Friday, July 29, 2011


A man who in 2009 renounced homosexuality at a public forum in Kampala has now told Behind the Mask that he regrets his previous actions and would like to be forgiven by the LGBTI community.

Saying that he felt “there is a fire in the belly saying gay is really who you are,” Mr George Oundo, known amongst Uganda’s LGBTI community as “Ms Georgina,” said that although he had renounced homosexuality on national media, at an opportune time he would ask the Kuchu community (Ugandan slang for LGBTI) to take him back.

Speaking on Wednesday July 27, 2011 to Behind the Mask outside the magistrate’s court in Kampala where three Christian evangelist preachers have been charged with making homophobic smears against a rival preacher, the now former ex-gay Oundo said he once again believed, “being gay is natural and inborn.”

The accused preachers, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with David Mukalazi and Deborah Kyomuhendo (agents of the accused) face charges of conspiring to injure Pastor Robert Kayanja’s reputation by claiming that Kayanja sodomised boys in his church. The two lawyers are charged with allegedly commissioning false affidavits.

In March 2009 Oundo spoke at a Christian seminar and said he previously supported homophobic preacher Martin Sempa and legislator Mr David Bahati in their claims that homosexuals recruit children in schools and deserve the death penalty.

Speaking on Wednesday however, the now former ex-gay man said that he regrets the comments.

Looking sad, Mr Oundo, who once helped to establish an LGBTI human rights advocacy group in Kampala, said that although the preachers had given him some money and built him a house in Muyenga-Bukasa, a posh suburb of Kampala, he still had gay feelings. “I have never even become born again. I just do not want to be born again.”

He said the born again Christian anti-gay preachers had dumped him. “Can you imagine I have not been to any of their churches in the last one year?” he said.

Asked whether an interview with Behind the Mask would not cause him to be seen in a bad light by the born again community, Mr Oundo said he did not care what they believed.

However, when asked why he had come to court and was showing solidarity with Sempa and the other accused preachers, Mr Oundo said he had to be there as he had promised the three that he would see them through the trial.

Asked whether he does not feel he betrayed the Ugandan LGBTI community by making false allegations that almost saw the anti homosexuality bill 2009 passed into law, Mr Oundo said he “would understand and respect” people calling him a traitor.

Mr Oundo claimed back in March 2009 that donors gave him and fellow homosexuals “much money” and training abroad and that he would target mostly the needy children who had problems of tuition and pocket money and “others who like outings.”

During that occasion Oundo warned parents to know their children’s friends. Homosexuals, he added, were targeting mostly children “because they are easy to initiate and they like easy things.”

Oundo claimed then, that he got seriously involved in “promoting homosexuality” in 2003. “I was taken to Nairobi for training,” he said. “I used to supply pornographic materials in form of books and compact discs showing homosexuality to young boys in many schools.”

The training, he said, was facilitated by the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya. “I also got the pupils’ telephone contacts. We used to meet with both girls and boys in schools during ceremonial parties,” he had claimed.

He claimed in 2009 that he only stopped his activities after becoming a born again Christian. On that occasion he was speaking to about 50 parents who had been attending a seminar at a Kampala hotel. The seminar had been organised by the Family Life Network, a local charity which promotes family values.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


An adjournment in the on-going homophobic smear case against three Ugandan Christian evangelist preachers became chaotic when one of the accused clergymen lost his temper with members of the public who were jeering him and his co-accused.

Mr Martin Sempa became angry in the Kampala court on Tuesday (July 26, 2011) when after losing his temper, he said he could no longer stand insults from his rival, Pastor Robert Kayanja’s followers who were taunting him in court. Women believed to be members of Kayanja’s choir hurled insults and taunts of a sexual nature at pastors Sempa, Solomon Male and Bob Kyazze.

The accused preachers, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with David Mukalazi and Deborah Kyomuhendo (agents of the accused) face charges of conspiring to injure Pastor Robert Kayanja’s reputation. The two lawyers are charged with allegedly commissioning false affidavits.

