LGBT Ugandans and their supporters protest against President Museveni in London

Uganda’s President Museveni has faced fierce protests during his visit to London over his signing of the Anti-Homosexual Act in February.

On Wednesday night, the St James’ Court Hotel, where Museveni was speaking to Ugandan community and business leaders based in the UK, was besieged by LGBT Ugandans and their supporters in a noisy protest with drums, vuvuzelas and chants.

They caused a constant background disruption to the President’s speech. The protest was organised by the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, with the support of STOPAIDS, the RMT union and the Peter Tatchell Foundation

The groups slammed the Britiish government for backing and supporting Museveni’s trip to London to attend the UK-Uganda Business Forum.

They said that the Foreign Office’s “collaboration” with the Ugandan government and its support for the UK-Uganda Business Forum calls into question Prime Minister David Cameron’s commitment to tackling rising homophobia in Uganda and across Africa.

“It is hypocritical for the UK government to claim to be promoting LGBTI rights internationally and at the same time rolling out the red carpet for regimes like Uganda that persecute gay people,” said Edwin Sesange, the Ugandan Director of the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group.

Veteran activist Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, commented: “It is two-faced for the UK government to condemn homophobia while hosting President Museveni, whose government has legislated one of the world’s most draconian anti-gay laws.

“Museveni is a tyrant who presides over a corrupt regime that is guilty of widespread human rights violations, including the arrest of opposition leaders, torture and the suppression of free speech. The UK government should not be drumming up business to sustain his autocratic rule. ”

Tatchell noted that while new HIV infections are declining in most African countries, Uganda is bucking the trend, with a rising epidemic.

Ben Simms, Director of STOPAIDS, said that the anti-gay law “has put at risk the lives of LGBT Ugandans and an effective AIDS response.”

He added that, “it is shameful that the Foreign Office has given the Ugandan government the red carpet treatment, with ministers speaking on the same platform as Museveni. It seems British business interests have trumped the human rights of Ugandans. We are left wondering what Hague’s strategy for tackling homophobia really is.”

After Museveni signed the law there were moves to block international financial support to Uganda, but these appear to be fading away. The Anti-Homosexuality Act punishes any form of same-sex contact – even mere kissing and caressing – with mandatory life imprisonment.

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