A moment of indulgence, please.    

Close your eyes. Inhale deeply. Get into a headspace where you can envision an alternate reality.  

Now, transport yourself to any city representative of the four statistical regions of the United States, which are the Northeast, the Midwest, the South, and the West.  Why not select either Washington, D.C.; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; or San Francisco, California. 

You’re an LGBTQ+ individual who’s a consenting adult. On one starry, summer’s night—fortunately, one that’s only a tad bit humid–you and your intimate partner are engaging in some overheated sexual activity in your home. 

Unfortunately, though, a monkey wrench is thrown into your pursuit of pleasure! You see, a snoop rats the both of you out to the authorities.  

The cops!

Then, without warning, those men in blue burst in! These intruders invade your privacy in the worst way.  Immediately, you and your partner are discombobulated and demoralized! 

Shell-shocked. Utterly horrified! 

Next, these so-called “officers of the law” arrest you, dragging you away in handcuffs. 

And at the police station, your real nightmare begins.

Now, STOP! It’s time to quickly exit this alternate reality. You can breathe sighs of relief because that hellish scenario does not and would not happen in any part of the United States of America.  

However, similar incidents are indeed real and aren’t some pulse-pounding and petrifying movie screenplay. These occurrences are playing out in another country.

The Republic of Uganda, for instance. 

This past May 29, President Yoweri Museveni of that East African nation signed into law one of the most egregious and heinous pieces of legislation to date: the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023. According to Wikipedia, the edict “is an act of the Parliament of Uganda that restricts freedom of speech on LGBT civil rights and introduces harsher penalties for certain types of homosexual acts.  The Act prescribes life imprisonment for sex between two people of the same biological sex and the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’. The latter offense includes ‘serial offenders’, same-sex rape, sex in a position of authority or procured by intimidation, sex with persons older than seventy-five, sex with the disabled and mentally ill, and homosexual acts committed by a person with a previous conviction of homosexuality. Further, under its provisions, the promotion (including normalization) of homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years and fines.”       

The rest of the world has not gone radio silent and is pushing back. The act has been condemned by the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the European Union, and Canada–as well as several local and international Non-governmental organizations (NGO; a nonprofit entity that operates independently of any government and is typically one whose purpose is to address a social or political issue.) 

]The U.S. has dropped the hammer further by suspending Uganda from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) effective January 1, 2024, due to that nation’s violation of human rights.  President Joe Biden has stated, “The Government of Uganda has engaged in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” According to the White House, despite “intensive engagement” between America and Uganda, it has failed to address United States concerns about its non-compliance with the AGOA eligibility criteria. A cornerstone of American trade policy toward sub-Saharan Africa since 2000, the AGOA is a nonreciprocal U.S. trade preference program that provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for most exports from eligible sub-Saharan African countries.

According to the Nbcnews.com article, “World Bank to Implement LGBTQ Safeguards Before New Uganda Funding Resumes,” the international banking organization will aim to ensure Gay and transgender Ugandans are not discriminated against in its programs before resuming new funding, which was suspended in August due to the new law.  As stated by the news site, “The World Bank’s portfolio of projects in the East African country was $5.2 billion at the end of 2022. These have not been affected by the decision to suspend new financing.”

Precursors to the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023

Even before the new law, same-sex relations were already illegal in Uganda–as well as in more than 30 other African countries.  Let’s examine previous legislation that has formed the backbone, the foundation, of this year’s shockingly repressive act:

  • Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014.  The Ugandan Parliament passed an act prohibiting sexual relations between individuals of the same sex in December 2013. The Western mainstream media called the act the “Kill the Gays” bill due to the death penalty clauses proposed in the original version; however, the penalty was later amended to life imprisonment. On February 24, President Museveni signed the bill into law.  But on August 1, Uganda’s constitutional court ruled the act invalid on procedural grounds.
  • Sexual Offences Bill of 2021.  The Ugandan Parliament, in May 2021, passed a bill that consolidated several previous laws regarding sexual offenses, introduced some provisions toward addressing sexual violence, and criminalized same-sex relationships. However, on August 18, Museveni vetoed the bill, suggesting that much of its content was already covered by existing legislation. 

