Authorities in Uganda have charged 67 people with “public nuisance” after police raided an LGBTQ-friendly bar in the country’s capital on Sunday.
Kuchu Times, a website that covers LGBTQ issues in Africa, reported 125 people were arrested when police raided the bar in Kampala. Kuchu Times said most of those who were arrested “are community members.”
“The arrested were paraded before the media and have been charged with possession and use of narcotics, although it is evident that this is a white wash lie and the raid was a direct on the LGBT+ community,” reported Kuchu Times. “The bar which sells Shisha, a common recreational vaporized mixture of tobacco often mixed with other flavors and ingredients, is a well-known hangout for many sexual and gender minorities.”
Kuchu Times said the bar is “the only openly gay-friendly hangout within Kampala.”
Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTQ advocacy group, on Tuesday told the Washington Blade those who have been charged are being held at a maximum-security prison. Mugisha said they are expected to appear in court for a bail hearing.
“So terrible,” added Mugisha.
The raid took place less than a month after police in Kampala arrested 16 LGBTQ activists and subjected them to “forced anal examinations” to prove they engaged in same-sex sexual activity.
Ugandan Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo in October said his government planned to reintroduce a bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of homosexuality. A Ugandan government spokesperson later said the so-called “Kill the Gays” measure would not be reintroduced.
Brian Wasswa, a Ugandan LGBTQ activist, died on Oct. 5 after he was attacked with a garden hoe at his home in Jinja, a city on Lake Victoria that is roughly two hours east of Kampala.
Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Uganda. Activists in the East African country say LGBTQ Ugandans are more vulnerable to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity and arrest because of the speculation over the reintroduction of the “Kill the Gays” bill.
“The past has shown that it is difficult to prosecute anyone for being LGBT,” said Kasha Jacquelin, a Ugandan LGBTQ activist, in a press release that OutRight Action International released on Monday. “Using trumped-up drug charges is a new and frightening tactic; one which is really hard to tackle and will make our battle even tougher.”
“The resurfacing of the anti-homosexuality bill in a country which already prescribes life imprisonment for same-sex relations could only have had one intention — to increase hate and stigma against LGBTIQ people, putting them at heightened risk of arbitrary detention and attack,” added OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern. “That is exactly what is happening. The growing intensity of arrests, the clear targeting of an LGBTIQ-friendly bar, makes it painfully clear that a witch hunt is being mounted against LGBTIQ Ugandans.”