Everything seemed uncertain on the morning of 24th September 2016 but there was still excitement in the air. People turned up at the pick up venue; their rainbow flags, colourful attires, wigs and makeup carefully tacked away in bags to avoid attracting the attention of the public.
The buses set off and the transformations began- if ever you have not seen flamboyance and beauty all wrapped into one package- then you should see Uganda’s LGBTI community at play. However, by the time they arrived in Entebbe, Police was already at the selected venue and had ordered the organizers to take down the decor and vacate the premises.
Quick on their feet, the committee hatched a plan B and we set off for another rendezvous. Highlighting from the buses, it was clear the community members were all set for a day of fun! Again, the police arrived shortly and the tension was obvious amongest the Pride celebrants.
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, furious and bitter that the Police continued to pursue and violate the rights of people that had committed no offence, asked the organisers to keep the crowd calm and go about the day as earlier planned. Drinks were served and the partying began amidst confusion and fear. The Police realizing they were being beaten at their own game, demanded that the partiers leave the second venue as well. They forced them to get back onto the buses and escorted them all the way to Lweza in a convoy. This did not dampen their spirits; they sang and danced and continuously chanted,”stop abusing our rights, we have done no wrong!”
Back at the beach, Kasha and a few colleagues decided they would not leave until the police, who claimed they were operating on the orders of the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, stated why they were being forced to leave a public space. The Police, some unsure why they were even per-taking in the operation, did not have any answers as Kasha repeatedly reminded them that no crimes were being committed and nobody needed permission to go to a beach or public place.
The armed officers surrounded the group of less than ten (clearly for intimidation purposes) but the small group was not phased. Another truck full of armed officers arrived and ordered that Kasha and colleagues leave but still they stood their ground.
An officer (who seemed to be in charge of the operation) asked Kasha to leave lest he has her car towed and true to his word, a tow truck arrived shortly and in a matter of minutes, Kasha’s car was on its way to the police station.
Now stranded with no means to leave, the group decided it would still stay at the beach and figure out how to leave when the time came. The police was now getting agitated at the group for showing no intentions to leave; they pulled out their batons and threatened to beat them up. It was then jointly agreed that the group could go to the entrance of the venue and wait for the ‘rescue’ vehicles.
It was at this point that Tina, one of the people that had stayed defiant attempted to pick her property but was slapped and pushed by an officer. Astonished at the quick turn of events, the group went into a frenzy and the emotions that had been held in all day came pouring out. Tears flowed, tempers flared, people broke down. It was a moment that suddenly made us all realize that the struggle for equality in Uganda is far from over. In fact, the day’s incidents proved that a lot still needed to be done.
Out of options, it was decided that everyone that had come out to be apart of Pride should meet up in a central place for the festival to go ahead. After the actions by the police in Entebbe it was a breath of fresh air as members of the Ugandan LGBTI community danced , and partied the night away in Kampala.
A few remarks were made with Najib from the national LGBTI security team encouraging the community to always be proud of who they are and emphasized that Lokodo holds no authority to dictate over one’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Kasha- the Pride Uganda founder thanked the community for standing up to Father Lokodo’s intimidation. She said the movement had made history by defiantly showing up for the parade and being each other’s keepers.
Moses Mulindwa the Deputy Executive Director for Spectrum Uganda was the Grand marshal, standing in for Rev. Jide Macaulay of House of Rainbow. The Pride attendees were entertained by TUK band and danced till the wee hours of the morning.
The Ugandan LGBTI community would like to thank the partners from across the globe for standing with us and encouraging us on. Special gratitude to the people and organisations that contributed to make Pride a reality, the organizing committee for steadfastly steering the festival on amidst all the challenges. Very special gratitude to Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) for their legal aid and advice during the raid and retraction of the towed vehicle.
Until 2017, we remain steadfast, resilient, proud and strong!!!