In a story related to a feature article in this month’s QSaltLake Magazine, organizers or Pride Uganda 2017 announced yesterday that they were cancelling this year’s event after police raided the event’s opening gala and surrounded the venues for its other scheduled events.
In a statement released yesterday in Kuchu Times, Africa’s news outlet for the LGBTI community, the event organizers said, “Sadly, even all the courage and determination that we carry in our hearts is not enough to put the lives of so many innocent people at risk.” Organizers said that attendees were threatened with arrest and one organizer was individually threatened with harm by the country’s State Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo.
The statement in full:
“It is with very heavy hearts and deep-felt sadness that we announce the cancellation of Pride Uganda 2017. Following the Police raid and interruption of the Pride parade last year, extra precaution was taken in organising this year’s festival.
2017 has without a doubt been the most challenging festival to put together- the community was still determined to have this celebration even though 2016 left us very saddened and with traumatic memories as well as some near-fatal injuries; one would have thought that we would back down this year but these radiant and brave souls said a big NO!! There were no second thoughts about whether or not Pride should happen this year, in fact there was no need for debate- we were not going to allow hate, homophobia, prejudice, and a misinformed and biased society to get in the way of the one time in the year that we get together and remind ourselves that we are no criminals, we are no misfits and we are no mistakes!
The community realized the need for us to stand together, hold one another’s hands, celebrate our diversity but most importantly acknowledge and pat our selves on the back for the hard work we put into creating visibility and influencing policy change, all year round.
Sadly, even all the courage and determination that we carry in our hearts is not enough to put the lives of so many innocent people at risk. This morning, we woke up to a tirade of police surrounding the venue of the opening gala and later in the day even as talks with Police and other relevant authorities were ongoing, more deployment was made to the venues of the events that were to follow.
Hon Simon Lokodo, has over the last couple of weeks threatened us with arrest, and even went as far as revealing his intentions to physically harm one of the leaders within the movement if he came in contact with her. He has categorically stated, time and again that gender and sexual minorities have no rights in Uganda and today had all the venues of the planned Pride events surrounded by state militia. He has abused our very existence by stripping us of even the very basic of our rights, he refuses to acknowledge our humanity or right of association, speech, movement as well as freedom from degrading treatment.
One of the things he so vehemently puts forward is the recruitment theory- we are not here to recruit anyone into anything. This is a misconception that has been widely spread and is sadly believed by many. We were all born this way, we have no choice over who we love or how we identify therefore it is impossible to recruit anybody or change their attraction to whoever they’re sexually or romantically attracted to.
Pride has also never been about gaining political influence. It is a celebration of hard earned partnerships. All year round, we work tirelessly on bringing several key players onto the table right from religious leaders, parliamentarians, civil society heads, health service providers all the way to the very societies in which we live. Pride is a time for us to show our gratitude to these people who have taken the time to sit down and listen to us , understand why we are asking for policy revision and respect our humanity. We must do away with these misconceptions and narratives spread to the general public.
It is clear that we will not be allowed to exercise our freedom of association but now, more than ever, we are ready to take the existing laws and policies head on. We are not canceling Pride because of your homophobia and disrespect for our rights, this is a decision that has been taken to protect ourselves. Otherwise how else will we fight your oppression if you kill us or imprison us for no crime?
It should be clear to all our key partners and the rest of the world that the struggle for equality in Uganda is far from over. In fact, it has just begun and we will not stop until every sexual and gender minority is accorded their rights as a human being.
We applaud the community for the courage they’ve exhibited, -for being willing to take the risk and face our oppressors! Let us always remember that we must be a live to push the struggle forward and one day soon, we will reap the fruits of our dedication and persistence.