Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, reportedly broke up a gay rights conference on Tuesday and ordered the arrest of a prominent LGBT rights figure.
The conference, organized by group Freedom and Roam Uganda, was underway at Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe when MP Lokodo is said to have sent police in to break up the workshop.
The two week conference organised by Freedom and Roam Uganda, an association that lobbies for the recognition of same sex relationships in Uganda, ended prematurely when the minister ordered them to disperse.
“I have closed this conference because it’s illegal. We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home,” Minister Lokodo told the participants.
Hotel staff had been asked by the organisers not to direct anyone to Elgon hall where the conference was taking place unless the person had been cleared. This would have required a phone call from the organisers.
The Minister said the hotel’s management apologized for hosting the event.
The two week residential conference is believed to have attracted around 30 participants and was due to close on February 14.
Minister Lokodo is also said to have ordered the arrest of prominent LGBT rights campaigner Kasha Jacqueline Nabagasera, the winner of the 2011 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, who had been present at the event. Reports suggest she escaped capture. The reason as to why Nabagasera was wanted for arrest remains unclear, though in a country that actively criminalizes homosexuality this may be cause for concern.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General is quoted as saying about the news: “This is an outrageous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda.
Alongside the death penalty, the bill holds several enhancements of Uganda’s already strict anti-gay laws, including provisions to jail anyone who doesn’t report suspected gay people within 24 hours and a ban on the “promotion” of homosexuality so open-ended that it would endanger HIV/AIDS treatment and sexual health clinics in the country, and could effectively exclude gay people from petitioning the courts by making those representing them liable for criminal action.
To read more about the history of the bill, click here to view Care2′s past coverage.