Uganda Pride events cancelled after violent police raid

— from Washington Blade by Michael K. Lavers

Organizers of Uganda Pride have cancelled the remainder of their events after Thursday’s police raid at a nightclub that was hosting a beauty pageant.

Nicholas Opiyo, executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade that organizers made the decision to cancel a parade that was scheduled to take place on Saturday after Simon Lokodo, who is a member of President Yoweri Museveni’s government, “threatened to mobilize a mob to beat up anyone who shows up for it.” Opiyo said that Lokodo also “threatened a huge police operation.”

“We thought it is safe to suspend all events and engage the state next week with a view of holding the events at a later date,” Opiyo told the Blade.

“We do not want to put anyone at the risk of a mob and police violence,” he added.

Police on Thursday arrested Frank Mugisha and Pepe Julian Onziema of Sexual Minorities Uganda, another LGBT advocacy group, and more than a dozen others who were attending a Uganda Pride beauty pageant at a nightclub in the Ugandan capital of Kampala. Activists with whom the Blade spoke said that officers beat and even sexually assaulted people they took into custody.

Reports also indicate that a person who jumped from the sixth floor of the nightclub during the raid remains in critical condition at a Kampala hospital.

“What happened on the night of Thursday already left many people hurt and nursing injuries,” Opiya told the Blade.

U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac on Friday criticized the conduct of the Ugandan police who raided the nightclub, which is across the street from the U.S. Embassy. National Security Advisor Susan Rice expressed concern in a tweet that included a picture of her with Mugisha.

Maria Sjödin, deputy executive director of OutRight Action International, a global LGBT advocacy group, urged the U.S. and other countries to hold the Ugandan government accountable for Thursday’s raid.

“Again and again, Ugandan authorities show that they have no regard for basic human rights of LGBTIQ people and that they will even violate the Ugandan constitution in order to stop LGBTIQ people from exercising those basic rights,” said Sjödin in a statement. “The assault on the community, and especially the physical violence against trans people is appalling.”

“The U.S. government and others with embassies in Kampala must continue to monitor the situation, their presence can make pride events safer and is a concrete way of supporting the targeted minority,” she added.

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