What’s so appalling and disquieting is that the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 goes much further, making it one of the world’s toughest bans. According to the media site www.monitor.co.ug, which reports news from Uganda, Africa, and around the world, “Since the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in May 2023, police have heightened efforts to apprehend suspects on allegations of engaging in unnatural practices of homosexuality acts. This publication has established that over 12 suspects have so far been arrested and arraigned before the court between June and October 2023 on charges of engaging or promoting homosexual behaviours.”

A Shining Light Cutting Through the Darkness

Ugandans are fighting back, however. Recently, I conducted an exclusive interview with Gay/SGL (Same-gender-loving) activist Kiggundu Ronald Reagan, the co-founder of Liberty for Marginalized Persons Uganda, which is a think tank aimed at defending and promoting human rights.  In the interview, he discussed his journey as a Gay/SGL man, the state of LGBTQ+ Ugandans, and how his organization is making a difference. As you’ll see, Mr. Reagan’s responses are thoughtful and well-researched.  And as you’ll discover, Mr. Reagan is resolute, committed–and inspiring.

Wyatt:  Kiggundu, thanks so much for sitting down with Wyattevans.com.

Kiggundu:  It’s my pleasure. I cannot thank you enough for having me.

Wyatt: First, please give us a mini geography lesson.  Precisely where is Uganda located, and what countries border it?

Kiggundu: Uganda is a land-connected country located in the Eastern part of Africa.  It is bordered by South Sudan in the North, Kenya in the East, the Democratic Republic of Congo in the West, Tanzania in the South, and Rwanda in the Southwest.

Wyatt:  What part of Uganda were you born and raised?

Kiggundu:  I was raised in Mityana District in the central part of Uganda, 67km from Kampala City (the capital of Uganda). 

Wyatt: Kiggundu, what were you like as a child?

Kiggundu: Resilient, tolerant, and committed to work.

Wyatt: Describe your coming out process.  When did you first realize that you were Gay/SGL?  Being that Uganda is extremely homophobic, how difficult was it for you to reconcile yourself with your sexual orientation and then navigate it?

Kiggundu: Raised in a strict catholic family, I realized that I was same-gender loving at the age of 12; at that time, I was having same-sex crushes just like my heterosexual peers were having opposite-sex crushes. Extremely unique, I had specific qualities and characteristics that set me apart from my fellow boys. 

Kiggundu: As a result, for example, I was badly beaten and sustained injuries all over my body.  I was admitted to a private clinic and slowly recovered, with my mother covering the medical bill.

Kiggundu: I healed emotionally and mentally because of the support I received from my mother. She made me realize that I had nothing to hide or be ashamed of.

Kiggundu:  When I was 16, my teachers reported me to my father (who passed away earlier this year), who reacted by forcing me out of the house and chasing me away. 

Kiggundu: Therefore, I had nothing to hide and came out. Like any other Gay child, I faced stigma, discrimination, and name-calling, but I would lean on my mother, tolerance, and resilience to negotiate the difficulties.

Wyatt: It’s so hard for me to wrap my head around your father’s rejection. Kiggundu, what happened next? Where did you go? How did you cope emotionally, mentally, and physically? How did you survive this ordeal?

Kiggundu: I went to live with friends, but I was still communicating with my mother via her phone. During that time with friends, who were heterosexuals, I was mentally tortured and resorted to drug abuse. And at one point, I thought that committing suicide was the solution. But after two months, my mother financed me to live with her mom, my grandmother.

Kiggundu: She also secretly paid the fees for my Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education and further sponsored me. My father vowed never to sponsor my education again. In 2018 I joined Kampala International University where I received a diploma in Clinical Medicine and Community Health.  My mother understood I needed support to be who I was, and she never fought that.

