/ World Wide Wave / Africa and the Middle East / Uganda: Constant fear of being killed


Uganda flag“Being an activist means that…if anyone recognises your face, like they’ve seen you on TV or somewhere before,
they may attack you or something. You’re always in the constant fear of being killed or being attacked.”

Those are the sobering words of Cleo Kambugu, a 27 year old Ugandan trans activist who works as a Program Officer for a trans-support initiative in transgender-led organization in Uganda.

Amnestry International’s Africa Program put W3JOY is touch with the activist, who works daily with her LGBT community in Uganda,  “At some point you feel numb, because that’s your reality. You sort of forget how serious it is.”

Cleo is also concerned about the impact of the infamous “kill the gays” bill: “If the bill actually gets passed, people will feel like they have a right to act on their homophobia and transphobia and they’ll feel like they have the right to kill anyone.”

The legislation is symptomatic of society-wide homophobia.  “There is a lot of ignorance going around.” Cleo told W3JOY,  “If you end up being homosexual, you are seen as a paedophile.”

Although Cleo appreciates the help of Westerns, she confirms that many Ugandans think that homosexuality is a “Western influence”.  And international activists, while well-meaning, may not be solving the problem. “The problem with the people that you are working with internationally is that most of them do not comprehend our people.”

We spoke with a Western, Katherine Fairfax-Wright, from the United States. Katherine is the director of the documentary  Call Me Kuchu, a documentary which chronicles the actions of a Ugandan activist who (incidentally) is murdered during the course of the filming.

Katherine was drawn to Uganda because of the “increasingly organised” LGBT community in the midst of “anti-gay legislation and increasing hostility”.

Katherine describes, David Kato, the murdered activist, as tremendously devoted to his cause. and “…very good at wrapping his head around every aspect of building a movement from the grassroots level.”

After the David’s death, Katherine told W3JOY that she felt a “We felt that tremendous sense of responsibility to push his story as widely as possible.”

Katherine also raised the alarm about Western ignorance around their pastors spreading the homophobic message, “Americans sadly just aren’t informed about this at all. It’s one thing to really make a choice a choice to believe what your pastors are doing with the anti-gay rhetoric, but it’s another thing to not even know what’s going on.”

A troubling situation, Uganda, but  there is hope. Sexual Minorities Uganda Group (SMUG) continues to rise up and push the LGBT-friendly agenda. And, despite being numb with fear, slowly, slowly the Ugandans are managing to spread their message to the Western audience.

Read more on W3JOY’s Uganda webpage.


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