Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan advocacy group known by the acronym SMUG, said on its website that the meeting with Randy Berry took place on July 14. SMUG Research and Documentation Director Richard Lusimbo and representatives of Freedom and Roam Uganda and Spectrum Uganda were among those who attended the gathering.
SMUG said that Berry during the meeting “emphasized the need for LGBTI organizations to work together with the government and development partners to see to it that the rights of LGBTIQ (people) in the country are promoted and respected.” The organization noted Matthew Bunt of the U.S. Embassy in Kampala attended the meeting with Berry.
“We welcome the visit,” SMUG Executive Director Frank Mugisha told the Washington Blade on Tuesday in an email. “It is a clear indication that the U.S. government is strategically working to support LGBT rights globally. We feel the visibility is good because it creates dialogue and keeps the issues on the agenda, among the issues discussed was working with our government to advance LGBT rights.”
Berry was in Uganda from July 13-15.
State Department spokesperson Chanan Weissman told the Blade on Tuesday that Berry “held a series of very constructive meetings” with Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda Police Force Inspector General Kale Kayihura and members of the Ugandan Parliament during the trip. The envoy also met with Ugandan business leaders and academic officials while in the country.
“The objective of these meetings was to convey the U.S. government’s continuing commitment to promoting and defending the human rights of LGBTI individuals in Uganda and globally,” said Weissman.
Weissman declined to provide the Blade with additional information about these meetings.
Berry seeks to partner ‘not only with like-minded’ countries
Uganda is among the countries in which Berry had been posted before the State Department announced in February that it had tapped the career Foreign Service officer as its first-of-its-kind envoy to promote global LGBT rights.
President Yoweri Museveni sparked international outrage in February 2014 when he signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act under which those convicted of repeated same-sex sexual acts faced life in prison. The Constitutional Court of Uganda last summer struck down the statute on a technicality, but not before the U.S. cut aid to the country and imposed a travel ban against Ugandan officials responsible for anti-LGBT and other human rights abuses.
“I’m going to be partnering not only with like-minded governments,” Berry told the Blade in April during an interview at his office in the State Department.
Berry has traveled to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and a number of other countries since he assumed his post within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in April.