AG Given One Week to Defend Gay Meeting Closure

2241 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The High Court in Kampala has given Attorney General Peter Nyombi up to Monday next week to defend the actions of Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, who is accused of illegally closing a gay activists’ meeting earlier this year in Entebbe.

The High Court in Kampala has given Attorney General Peter Nyombi up to Monday next week to defend the actions of Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, who is accused of illegally closing a gay activists’ meeting earlier this year in Entebbe. 

This public interest case had came up for hearing on Monday morning but did not kick off as earlier slated due to failure by the Attorney General to file in his defense to the allegations made against the minister in time.

Subsequently, Charity Nabaasa, a prosecutor from the Attorney General’s chambers, asked court to adjourn the matter to another date to enable Nyombi file in his defense.

The case was filed by four gay activists; Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, Julian Pepe Onziema, Frank Mugisha and Geoffrey Ogwaro against the minister and the Attorney General.

The gay activists accuse Minister Lokodo, a former catholic priest, of orchestrating a hate campaign against them when he walked into their conference room before ordering the closure of their ongoing two-week workshop on February 14 at Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe. The minister then ordered the participants to disperse.

The workshop had been secretly organized by Freedom and Roam Uganda, an association that lobbies for the recognition of same sex relationships in Uganda.

Kasha, the organizer of the aborted conference, in her affidavit before court, claims that the meeting was intended to: train and equip participants from various walks of life with project planning, advocacy, human rights, leadership and business skills.  32 participants were attending the conference.

They are seeking among others, court declarations that the actions of the minister closing their ongoing meeting, infringed on their rights to assemble as enshrined in the constitution.

The activists also want court to declare that the actions of the minister tantamount to discrimination against them since other on-going meetings at the same venue were not closed.

Earlier, the trial judge Eldad Mwanguhya, agreed with the Attorney General’s request to have the matter adjourned to enable him file in his defense, saying he is curious to know why the meeting was closed.

The judge gave Nyombi up to July 2 to file in his reply before the matter can be heard on July 6.

The gay activists were represented by renowned human rights lawyers; Laudislaus Rwakafuuzi and Francis Onyango.
However, during the court proceedings, Rwakafuuzi asked the judge to temporary issue an injunction against Lokodo saying the minister is on rampage closing similar meetings.

Rwakafuuzi raised this issue following the June 19 police raid on Essella Country Hotel in Namugongo near Kampala, to close yet another ongoing three-day lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTI) meeting. Rwakafuuzi said it was illegal.

Justice Mwanguhya, however, gave Rwakafuuzi a cold ear before asking him to raise it at an appropriate time.

This suit comes at a time when Parliament is yet to debate a privately tabled anti-homosexual bill by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati. The bill that has generated a lot of storm both locally and internationally about the rights of the sexual minorities, proposes punitive punishments once found culpable of practicing homosexuality.

Last week, Lokodo said that at least 38 non-governmental organisations could be closed for promoting homosexuality in Uganda.