Nineteen young men from the Children of the Sun Foundation (COSF), spent 49 days of hell and torture in Kitalya Prison, Uganda, where they were denied the right to lawyer visits. We now know why: As the young men emerged from the prison this week, after a lengthy battle in the Court and the subsequent dropping of all charges, reports are filtering in as to severe beatings and torture. Earlier this month we reported that the men were subjected to painful anal exams, tantamount to torture. Today we are hearing more. Speaking from his place of hiding in Uganda, one of the detained men has given me a direct full account of the horrific experience from the time the men were first raided. Some of it has not been possible to write.
On the morning of 29th March, the shelter known to house LGBTI youth operated by Children of the Sun Foundations (COSF) was raided by police and security forces. 23 people at the shelter were arrested, including members of the groups COSF and visitors. Among the original groups arrested were workers from a medical clinic attached to the organization. Several of the 23 were beaten upon arrest, including by the local Mayor, who was there at the behest of the Chairman of the Village and his Executive Committee. My source informs me that the raid was a set up by the local politicians in their quest to rid the area of suspected gays. All were subjected to anti-homosexuality taunts and threats by the Mayor, who can be seen on video and in the below photos wielding the stick he used for the beatings.
The released COSF member who I shall call Piet for the sake of anonymity reported that the raid occurred within hours of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni ordering the COVID-19 lockdown and that some visitors had been stuck at the shelter due to lack of transport, a result of the lockdown and curfews. In shaky and shocked tone, he confirmed that the group were beaten by the Mayor and told me the details of the torture that he and others suffered at the police holding jail facility and then later at the prison.
Originally 25 were detained but several released for different reasons. The final 19 appeared before a local magistrate in the Chief Magistrates Court of Nsangi and were remanded to prison for 28 days due to the COVID-19 lockdown. They were formally charged with doing ‘a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease’ and ‘disobedience of lawful orders’ contrary to Sections 171 and 117 of the Penal Code Act respectively. They were repeated ly denied access to lawyers, and details of that are reported in my original articles as referenced below. It is believed however that they were detained suspected of being LGBTQI, as police sought to get confessions as to their sexuality from them.
Piet reports that one very young detainee in particular was singled out as an example by the Kitalya Prison OC known as Woniala, and out of the many prison officers who beat the men, was the most brutal. All the men were forced to lie down and receive canings where the officers used solido-wire. Some young men were used for sex in order to get extra food from other inmates. The men were held for over 49 days in a 50 ft by 30 ft cell of 275 men, many violent criminal. The men had to sleep head to toe on cement floors, each receiving only one blanket. The water in the facility was limited resulting in 275 men getting 30 minutes of shower time some days per week, and there were only 3 toilets for all 275 inmates. The food they were fed consisted of 2 meals per day, 1/2 a cup of sour porridge in the morning at 6 am, and then a 4.00pm meal of chicken feed, and rotten beans. Piet reports that many suffered from severe diarrhea and he knew of six inmates (not from the group) who had died from Dysentery.
Piet reports how all the men broke down and cried after witnessing the torture of the youngest by Woniala. He described how Woniala obtained a burning wood log and burned the young man between his buttocks. The others were threatened with the same fate for the next day and spent their time in terror in anticipation of similar torture to what they had just witnessed. The men remain traumatized and in shock.
This account was endorsed by the Facebook Post of a member of the Human Rights Group that provided the legal team of lawyers, stating:
“Today, I got home at 6.30 and sat in my car (which I don’t drive to work, FYI) for two hours, listening to music on YouTube and wondering how humanity went so wrong. See, I spent the day listening to stories of prison life.
One of them involved a senior officer in a prison bending an inmate over, pulling down his pants and shoving a burning log of wood between his buttocks, severely burning his thighs, buttocks, anus and scrotum, all because he believed the inmate to be gay.
My heart hurts, my brain hurts and I don’t even know how that boy was able to tell the story, and even muster a smile at my facial expression.
And still that monster lives, and breathes, and feeds and fucks and laughs like a human being. Not even animals would be that cruel, even to something they intended to eat.
May your God help you, Christians of this ilk. If heaven is going to be inhabited by such creatures, I guess I am happy going to hell now.”
Indeed it is American Evangelical Christians, including Scott Lively, Rick Warren and Lou Engle along others who have gone to Uganda since the early 2000’s promoting harsh anti-LGBTI legislation and setting the stage for these witch hunts and this anti-gay climate in their sermons and conferences, giving license in the name of their extreme form of Christianity, to persecute and torture:
This the development of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, a Private Member’s bill, introduced into Parliament by MP Hon. David Bahati. The bill, which became known as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” was first introduced in November 2009, and called for the death penalty, prison sentences for so called ‘promotion of homosexuality’, and a 4 years prison term for anyone failing to report a known homosexual within 24 hours of finding out about their sexuality. The mere introduction of such a Bill created fear in the LGBTI community, as now even their families and friends could be placed at risk of criminalization. The ramifications were terrifying as people realized this could impact even professional and scholastic relationships, such as with teachers, professors, counsellors, doctors, landlords etc. This was harshly criticized in the international community. It became clear that this new legislation could close down human rights organizations seeking to protect LGBT people as well as HIV clinics that served LGBT people.
