Gay Activists Released Without Charge

2485 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Four suspected gay activists, who were arrested on Monday on the orders of State Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, have been released by Police without any charges being preferred against them.

Four suspected gay activists, who were arrested on Monday on the orders of State Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, have been released by Police without any charges being preferred against them.

The four include a Kenyan Human Rights trainer based in Uganda, Njoroge Njenga, a Canadian trainer Neil Blazevic and two others. They were arrested by a heavily armed Police contingent of over 30 personnel from Essella Country Hotel in Namugongo about 14 KMs from Kampala city, while undergoing training on Human Rights. Together with about 20 others who escaped from the Hotel after seeing Police and journalists, they had just begun a three-day training on how to gather evidence of Human Rights violations in their community.

They were arrested at about 3pm in an operation commanded by the Kiira District Police Commander, Samuel Mission, but released later in the night. Today, Mission said he had been directed by his boss, Commissioner of Police, Charles Kataratambi, to release the four and others attending the workshop.

But there was no word of whether their workshop had been stopped, save for the fact that the participants got scared and many left to return to their countries.

Five participants were drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zanzibar.

Njoroge Njenga, a Senior Programme Officer at the Freedom House, the organizers of the Workshop, said that there was no more word on Tuesday from Kataratambi on whether they should continue with their workshop. The workshop was initially set to end on Wednesday, June 20.

Katarambi, according to Njoroge, apologized for the unprofessional manner and overzealousness with which his officers arrested the activists and said there should have been better procedures of handling the matter.

But Njenga also disclosed that on facing arrests by Police, he informed his office in Washington DC where upon a call was reportedly made to higher authorities in the Ugandan government through the US Embassy to get the arrested gay activists released. This also followed the intervention of their Kampala-based lawyer, David Kaggwa.

However, the Minister Lokodo insists Uganda will not be blackmailed into compromising its morals just because it wants donor money from some rich Western countries.

Lokodo accused the US government of insisting on promoting gay rights in Uganda and says the country would resist the move.

Recently US President Barrack Obama has referred to Uganda through a warning to cut aid, saying the country needed to respect the rights of homosexuals and lesbians living in the country.

Lokodo insists that through their meeting and training in the Hotel on Monday, the gay activists were promoting and encouraging others to join, an act which is unconstitutional and punishable by a seven year jail.

David Bahati, the architect of a private member’s bill against the homosexuals that has irritated the US government, including President Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said on Tuesday that he is ready to proceed with the debate of the bill when parliament resumes later this month.

Bahati said he was happy with the Police decision to have the activists arrested on Monday.
He said that there is need to stop the promotion of the gay activities in the country through such crackdown.

He said the new law, once his bill is enacted, would strengthen the existing law against gay activities in the country.