In defiance of the recent cancellation of Pride Uganda, activists and members of the country’s LGBT community held a secret celebration asserting their identity and rights.
The event took place just over a week ago and was hosted by Rainbow Riots, a network founded by Swedish artist and activist Petter Wallenberg that aims to fight injustice and violence against LGBTQ people
“After a sad week where the Ugandan police and authorities stopped Pride Uganda and terrorized LGBTQ people we decided to organize a secret Rainbow Riots Pride party in Kampala. It was a risky thing to do, so security was tight to make sure the address didn’t get into the wrong hands.” explained the group.
“We gathered all our fantastic Ugandan Rainbow Riots team members, the Pride Uganda Pride committee and international guests at a secret venue and danced the whole night through.
“In spite of all the sadness and danger, our Pride party was full of joy and defiance and ended this challenging week on a triumphant note,” said Rainbow Riots.
The organisers of Pride Uganda cancelled the event on 17 August after being faced with threats of arrest and violence from the police and the homophobic Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo.
On the morning of the planned opening gala event, the venue was surrounded by police. Attempts to negotiate with the authorities failed and officers were also deployed to the festival’s other venues.
In a statement, the organisers said they made the decision with “heavy hearts and deep-felt sadness” but explained they could not “put the lives of so many innocent people at risk”.
Last year’s Uganda Pride event descended into chaos when police raided the Mr, Ms and Mx Pride pageant. They arrested and beat participants, leading to the hospitalisation of one victim who threw themselves out of a fourth floor window while fleeing.
“It’s true I ordered the police to stop and shut down all the gay Pride events. No gay gathering and promotion can be allowed in Uganda. We can’t tolerate it at all,” Lokodo told The Guardian.
“We know they are trying to recruit and promote homosexuality secretly. But it’s worse to attempt to stand and exhibit it in public arena. This is totally unacceptable. Never in Uganda,” he railed.
Pride organisers have dismissed Lokodo’s absurd claims: “We were all born this way, we have no choice over who we love or how we identify therefore it is impossible to recruit anybody or change their attraction to whoever they’re sexually or romantically attracted to.”
In June, Rainbow Riots released an album of protest music featuring queer artists from Uganda, Malawi, South Africa and Jamaica – some of the most dangerous countries in the world for LGBTQ people.