One woman shouted that Kyazze and Sempa had tiny sex organs, while making graphic illustrations with her hands of her words. Another person said Pastor Sempa was diseased. This infuriated the accused preachers, prompting Sempa to ask a police officer in the court to restrain the crowds.

The magistrate, Mr John Patrick Wekesa had to emerge from his chambers to warn the warring parties. He said those who were interested in quarrelling could go to their churches or to Kampala’s Nakivubo Football Stadium to face off.

Earlier before the adjournment, the Uganda Police Head of Special Investigations Unit, Ms Grace Akullo told the court that she brought charges against the three anti-gay evangelists after discovering, “intrigue and blackmail” in accusations they made against their fellow clergyman, Pastor Robert Kayanja concerning sodomy.

Ms Akullo said she opened the case after realising that Pastors Sempa, Male and Kyazze were bent on spoiling the reputation of Pastor Kayanja, the lead pastor of Miracle Centre Cathedral, Lubaga with claims that Kayanja sodomised boys in his church.

She was testifying in the on going homophobic smear case in which the three preachers, their agents and lawyers are accused of conspiring to make false accusations that Kayanja sodomises boys.

Ms Akullo told the fully packed court room that she realised during investigations that a one Samson Mukisa had made several statements at a police station, accusing Kayanja of sodomising him.

“But then he kept retracting the statements and denied making the complaint in the first places,” Ms Akullo told the magistrate.

She said at one point, Mr Mukisa said he had been promised Sh50 million (about US$10,000) by agents of Mr Sempa, namely Mukalazi and Kyomuhendo to make false allegations against Kayanja. “But at another point, he (Mukisa) said he was promised [only] Sh6million (about US$2,400). It is not easy to sustain a lie,” the police officer told court.

Ms Akullo said after the Inspector General of Police, Mr Kale Kayihura instructed her to take on investigations, she could not understand why Mr Mukisa who had complained to police that Sempa wanted to harm him would go ahead to appear on national television with Sempa repeating the allegations against Kayanja. She said Mr Mukisa was at one point moved to a high security house in Bweyogerere, a Kampala suburb, by police under the witness protection measure, after claiming that Sempa wanted to harm him.

“They (Mukisa and Sempa’s agents) even had lunch together at Mommo Gallery, but he continued claiming that they wanted to harm him,” the officer told court. Mommo Gallery is an art exhibition centre in Kampala that also has restaurants.

Court was adjourned for an hour after the prosecution protested to the magistrate that the original statements made by the accused and Pastor Kayanja handed to prosecution lawyers had been handed over to the accused persons.

State prosecutor Stephen Asaba said the accused pastors have a history of changing documents and adjourned court so that photo copies could be made and shared.

It was during the adjournment that the drama described above, ensued.

If convicted, the accused pastors and their agents face a five year jail term each under Uganda’s penal code, according to State Prosecutor Stephen Asaba.

The accused pastors have strong links to The Family, a US-based anti lobby group, which is associated with funding Mr David Bahati, a Ugandan legislator to author and present the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009 calling for the killing of homosexuals.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Uganda: LGBTI Rights are Human Rights

Sylvia Tamale
Dr. Sylvia Tamale, a feminist professor of law at Makerere University, was confronted by Ugandan MPs at a seminar on 24 June 2011 for her stance on LGBTI rights in Uganda. The seminar focused on the role of women in politics and veered off course when Major General Katumba Wamala (representative of the armed forces in parliament) asked Tamale why ‘she encourages women to marry women and men to marry men’.

I thought this was something Tamale could easily dismiss as outside the context of her discussion. However, the chair of the session, John Nasasira (the MP for Kazo County and the government chief whip) took the intrusion a little further by deciding that the plenary discussion should take Tamale to task for her advocacy in defence of gay rights. Instead of following the practice of picking MPs who had raised their hands, Nasasira called on David Bahati (head crusader of the anti-homosexuality lobby in parliament) to ask a question to Tamale: ‘Honourable Bahati, I will give you a chance to ask a question, and you know why.’

