Terror in Uganda: Mass Arrests, More Coming

The Ugandan government has launched a major drive to arrest and jail all LGBTI activists in the country. Police sources say the crackdown will target LGBTI nationwide and run until the New Year. This is only the beginning. If you can spare some dollars to help during this crisis, please, click here to donate.

It is now clear that the crackdown has been in preparation for some time. Although it was not understood at the time, the first hint came began with a seemingly innocent request To GEHO Uganda, run by Andrew Waiswa, in the country’s second largest city of Jinja.

This coming Wednesday and Thursday, GEHO will be training 25 Police Officers on how to process cases of transgender men and women. This was on request of the police, though it was their own initiative.

Followed by a seemingly friendly visit from the local police commander.

6 November

The OC (officer in Charge) of Jinja Police Station visited GEHO this afternoon as I was coming from the Magistrate’s court, unlike the previous visits this time round he came with a message of love. He meet 3 staff members and 5 volunteers, and he also asked some of the clients who were in the resource center to join us in this surprise meeting. He asked us to stop blaming and “attacking” the police for their failure to protect us every now and then. He said homophobia is deeply rooted in the general public, unless we work on eduacting people the struggle is going to be even harder. Though he refused to shake hands with any of us, he gave us his direct mobile cel phone number for any emergency. He acknowledged the fact that people can be direct biologically, gender, orientation and beliefs, he thanked GEHO for the training of the 25 police officers on how to process transgender persons. He asked us to work in a way which won’t put our selves in danger. He hinted on possible ways on how to work in a hostile environment.

But things soon took a turn for the worst

Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights, Constitutional Law and Spectrum Uganda


For Immediate Release

Thursday 14.11.2013

Kampala, Uganda

Mr. Samuel K Ganafa, The Executive Director of Spectrum Uganda Initiatives and Board Chairperson of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was arrested on Tuesday November 12, 2013. He had reported to Kasangati Police Station on the outskirts of Kampala pursuant to a phone call from the District Police Commander Chemonges Seiko asking him to report to the said station.

Upon reporting to the station he was immediately handcuffed by a police officer. Without show a warrant of arrest he was forced onto a police pickup truck and taken twice to his residence, which was searched. The search was conducted without a search warrant. During the unwarranted search three houseguests of Mr. Ganafa, namely Joseph Kayizi, Kasali Brian and Michael Katongole were also arrested and taken to the police for questioning as well. His nephew Brian Kasirye who had rushed to the police station to check on him was also detained.

Later the police subjected Mr. Ganafa to an HIV test without a court order or his consent.

Yesterday Wednesday 13th November, we received news that a one Disan Twesiga was the complainant. Disan alleges that Sam infected him with HIV and that there is more information in Mr. Ganafa’s reading room prompting another search of the residence. The police took him along for all the three times they searched.

As of today November 14th the complainant Disan Twesiga has held a press conference with all media houses at Kasangati Police Station. The police paraded Mr. Ganafa before the media during a press conference. This is despite the fact that he has not been found guilty by a court and is thus presumed innocent under the law. By close of business today, all the five suspects remain in custody without being officially charged and without being brought before court despite the expiry of the constitutionally warranted 48 hours.

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Spectrum Uganda, Civil society coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law are closely following the case, and have instructed lawyers to represent all the accused. An application for the release of the detainees has been filed and is pending hearing as there was no Magistrate to hear it today.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, Spectrum Uganda Initiatives and Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law strongly condemn the manner in which Mr. Ganafa was arrested and the manner in which the searches were conducted, his humiliating display before the press, as well as the violation of the 48 hour rule for producing a suspect before court.

We also call upon the Ugandan Police to release Mr. Ganafa and the four other arrested persons or immediately produce them before a court of law, and we urge them to respect the basic rights of the suspects.

It is worth noting that this is not an isolated case, but it is one of a series of documented arrests targeted against the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons in Uganda. We therefore call upon the police to STOP the continued intimidation of the entire LGBTI community and the legal representatives of the detained persons.

The situation continues to deteriorate, as Andrew Waiswa has been documenting on the GEHO Facebook page. Widespread panic among Ugandan Kuchus (LGBTI) forced the closure of the safe houses run by GEHO for those trying to avoid arrest, as they became overwhelmed by the numbers of people seeking help.  If you can spare some dollars to help during this crisis, please, click here to donate.

Andrew’s posts vividly illustrate the horror of what is unfolding, as well as his personal courage:

15 November

The baseless claims on which Sam Ganafa was badly treated, beaten and abused have not yielded any positive results. The staged complainant had claimed that Sam infected him with HIV/AIDS, the medical results show that Sam is HIV/AIDS nonreactive (negative results) This is how we the LGBTq are denied justice yet already judged by the public, hated by many. More people are being secretly arrested. I will keep u all posted.

In today’s crisis meeting!! With no more options left for GEHO and the safehouses, i regret to inform you that, though its so unfortunate, the safehouse program is going to be shut down, unless a miracle happens. This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my entire life. We have suffered the hardest logistical nightmare, which has threatened our existence. The number of those in need of a safe space skyrocketed from 38 to 74 in just days. I know this decision puts many LGBTq in real danger, some might be stoned or killed but we have no any other option to deal with this crisis. Thanks to all who have stood with us all this time.

13 hours ago

As the crack down on LGBTq persons and Organizations gains more strengths country wide. I have decided to seek a meeting with Jinja Police Chief. The appointment has been set, we are having a closed meeting at 4:30 EAT. Its 30mns meeting. If am arrested and detained, it means I won’t be able to communicate or update you, so if you don’t see a status update at 6:00PM EAT, please know there is a problem and contact GEHO’s Administrator – Sowedi on 0752951450 ..Aluta Continua!