Wyatt: Kiggundu, what a loving and understanding mom you have!

Kiggundu: Absolutely! My mom loves me the way I am, and she is so proud of me.

Wyatt: Your father passed away earlier this year.  Before he died, did he make amends for the way he treated you? Were you able to forgive him?

Kiggundu: My mother had conversations with him. By the time he died, we were able to talk, and he was accepting of my sexual orientation.

Wyatt: Kiggundu, I’m elated that both of you were able to reconcile! Now, let’s dissect the dicey situation for LGBTQ+ Ugandans, and delve into your role as an activist. You’re the co-founder of Liberty for Marginalized Persons Uganda

Kiggundu: Yes. Established in June of this year, Liberty for Marginalized Persons Uganda addresses all forms of injustices against marginalized persons and communicates all forms of injustices towards LGBTQ Ugandans to the international community. Additionally, our organization promotes individual rights, property rights, entrepreneurship, free markets, and limited government through research, advocacy, and public interest litigations for the prosperity of all Ugandans.

Wyatt: You’re 24 years old, correct?  There are individuals twice your age who haven’t accomplished what you already have! What drives and compels you?

Kiggundu: I strongly believe that human beings must have an opportunity to be who they want and love the way they want. Being educated in human rights drives me to continue demanding respect for LGBTQ+ Rights. Human rights education promotes values, beliefs, and attitudes that encourage all individuals to uphold their own rights and those of others.

Wyatt: I see. Kiggundu, let’s deconstruct the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023. 

Kiggundu: Certainly. The Anti-homosexuality Law 2023 is an act of the parliament of Uganda that prohibits any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex, prohibits relations between persons of the same sex, restricts freedom of speech on LGBTQ+ issues, and introduces harsher penalties for homosexual acts.

Kiggundu: On February 28, 2023, The Parliament of Uganda granted leave to Bugiri Municipality Member of Parliament, the Hon. Asuman Basalirwa, to introduce a private member’s bill titled the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023.” On March 21, Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023. At least 389 Members of Parliament in person and about 55 followed the proceedings via Zoom. On April 20, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni sent the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 back to parliament. He asked Parliament to reconsider some provisions within the bill, which he said needed clarity before its assent. 

Kiggundu:  Then on May 2, the Parliament of Uganda passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 with amendments to five clauses following proposals made by President Museveni. On May 29, Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 into law after improvements to make it tougher for people engaging in same-sex relationships were adopted by the Parliament. 

Kiggundu: The object of the law is to establish comprehensive and enhanced legislation to traditions by:

  1. Prohibiting any form of sexual relations between persons of the same and promotion or recognition of sexual relations between persons of the same sex.
  2. Protecting the children and youth who are made vulnerable to sexual abuse through sexual homosexuality and related acts.
  3. Protecting the cherished culture of the people, legal, religious, and traditional family values of Ugandans against acts of sexual rights seeking to impose their sexual promise on the people of Uganda.
  4. Strengthening the nation’s capacity to deal with the emerging internal and external threats to traditional, heterosexual families.

Kiggundu: An attempt to conduct a same-sex marriage is punishable by a ten-year sentence, while the same punishment applies to anyone found guilty of conducting a marriage ceremony of same-sex couples. The legislation provides a death penalty for anyone committing aggravated homosexuality, and an act of homosexuality is prescribed by life imprisonment.

Kiggundu: The law further criminalizes landlords who rent premises to LGBTQ+ individuals.  If they knowingly fail to evict tenants who are engaging in encouraging homosexuality, they also face 20 years in prison. International hotel chains, whose policies prohibit discrimination, are liable under this article.

Kiggundu: This legislation provides a three-year juvenile sentence for a child convicted of homosexuality with a fellow child.