Was it necessary for Nasasira to call such a debate? Was he doing this in good faith or was he making fun of Tamale? That question became more complicated when, after Bahati said he would ask a different question not related to gay rights, Nasasira made a remark that during a women’s conference in Nairobi, a female speaker took to the floor and lashed out at men. One of the ministers he attended with commented, ‘I did not know women hated men like this!’ Apparently, another colleague responded, ‘Those are lesbians.’ This was meant to be a joke that turned out to be a tasteless remark.

Tamale finally took the floor to respond to all questions, including the one on gay rights. She reminded members of parliament that not long ago colonialists, slave traders, missionaries and others used their power, the bible and science to justify that we [Africans] were less human, less intelligent or less deserving. She implored MPs to reconsider their actions before seeking to criminalise the lives of fellow humans. However, once we were outside the conference room, it became clear that the battle raging inside the minds and ‘selective moral consciousness’ of MPs had not waned.

Human rights activist Doreen Lwanga was confronted by MPs during the lunch break for inviting Dr. Sylvia Tamale. She tried to reason with MPs including asking the question, "What would you do if you found out that among the people you have legally criminalised and sentenced to death, as proposed by the Anti-Homosexual Bill, are your children, family or dear friends?" MP David Bahati, the author of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, responded that he would hand over his child to the police for punishment.

At lunch hour, an MP asked me, ‘Why would they invite such people, like Tamale?’ His colleague (another MP) responded, ‘People should know where human rights stop and on what continent!’ I asked her if in fact similar charges have not been levied at African women about where they belong and when they should talk in their struggle for recognition as humans. She did not respond to that.

Most arguments I have heard by the anti-homosexuality lobby are framed in the language of upholding societal values based on religion, African culture, western infiltration and being against sinful and abnormal behavior. However, the same people laying the charge that homosexuality has its roots in western culture are comfortable in their Swiss Rolex watches, German Mercedes cars, Finish Nokia phones and Gucci suits.

The tense and seemingly unwelcoming environment did not sway me from the opportunity to debate gay rights with MPs. I reminded those who erroneously accuse the United States of pushing its homosexual behavior onto Ugandans that, until 2003, when the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas struck down the remaining sodomy laws in 15 US states, same sex couples in the US were prosecutable for the crime of sodomy.

Secondly, what is African culture and what is African about homophobia? Cecilia Ogwal (MP for Dokolo) asked why those people (in the west) are against our African culture of marrying ten wives yet they want to force [our] men to marry fellow men? Then again, in the US state of Utah, and in Canada and Mexico a section of The Church of the Latter Day Saints (commonly referred to as Mormons) practice polygamy, which is conveniently referred to as ‘plural marriage’. Ironically, the same bible-wielding people in Uganda casting stones at homosexuals seem to have no problem engaging in other social ills including adultery, pedophilia, prostitution, pornography, economic exploitation and political exclusion.

I asked several MPs I spoke to: ‘What would you do if you found out that among the people you have legally criminalised and sentenced to death, as proposed by the Anti-Homosexual Bill, are your children, family or dear friends?’ Bahati told me that as someone committed to eradicating such evil behaviour from our society, he would hand over his child to the police for punishment.

Yet, how many of us think of our children as capable of committing ‘those vices’ we disavow? We tend to think that criminals are ‘those people, far away from our good-natured children and families’. We do not want to believe that our children might grow up to realise that their identities are not heterosexual.

A lawyer working with the Ugandan parliament told me she is going to teach her children the ‘right morals’. She, like several others I spoke to, does not believe that homosexuals are born and not made. From her experience in attending a single-sex boarding school in Uganda, ‘girls recruit others into homosexuality’.

On the percentage of MPs who would vote in favour of ‘The Bahati Bill’, my lawyer friend told me that it would pass with about 95 per cent support. I wondered who the other five per cent were. Could they be, as I have since learned from a gay rights scholar, those male MPs having sex with fellow men but not pronouncing themselves as gay?

