Uganda: Pride Uganda has been crushed. Please don’t look away op-ed

Frank Mugisha is director of Sexual Minorities Uganda

Since 2012 we have celebrated Pride in Uganda. Our Pride is very different to the Pride parades in London or New York. Rather than hundreds of thousands, we have a few hundred LGBT Ugandans, and our friends who sympathise with our struggle, attending our event. We usually keep away from big public crowds and public places to avoid confrontations.

The Ugandan authorities have consistently refused to acknowledge Pride Uganda, and they have always misrepresented it: in 2012, for example, our Pride was raided by the police on the grounds that we were holding a “gay wedding”. In the next few years we held more low-profile events without problems – but last year our Pride week was cut short when police raided one of our events. I and my colleagues were brutally arrested and detained.

This year we told the police about our intention to hold Pride, although we do not necessarily need permission. The police were evasive about granting permission. We wanted to ensure a peaceful Pride week, but even more we wanted an honest, open event that wouldn’t be misrepresented by the government. We even held a meeting with Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, Simon Lokodo, to try to explain why Pride was so important to us.

And it really is. It gives LGBT people a moment of happiness and peace denied us the rest of the year. It offers a reprieve from lives spent hiding and avoiding suspicion, a chance for people to be themselves and celebrate each other.

But Pride 2017 was crushed. Our efforts to engage with the state fell on deaf ears. Lokodo threatened us with arrest, even violence, and the police were reportedly ready to surround the venues we had booked. The event was meant to begin last week, on 16 August. But we were left with no choice but to cancel. Our community is still traumatised by the arrests and detentions that took place last year. We couldn’t risk a repeat. Read more via the Guardian