FEMA UGANDA Basketball Tournament Goes On Despite Evident Sabotage Attempts

Supported by the American Embassy Small Grants, FEM Alliance Uganda (FEMA) Uganda held a basketball tournament on 23rd March 2019 focusing on advocacy for the inclusion of all persons without any form of discrimination.  The event which was themed "FEMA Battle for Inclusivity” was held at the Makerere University Business School in Nakawa.

Shortly before the start of the tournament, the organisers were confronted by basketball authorities who instructed them to cancel the event with immediate effect as it had been organized by an organization affiliated to the LGBTQ+ movement.

The Federation for Ugandan Basketball Association (FUBA) on realizing that the chief event organizer Jay Mulucha was an out transman quickly called for the halting of the tournament.  Mulucha who is also the Executive Director of FEMA expressed his disappointed and shared with our reporter what had led to this quick turn of events. “Once they got to know that I was in charge this tournament, they started to sabotage it. They didn't even reach out to inquire what the event was about or its importance. Instead, they just made everything difficult to stop the tournament from taking place- they refused us all access to any basketball court and I was denied space at Lugogo and YMCA. It's just now after this last minute incident that I realise why there have been many complications in finding a venue for this tournament. All these blockages were because I was in charge of the tournament," the clearly saddened FEMA ED shared.

A day before the tournament, managers and coaches of the different teams that had confirmed their participated prior sent messages to their captains to caution the players not to take any part in the event. Their argument being that the tournament aimed at promoting the agenda of recruiting the players into homosexuality! which was an error of miscommunication on their part.  Some of the received texts that Mulucha shared with Kuchu Times, clearly stated that the respective teams don't support "gay activities".

Some of the texts that were received barring players from participating in the tournament

However, a few players still turned up for the event, and left with no choice, the organisers decided to proceed with the tournament despite the low turnout of both fans and players.

"It has really hurt me that this event has been sabotaged with no good reason but rather false information. But I am happy that few basketball players have stood with me, some of whom play for the national team. They came out and showed their solidarity and we will kickoff with those available whether we are one or two teams," the determined Mulucha told our reporter.

Sylvester, the Communications, Advocacy and Networking Officer at Tranz Network and a player on the national basketball team also shared his disappointment in the turn of events. "If we don't speak about these injustices as activists looking for gender equality and zero discrimination in the sports industry, then we will be wrong. Participating or attending an event no matter who organized it wouldn't change your sexuality or identity. We should discourage discrimination and stigma targeted at certain marginalized groups of people. We should speak about it because the more we keep silent about the things that oppress us and infringe on our rights, the more such violations will continue and people will find it normal. 100% I stand for human rights for all in sports, health, places of work and all other areas of our society."

The tournament officially kicked off after midday with empty seaters as a few spectators watched from a distance from the court. Out of the 8 teams that were formed prior to D-Day, only 4 mixed gendered teams played. These included Stormers, Hawks, Lynn and KD. Team Lynn took home the win after beating  KD 29:30.

Hannington Ssebulime, the Welfare Officer at SMUG and a participant in the tournament said, “The games have been successful and fun-filled despite everything that was done to jeopardize it. The intent to go through with it was to make them realize that we are the same people as they are. We have mingled with those who are not even LGBT so that they can understand us. They shouldn't fear us, thinking that we are not like them. We need to sensitize the public more, so that they don't abandon our activities simply because of who we are."