Dr. Sylvia Tamale recently published African Sexualities: A Reader at Pambazuka Press. It looks at African sexualities through the lens of history, feminism, law, sociology, anthropology, spirituality, poetry, fiction, life stories, rhetoric, song, art, and public health. The volume is written by a large group of authors who live their own sexualities across the diverse possibilities of desire, attraction, family creation, political activism and identity in 16 of Africa's 54 countries. African Sexualities adopts a feminist approach that analyses sexuality within patriarchal structures of oppression while also highlighting its emancipatory potential.

The Law, Gender & Sexuality Research Project at the Makerere University School of Law founded by Dr. Sylvia R. Tamale is putting together a book on the life, work and legacy of David Kisule Kato. David was murdered in his home in January and is considered a founder of Uganda's LGBTI human rights movement.


Mr James Mukasa Sebugenyi was recently elected the new President of Uganda Law Society. Behind the Mask Kampala correspondent, Kikonyogo Kivumbi spoke to him about access to justice for all Ugandans, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Below are excerpts from the interview

BTM: ULS is crucial in the management and administration of justice in Uganda. Briefly what role are you playing in this regard?

ULS: The Uganda Law Society is a professional body of all lawyers in the country whose objectives include, among others, to maintain and improve the standards of conduct and learning of the legal profession in Uganda; to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge by members of the legal profession; to protect and assist the public in Uganda in matters touching, ancillary or incidental to the law and to assist the Government and the courts in all matters affecting legislation and the administration and practice of the law in Uganda.

In pursuit of its mandate, the ULS has worked and continues to work with the judiciary together with other Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) stakeholders to ensure proper administration of justice. In addition, the Legal Aid Project of the Uganda Law Society and the Pro bono scheme [Lawyers offering free legal services to the public or at a minimal fee] are both focused on ensuring access to justice for those who cannot afford.

The ULS also continues to come out on topical issues of concern, including taking on public interest litigation cases, dialogue, proposals for legislative reform to parliament in form of position papers to ensure adherence and observance of the rule of law in Uganda.

BTM: Homosexuals often face challenges in accessing justice in Uganda. Why?

ULS It is not correct to say that homosexuals face challenges in accessing justice. Our constitution is clear under the Bill of Rights, specifically on equality and non-discrimination. The courts are independent in the adjudication of all manner of disputes. If there are any challenges, then these challenges are structural and affecting the judiciary and litigants alike. [They are not] based on sexual orientation.

BTM: What plans do you have to enhance equal access to justice for all irrespective of sexual orientation?

ULS: [That is] already enumerated above [where I mentioned] the legal aid and pro-bono.

BTM: ULS took position to oppose passing the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009. But section 145 of the Penal Code still criminalises consensual adult same sex relationships. What do you plan to do about this?

ULS: ULS opposing the Anti-Gay Bill had nothing to do with the content of the Bill (substantive law), because the Penal Code already outlaws and penalises homosexuality. The ULS’ concern was mainly to do with the proposed offences and sanctions, some of which were really draconian.

The argument is really that human rights, while inherent, are not absolute and must be promoted with the context in mind. Homosexuality is a social and not a legal issue, and all its proponents must look at it from that perspective.

BTM: The judiciary in Uganda has shown exemplary independence in administration of justice in cases filed by gay activists. But some forces get discomfort when lawyers, some of whom are members of ULS making legal representation for homosexuals in courts of law. Why? What do you plan to do about this?

ULS: In the exercise of judicial power, the courts are guaranteed independence under article 128 of the constitution, this independence is for all manner of disputes brought before the courts and not only those brought by gays, to say so would imply discrimination by the courts on grounds of sexual orientation which is outlawed by our constitution. The courts shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority.

Regarding involvement of advocates in these cases [brought by or against gays] Article 28(1) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 provides for a right to a fair hearing; it states that: in determination of civil rights and obligations or any criminal charge, a person shall be entitled to a fair, speedy, and public hearing before an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law.