Kiggundu: The law also provides a Shs (shilling) 1 billion fine and revocation of the broadcasting license for ten years for those in the entertainment and news media who are found to have produced programs or content that promotes homosexuality; while a Shs 5 million fine to a publisher, editor, reporter or columnist who is found guilty of distributing materials that promote homosexuality.  (The Shs, or shilling, is the basic monetary unit in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, equal to 100 cents.)

Wyatt: This atrocious legislation is like an octopus, with its tentacles wrapped around and choking every aspect of the lives of LGBTQ+ Ugandans. 

Kiggundu: Correct. Since the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, there has been a rise in the number of attacks towards LGBTQ+ individuals, hence turning Uganda into a hostile environment for sexual minorities. Violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people have gone uninvestigated. This has created a climate of fear; as a result, sexual minorities flee their communities to go into hiding.

Kiggundu: Police have regularly arrested, abused, humiliated, and beaten people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The police further expose Gay men to forced anal examination to gather evidence to prove them guilty in courts of law.  

Kiggundu: Trans people are criminalized for impersonation and public indecency.  For example, on May 8, police arrested a 25-year-old Ugandan identified as Zainabu Muchunguzi for dressing as a woman. Muchunguzi was arrested after several people reported him to the authorities for allegedly walking in the image of a woman. As the police officers questioned him, he insisted that he was a woman. However, the officers were not convinced, and Muchunguzi was charged with cross-dressing.

Wyatt: Precisely what does the term “aggravated homosexuality” mean?

Kiggundu: The bill provides for the death penalty for anyone convicted of aggravated homosexuality. According to the bill, Aggravated Homosexuality is an act against the order of nature performed by an adult on a person under the age of 18 years. Besides pedophilia, aggravated homosexuality also includes nonconsensual same-sex with vulnerable people such as persons living with disabilities. The Bill further confirms Aggravated homosexuality when the elderly engage in same-sex relations while knowing that he/she is living with HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases and the use of drugs before, during, and after non-consensual same-sex.

Kiggundu: The legislation criminalizes the “promotion” of homosexuality with a 20-year sentence. Individuals who operate non-governmental organizations and development partners who fund health, education, and human rights in Uganda are personally criminally liable for not only “promoting” homosexuality but also “normalizing” the vice. The legislation prohibits anyone from encouraging homosexuality through “the use of a computer, information system, or internet.” The law further prohibits providing “in-kind” support for example distribution of lubricants or other products that benefit LGBTQ people.

Wyatt: In August, two men were arrested, facing separate charges of aggravated homosexuality. Can you provide details on these arrests?

Kiggundu: On August 22, Erisha Mukisa, 26, and Ramond Kitimbo, 21, were arraigned before the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate and Charged with engaging with two counts of homosexuality contrary to section 2(1)(2) of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. These are the two men who were arrested and are facing charges of aggravated homosexuality. Prosecutor Ivan Kyazze alleged that the suspect engaged in sexual acts between December 2022 and July 2023, yet they were of the same gender.  However, Erisha Mukisa and Ramond Kitimbo denied the charges and were remanded to prison. If the two men are convicted, they will face the death penalty.

Kiggundu: Also in August, on the 23rd, police arrested Kato Ivan over allegations of promoting homosexuality. The police were tipped off by Kato’s landlord after suspecting homosexual activities in his rental unit. According to Kato’s landlord, he severally invited male strangers to his house hence raising eye cows in the neighborhood leading to his arrest.  However, Kato denied engaging in acts of homosexuality when asked about the allegations but after a search in his house, LGBTQ+ authored books by “Kestrel Gainan,” a well-known Gay poet, author, and performer from the UK (United Kingdom) were discovered.

Wyatt: Kiggundu, I’m curious: does the act require that medical practitioners report the LGBTQ+ patients they treat?  

Kiggundu: Yes. The law requires that anyone who knows or has reasonable suspicion that a person has committed or intended to commit the offense of homosexuality report this information to the police. As a result, the legislation jeopardizes the integrity of the health care system that benefits all Ugandans. Therefore, medical practitioners must report patients they suspect to be LGBTQ+ or face prison time.

