Leading Ugandan Activist Beaten, Hospitalised


One of the public meetings whipping up antigay sentiment, fuelled and financed by US evangelists

One of the public meetings whipping up antigay sentiment, fuelled and financed by US evangelists

As I reported previously, Andrew Waiswa of GEHO Uganda was to have been interviewed on Rainbow Radio. But things didn’t go quite to plan. Andrew received a beating that has left him hospitalised for the past three weeks and he has not been able to access the net.

Here’s the message I received from Jeff Gill of Rainbow Radio



I recently conducted a live interview on Rainbow Radio with Andrew Waiswa from Gender Equality and Health Organisation (GEHO) in Uganda. Andrew had obtained residency in Canada but voluntarily surrendered his security and freedom there to return to Uganda in order to help his fellow GLBTI citizens who suffer under a homophobic government The interview was not as successful as we would have liked but, fortunately, Andrew and I had prepared a questions and answer format in writing. Andrew’s answers are hair raising and I am forwarding a copy of what we prepared in the hope that you, or someone connected with you, can use his words to highlight the plight of Ugandan gays to Australians and how Australians can assist Andrew in his heroic work. Please feel free to forward this to anyone and everyone whom you feel would be interested in it in any way.

Many Thanks, Jeff Gill

(Details of how you can help are at the bottom of this post)

Q1. What is behind the current persecution of gays? Religion? Personal views of ruling party?

A. Whatever – The government of Uganda uses this persecution to divert the public from other issues pressing the country like corruption, dictatorship, long stay in power, poor health, education etc.

Q2. Most Australians only became aware of the persecution a few years ago when the Government first proposed the death penalty for gays.Does it go back a lot further?

A. Oh yes! It has been around for years and the government is directly involved in sponsoring homophobia and the politicians are engaged in hate campaigns.

Q3. Is the general population homophobic? Do most people support the persecution?

A. It depends on the age groups, most Ugandans born after 1995 are not as homophobic as those born before 1995. But most catholics and muslims, young or old are so homophobic  

NOTE: about 42% Ugandans are Catholic: 36% Anglican and 12% Islam 10% Other

After the programme I asked Andrew why people born after 1995 are less homophobic but, unfortunately, it was about then that Andrew received the beating that has left him hospitalised for the past three weeks and he has not been able to access his email account. 1995 is a very specific date and people born since then are very young!

Q4. Before European colonisation and the introduction of Christianity was gay sex accepted? Was it even an issue?

A. It wasn’t an issue at all, in fact King Mwanga (1884 – 1888: 1889 – 1897) had a male harem which was not thought to be unusual.

Q5. Uganda claims to be a presidential democracy but Yoweri Museveni came to power in a coup in 1986 and has been president ever since. Are free and fair elections held?

A. Never in the history of Uganda has a free and fair election been held, democracy doesn’t mean being a president for life but that is what is happening in Uganda today

Q6. Uganda consists of many people from different ethnic groups. Does the attitude towards gays vary between one ethnic group and another?

A. Not really, its all hate from all ethnic groups

Q7. Do most people consider themselves to be Ugandans first or members of their own ethnic group first? What is your own ethnic group?

A. Most people consider their ethnic group first, most Ugandans are not nationalistic. I am a Musoga, that’s my ethnic group

NOTE: There are about 2.5 million Busoga people and they comprise about 8.4% of the total Ugandan population. The word Musoga is the “singular” of Busoga.

The predominant religion there is Protestant and most correspondence I have received from Andrew and other members of GEHO has ended with “Blessings” or “God be with you”

Q8. Can you describe your motivation when you decided to sacrifice your personal security in sanctuary in Canada to return to a highly insecure future in Uganda?

A. I have been a frontline human rights defender for the last 11 years and 8 months, over the years I have sacrificed almost everything from family to personal life, so staying in Canada having a blast when all what defines me (fighting for the gay rights) was being abused in Uganda was like am losing focus.

Q9. You appear to be in negotiations with government authorities and police. How much negotiating power do you have?

A. Its not working out, so much double standards from the police side, but we keep on pushing

Q10. Do you and other gays that you know live in a state of almost perpetual fear?

A. Yes! And several gays live in hiding. Personally I can’t go into hiding because am a frontliner and am known to Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, so I have some cover. At least the police can’t easily direct attacks on me, but for just the normal gay, they suffer a lot

Q11. Is anti gay violence taking place on the streets or are gays rounded up and the atrocities taking place behind closed doors? (it is almost impossible for most Australians to comprehend what this must be like)

A. The anti gay violence is on the streets, shopping malls, stores,schools, hospitals, night clubs etc. You will see it in illegal arrests, gang attacks and stabbing

Q12. You have established G.E.H.O – Gender Equality and Health Organisation – in Uganda with a vision of “A just society where LGBTI community access total health and enjoy their human rights”. This is a great vision but because of the political situation in Uganda it can only be a long term ambition. In the meantime G.E.H.O has to spend a lot of its resources on providing safe houses which are the only refuge for gay people who are trying to escape persecution. How do these safe houses work?

A. Well, as you might be already aware, GEHO runs 3 safe houses for gays at risk, those living in fear and hiding. Most of the gays in these safe houses are either being hunted by the police, been outed and the public can easily stone them on the streets, chased away from their families or chased by the employers or landlords. These houses are secret houses with maximum security. These houses were meant for 38 people but the recent crack down on gay persons and groups have caused a lot of problems in the community and the number has grown from 38 to 74 persons. This is a big challenge and a strain to GEHO with her small resources, as you might be aware GEHO entirely depends on handouts and will of friends, well wishers and volunteers. So if you think Australia might be interested in helping our cause not only by signing petitions or liking our fb status updates, you can ask them to make a love gift as a way of standing with us in solidarity.

Secure online donation link

You can share widely, who knows where help can come from. GEHO is a registered Organization, we have sound financial policies in place, and we carry out an external audit. Every dollar donated is properly accounted for with backing and supporting documents. For everybody who donates, gets receipt and recognition for it. There is a list of referees available to recommend our work.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)