8 hours ago

Am just coming back from Jinja Central Police Station. I got lucky again, I wasn’t arrested/detained. The meeting didn’t yield any good news, the police Chief was so open with me, “Andrew you know we are just enforcing the law, its clear in the penal code that homosexuality is illegal, as long as its still criminalized in the law of the land, there is little I can do” with a sorry face he was like, Mr. Waiswa I can’t do nothing but I can assure of justice for anybody arrested. He/she will be produced in court” I asked him why they asked GEHO for the training of Officers on processing trans men/women cases, he answered “so they can get justice once the arrests begin” I found the last statement a little too rude.

5 hours ago

On Saturday 16th November 2013, Arafat, Joseph and Brian- the three men who were taken from Sam’s house forcefully were released on police bond. They are set to appear in court on Wednesday 20th November to face charges under section 145 of the penal code which carry a life imprisonment sentence.

Monday 18th November 2013

We had reported that Sam was to appear in court today. He was delivered to court this afternoon but unfortunately, the magistrate who only comes to court on Monday’s had over 20 cases to preside over and therefore by the time he was produced, it was 6 pm. The magistrate therefore preferred to hear the bail application on Monday next week.

Sam has therefore unfortunately been remanded to Luzira maximum prison until 25th November 2013 as the magistrate felt that this case was a capital offence. We had hoped for his release today but once again the court system has failed us.

The peril in which all Ugandan LGBTIs now stand is acute: the Australian government is, of course, mute on the issue.  If you can spare some dollars to help during this crisis, please, click here to donate.


From Spectrum Uganda:

Nov. 15

At around 2:15 pm, Mr. Sam Ganafa was brought from the police station to court to answer to the charges laid against him. His file was summoned and produced before the Magistrate Grade One by the police investigation officer and sanctioned by the office of the resident State Attorney.


Sam was meant to appear before a chief Magistrate who has jurisdiction to hear and determine his case. Since the Kasangati Court does not have a Chief Magistrate, Sam was produced before a Magistrate Grade One, who does not have jurisdiction to hear the case neither to take plea for the offence for which Sam was charged- Sec 145 of the Penal Code. An offence which is punishable by life imprisonment. The Magistrate then remanded Sam to Kasangati remand prison until Monday November 18, 2013 Sam is expected to appear before the chief Magistrate’s court at Nabweru on the said date.

This is the first time when Sam is brought to court ever since he was arrested on the November 12, 2013. He interacted briefly with the people around the station before he was taken to the Prison. Both lawyers were allowed to escort him in presence of a person officer and a police officer.

The police then opened a General Enquiry (GE) file for the rest of the three  suspects who were found at Sam’s residence since there is no particular complaint against them. The file was not ready, therefore the 3 were not produced before court and the police refused to release them on bond.

The Investigations Officer [IO] said that the suspects will have to be tested for HIV to prove whether or not they have had any sexual intercourse with the prime suspect (Sam). And so since this was not done, the suspects are still in police custody. The IO also said that one of the evidences got from the house of Sam was a sex tape, were the suspects were visible, though not with Sam, and so they would like to have the HIV tests to prove that it was not Sam.

One of the suspects Brian Kasali was charged with Assault was arraigned in court to take pleas and he too was remanded to Kasangati remand prison.

Present during court were the lawyers, paralegals, sureties and SMUG staff.

The team left the court premises at around 4:20pm after an assurance from the court that the file of the other suspects was not in court and therefore they will not be produced in court.

We return today Saturday with sureties for the possible release of the 3 in police custody.

From Sexual Minorities Uganda:

Nov. 16

On Saturday 16th November 2013, Michael, Joseph and Brian- the three men who were taken from Sam’s house forcefully were released on police bond. They also charged with “unnatural offences” as in Section 145 of the Penal Code which carries a life imprisonment sentence if found guilty. They are set to appear in court on Wednesday November 20th, 2013

Nov. 18

Mr. Ganafa appeared in Kasangati Grade 2 court where his case was transferred to the Chief Magistrate in Nabweru Magistrates Court. He was delivered to court this afternoon after lengthy procedures. Unfortunately, the Chief Magistrate who only comes to court on Mondays had over 20 cases to preside over today. Therefore by the time he was produced, it was 17:48Hrs. The magistrate therefore preferred to hear the bail application on Monday next week.

This being a capital offence, Mr. Ganafa had to be remanded to Luzira maximum prison until November 25th, 2013.

Ugandan activist denied bail; potential life sentence

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Colin Stewart

Anti-gay Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper reported Sam Ganafa’s arrest under the headline “Telecom boss in sodomy scandal.”

Ugandan police have released three suspects arrested in connection with an anti-gay raid last week on the home of LGBT rights activist Sam K. Ganafa, but Ganafa himself remains in jail.

All four are charged with “unnatural offenses,” which are punishable by as much as a life sentence.

Ganafa is executive director of Spectrum Uganda Initiatives, which has used his home as its office for the past eight years. He is also a telecommunications company executive and board chair for the Sexual Minorities Uganda coalition.

Activists said Ganafa has opened his home to many homeless LGBTI persons over the years and that one of them recently turned on him and filed a complaint against him to police.

The three men were released on police bond until a court appearance scheduled for Nov. 20. Ganafa’s request for bail was postponed by a magistrate who said he was too busy to deal with the request until he returns to court next Monday, Nov. 25.

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)