Kiggundu: Additionally, under the article of “duty to report acts of homosexuality,” parents must report their children, employees of humanitarian organizations or multinational corporations must report their workers, teachers must report their students, clergy members must report their parishioners, and refugee services must report LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.

Wyatt: It’s my understanding that Ugandan LGBTQ+ activists vow court challenges.  Your fellow activist Clare Byarugaba has stated, “The Ugandan president has today legalized state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia.” Do you agree?

Kiggundu: I totally agree with the reasoning of my fellow human rights defender that the Ugandan president used the Anti-Homosexuality 2023 to legalize hate, violence, discrimination, and sorts of activities that undermine the dignity and respect of LGBTQ+ persons.  Currently, violence against LGBTQ+ individuals has gone uninvestigated, establishing dangerous precedents of impunity from crimes against sexual minorities.

Wyatt: There’s been widespread condemnation from the West. President Biden called the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 “a tragic violation” of human rights, and said that Washington would evaluate the implications of the law “on all aspects of U.S. engagement with Uganda.” Further, he stated, “We are considering additional steps, including the application of sanctions and restriction of entry into the United States against anyone involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption.” 

Kiggundu, what actions do you believe the West can and should take to support the Ugandan LGBTQ+ community?

Kiggundu: Although it could be challenging to address the issue of U.S. evangelical influence in Uganda, The US has a variety of tools to pressure the Museveni regime to repeal the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.  For example, the Ugandan Government is one of the top beneficiaries of the United States military assistance in Africa. By withholding the funds that greatly support Uganda’s security system could be a greatly persuasive tool to repeal this draconian act.

Kiggundu: Although many activists prefer cutting off the aid that supports people living with HIV, I do not associate with their reasoning because I don’t advocate for the trade of LGBTQ+ rights against the rights of persons living with HIV. I do not call for any cuts in assistance to Uganda or reduction in aid programs like PEPFAR (The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) because 1.2 million innocent Ugandans living with HIV/AIDS will suffer because of the decisions taken by the homophobic legislators. 

Kiggundu: My humble appeal to the United States Government is to continue punishing individuals and their families who supported the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 through sanctions and those involved in other human rights violations. The U.S. Government should further heavily punish the corrupt Ugandan officials who steal funds meant for vulnerable persons.

Wyatt: Let’s discuss the U.S. evangelical influence in Uganda that you just touched on.  Uganda is a religiously conservative country. Is it true that anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes have hardened in recent years, due not insignificantly to the campaigns of Western evangelical church groups?

Kiggundu: It’s true; many Western evangelical groups saw Uganda as a fertile ground for the anti-LGBTQ+ ideology since Uganda is a highly religiously conservative country.  Reports show that from 2007 to 2020, over 20 evangelical groups spent at least USD 54 million in Africa to influence laws, policies, and public opinion against the LGBTQ+ community, and half of the money was spent in Uganda. 

Kiggundu: These groups encourage the perception that same-sex relations are un-African and imposed by the West.  The US evangelical groups are using local actors who have continued traveling across Uganda spreading hate speech towards the LGBTQ+ community. They have greatly misled many Ugandans to believe that homosexuality and the LGBTQ community are a threat to their way of life.

Kiggundu: U.S. evangelical preachers use the “prodigal son” story from the Bible as a tool to spread homophobia. They quote that the prodigal on his return was contingent; therefore, they can only welcome LGBTQ+ people back to the kingdom of God after converting. They claim that LGBTQ+ people are “valid” as long as they denounce their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Wyatt: Thus far, is the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023 causing a negative economic impact? 