This Article continues to provide for the Presumption of Innocence under clause (3)(a), it states:, every person charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until proved guilty or until that person has pleaded guilty, additionally clause (3)(d) of the same article permits such a person appear before court in person or, at that persons own expense, by a lawyer of his or her choice;

From the above Article, it is notable that every person is entitled to legal representation by an advocate of his or her choice and at his or her own expense. Therefore, when individual members of ULS represent homosexuals in the courts of law, they do so in pursuit of fair trial and rule of law principles enshrined in our constitution and most importantly the presumption of innocence for persons charged with criminal offences.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ugandan MP says new anti-gay bill could be law soon

Posted on July 5th, 2011 by Warren

After a tumultuous end to business in the last session involving the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the current Ninth Parliament of Uganda continues to organize itself for business. Last week, committees were formed and rules or order are being devised. Jockeying for power and influence occupy the efforts of those in the ruling party and those in the opposition.

Lawmaking is probably a month away but one legislator is predicting that a re-introduced Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be law within two months. Otto Odonga, a member of the committee which Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee in the 8th and now again in the 9th Parliament told me via Skype that he expects David Bahati to reintroduce the bill as soon as possible. He predicted that the bill will come to the floor of Parliament as soon as rules allow.

“It will be expedited this time around and passed within one, maybe two months time,” the MP said. Odonga also told me that Stephen Tashobya, the chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, was re-appointed to that same post in the new Parliament. While Bahati will need to start from scratch on the bill, the committee will be able to use the report issued last session as a basis for their work this time around. That report called for minimal changes and retained the death penalty for certain offenses. Odonga said the bill has wide support in the Parliament.

As a follow up on a prior story, Odonga also said that David Bahati was selected to be the coordinator of the Parliamentary Prayer Fellowship.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Thank You Note

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)
P.O. Box 70208, Clock Tower,
Kampala, Uganda
Telephone: +256 312 294 859

To All Comrades

Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) would like to extend its sincerest gratitude for your support and encouragement in combating the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Due to your hard work and dedication, the Ugandan
Parliament ended without the passing of the Bill, allowing the LGBT community of Uganda to take one step closer towards freedom. Had the Bill passed, every homosexual within Uganda would have been subject to the death penalty for practicing gay sex with people under 18, with disabled persons, when the accused party is HIV-positive or for those previously convicted of homosexuality-related offences. David Bahati’s desires to “kill every last gay” would have been far from impossible. Thankfully the 8th Parliament closed without the passing of this legislation, and while SMUG was hard at work advocating against this bill, the conclusion reached would not have been possible without the domestic and international support given by all of you.

As SMUG persists in its work to free the LGBT community in Uganda, we request that you continue to support our work and the lives of those who daily live within the fear that state sponsored homophobia creates. The threat of the Bill being proposed again remains on the minds of all those who advocated against it. Even without the threat of the Bill being redrafted, there is work to be done to change the hearts and minds of Ugandan society and rid Uganda of current laws that allow for the arrest and imprisonment of up to 14 years for homosexuals. Combating the homophobia within Ugandan society becomes even more important as we remember the death of our beloved friend and fellow advocate, David Kato, who was brutally murdered in his
home simply because of his steadfast commitment to the rights of the LGBTI community. These atrocities and the threat of future legislation that would further criminalize homosexuality can only be stopped by continuing to advocate for the recognition of equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender interpretation. Your continued support of our organization, other human rights groups, and all sexual minorities within Uganda is extremely appreciated. it is our hope that one day, all those in Uganda, across Africa, and around the world will not live in fear because of who they love.

SMUG also welcomes the recent UN Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity which identifies the need for investigating the discrimination and violence that affects the LGBT community around the globe. Because of this important step made by the international community, David Bahati can no longer support his homophobia through the absence of sexual orientation and gender identity within the international legal system.

We continue to stand with you for justice and equality for all.

In Solidarity

Sexual Minorities of Uganda