided to host a solidarity event to mark the International Human Rights Day as well as to gather the LGBTI community and its allies and celebrate achievements but also discuss how best we can have Pride festivals the following years. This came about as a result of the Minister of Ethics and Integrity having cancelled all originally planned Pride week activities in August of 2017 and rendering them illegal in Uganda. He even threatened to mobilize the mob to beat anyone who attempts to hold any events, also instructing police to be on the lookout.
We, however, realized that keeping silent will render him a winner, and he will use this precedence to always shut down any LGBTI events. That’s why we put up this one-day event in place of the originally planned Pride festival. While setting up on the day of the event, a major challenge presented itself when the same minister again called and ordered us to close down everything, threatening that he was coming to arrest all of us. We agreed not to panic but rather to continue preparing for the evening and ignore him. The venue was willing to protect us, given the working relationship they have with the LGBTI community, and being one of the leading legal firms in the country. At around 4pm, the minister came to the venue and ordered us all out, but we refused and our lawyer immediately forced him out of the premises and warned him never to come back. He threatened with police but since these were private premises, the police couldn’t do much and so we proceeded with the event although under tight security and amidst threats.
The evening had about 200 guests and we could welcome the Royal Dutch Deputy Ambassador as the guest speaker in a very well organized event, which also marked the end of year and looking forward to the new year planning on how to organize Pride. Rainbow Support Network extended support in making this event successful, and its generous donation was part of our security budget which was crucial. We would like to extend sincere and heartfelt appreciation to its team and members.
Pride Uganda Organization Committee