Kiggundu:  Tourism in Uganda holds the key to increased job creation, increased foreign exchange, and revenue mobilization. However, the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 has hurt and reversed the efforts of this sector to transform Uganda economically. In 2019, The tourism sector directly contributed Shs 5.1 trillion (3.64% of the GDP), with inbound tourism expenditure of Shs. 4.6 trillion (3.3% of the GDP). The tourism sector directly employed 1.56 million people, which was 14.7% of total employment in Uganda. The inbound tourism expenditure by American and European tourists was USD 177.7 million. Post-pandemic, the numbers were recovering; however, they declined after Western countries advised their citizenry not to travel to Uganda, courtesy of the threats raised by the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.

Kiggundu: According to the World Bank, it is estimated that in 2018, the Netherlands, Australia, the UK, the USA, and France contributed to two-thirds (USD 7 billion) of Uganda’s total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock. However, the governments of those countries have advised their citizens against traveling or investing in Uganda, which has adversely affected these FDI inflows. A reduction in FDI would require Uganda to turn to more borrowing to finance its current deficit budget.

Wyatt: President Museveni is doubling down.  He has called homosexuality a “deviation from normal” and urged lawmakers to resist “imperialist” pressure.  Care to comment?

Kiggundu: Self-serving Museveni is portraying homophobia as opposition to imperialism. He has created homosexuality as a common enemy and manipulated biases to mobilize support from Ugandans amidst his declining influence and political capital. 

Kiggundu: He signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 to distract Ugandans from the real issues affecting them such as the increasing abductions, skyrocketing inflation, poverty, the high unemployment rate among the youths, and others, land grabbing, tribalism, and nepotism, among others. The military junta employs homophobic rhetoric under the guise of defending African values against the West’s imposition of LGBTQ+ rights. Since the power capture, the regime has scapegoated homosexuality to deflect public criticism from the government’s failed policies like Universal Primary Education (UPE), Universal Secondary Education (USE), and Operation Wealth Creation among others.

Wyatt: Kiggundu, what tactics and strategies are your organization and its allies utilizing to push back against this heinous and strikingly repressive bill?

Kiggundu:  Despite the escalating threats, the fight for LGBTQ+ rights continues. Through advocacy, we are educating the Ugandan community on the rights of LGBTQ+ communities. Many Ugandans are unaware of the injustices and grievances LGBTQ+ persons face, and our advocacy efforts are helping to shed light and educate the homophobes on such issues.

Kiggundu:  Liberty for Marginalized Persons Uganda has partnered with the International Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA) in their forthcoming report “My Identity Under Arrest.”  We shared the overview and how the enforcement of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 violates fundamental human rights.

Kiggundu: Our organization is also working on a research paper called “The Impacts of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 on the Livelihoods of the Common Sexual Minority.” The research paper intends to show how the legislation has affected a common sexual minority in Uganda. It also has several recommendations for Uganda’s president and parliament, the country’s development partners like the U.S. and European Commission, civil society groups, the Uganda Law Reform and Human Rights Commissions, The National NGO Bureau, the Ugandan police, and the local media. We strongly believe that our recommendations will influence policies aimed at the respect and dignity of the LGBTQ+ community.

Kiggundu: Although Liberty for Marginalized Persons Uganda is not part of the party that filed a petition challenging the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, we have submitted our request to the constitutional court to provide our legal opinion in this matter as a friend to the court (Amicus curiae) because we strongly have interest in the case.

Wyatt: Kiggundu, how can we assist you in your struggle?

Kiggundu:  Our work depends on support from generous people. Currently, we are hoping to raise USD 4,000 to ensure we file our legal submission (Amicus curiae) to the constitutional court challenging the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023. We welcome all partners to join our cause.

Wyatt: Very good. How can we connect with and follow you?  Please provide your social media, etc.

Kiggundu:  Certainly! You can follow me on LinkedIn, and email me at amkiggundurr@gmail.com so that we can share opinions.  You can follow Liberty for Marginalized Persons on both Facebook and Twitter (X).

Wyatt: Kiggundu, thanks so much for your time.

Kiggundu: Thanks, too, for having me.