What followed amounted to a notably significant rise in the anti-homosexual sentiment in Uganda. A Ugandan tabloid, “Rolling Stone” in 2010 published the pictures of known LGBT activists and community members, alongside the caption “Hang Them.” This exposure was not only lethal to the individuals exposed, but also was seen to bring shame upon the families of the gays and lesbians who were exposed. This resulted in a heightened consciousness about detecting LGBT people and led to a ‘witch hunt,’ causing much terror among LGBT people. Many of those who were exposed (outed) had to go into hiding, losing livelihood and homes. Some were able to leave Uganda. In later years Red Pepper Magazine also published “Uganda’s Top 200 Homos” and other articles outing LGBTQI people. From then on Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo spent years raiding events and hunting gays.
In 2011 LGBTI activist David Kato, was bludgeoned to death in his Kampala home in just weeks after helping to secure a high court injunction against Rolling Stone, ordering them to cease printing the names, photographs and addresses of gay people and openly calling for their execution.
Anti-Homosexuality Act was eventually passed in the Ugandan Parliament in December 2013 and signed into law by President Museveni on 24 February 2014. This served to further criminalize the existence of sexual and gender minorities and work promoting the human rights of LGBT persons. As soon as the Bill passed the anti-homosexuality sentiment rose to a fervent pitch. President Yoweri Museveni and Ugandan Pastors from several religious denominations held a prayer and gratitude rally attended by an estimated 30,000 people at a stadium, after marching through the streets, calling for an end to homosexuality. They marched to a stadium in Kampala, where 30,000 Ugandans gathered to give thanks to the President Museveni, for signing the Anti-homosexuality Act. This event combined the fanfare of a mass political meeting with the party atmosphere of a cultural festival. Video of the march and rally can be accessed on the Guardian Article, at web-link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/02/uganda-celebrates-anti-gay-law.
In 2014, Ugandan activists challenged the Anti-Homosexuality Act in the Constitutional Court and in August 2014 won the case for annulment of the law. The 5 panel Judges did not deliver a decision on the merits of the constitutionality of the Act, but ruled on a technicality, noting that Parliament did not have the requisite quorum required for passage of a Private Member Bill. The majority in Parliament and public were infuriated by the decision, which only served to exacerbate public retribution against LGBTI individuals and persecution heightened.
Since that time, politicians have threatened the reintroduction of the legislation into Parliament. Since 2014 the popularity of the Bill has been estimated at over 85% among Uganda’s Parliamentarians, with a small minority in Parliament who oppose it, doing so at great peril.
RESULTING PERSECUTION OF LGBTI in Uganda and other African Countries:
LGBTI People or those supporting LGBTI people or those perceived as-such in Uganda experience any or all of the following, as reported regularly to African Human Rights Coalition:
- Ostracization by community to include village communities, neighbors, family, friends, religious communities;
- Same-sex marriage discrimination and other forms of discrimination;
- Dangerous reparative therapies including religious exorcism, dangerous traditional medicine therapies;
- Firing from employment, inability to obtain employment, abuse in employment;
- Expulsion from schools, colleges, universities, trade-schools, including the withdrawal of scholarships and families withdrawing from paying fees;
- Banishment from villages by Chiefs and communities;
- Extortion, blackmail by police and community;
- Police and military raids of social events;
- Unlawful detentions, unwarranted arrests, forced anal exams;
- Cannot report crime, Police arrest LGBTI victims of attacks rather than perpetrators;
- LGBTI people refused access to medical care;
- Forced marriages to the opposite gender;
- So called mob justice, and vigilante vengeance, resulting in serious injuries or even death;
- Beatings, sexual assault, torture, and murder.
The leadership of COSF met with Danish and Irish Ambassadors to Uganda.
As can be noted the American Embassy under the Obama leadership played a role in matters of this nature, however under the Trump administration we barely see participation, if at all.
A special commendation goes out to the Lawyers of HRAPF as led by Dr. Adrian Jjuuko, who as can be seen from the articles below did an extraordinary job leading to the release of the men. It is my hope that the men who beat and tortured these innocent harmless souls, from the Mayor, to the Chairman, to the OC named Woniala will receive the justice they deserve and if it cannot be in the Ugandan Courts where human Rights abuses and torture are hardly ever prosecuted, perhaps the International Courts can issue appropriate warrants.
In speaking with Piet tonight, Marc Cohen my colleague and I found out that all their belongings including clothes, bedding, computers and phone have been stolen. COSF is seeking to restart the shelter and need to replace all the basic provisions. They cannot go back to the shelter and need several months advance rent to start a new tenancy. Tonight AHRC sent some money for clothes. The group is in urgent need of a computer. They are currently compiling a budget proposal to restart the shelter from scratch. Several local and global organizations, including AHRC will be attempting to find urgent funding and solutions in the coming week, noting that with COVID-19 related funding and logistical restraints replenishing what was lost and funding a shelter is particularly difficult at this time. Lets hope all the groups can work together to provide the necessary help. We will know more soon.
I look forward to meeting all 19 again tomorrow by Video with my Colleague Marc. If you would like to send good wishes of support please write a note to nathan@AfricanHRC.org
By Melanie Nathan
ED, African Human Rights Coalition
Follow me on Twitter – @MelanieNathan1
Check out my Instagram: Commissionermelnathan
My websites: www.AfricanHRC.org
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