Prominent Ugandan LGBT activist charged with sodomy, held without bail

Samuel Ganafa

Samuel Ganafa

KAMPALA, Uganda— Samuel Ganafa, the executive director of Spectrum Uganda Initiatives and board chairperson of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was arrested earlier this week on charges that he had sodomized another man and infected him with HIV.

During an initial arraignment Friday morning in Kampala, the judge denied a defense motion for bail for the 51-year-old activist and ordered another hearing set for Monday.

Samuel Ganafa

Samuel Ganafa

According to police reports and court documents, the alleged victim, Disan Twesiga, claimed that Ganafa had sodomized him over the course of several months, and that he was infected with HIV as a result of those sexual liaisons.

On Thursday, Twesiga held a press conference at the Kampala District Police station to reiterate his allegations.

According to SMUG’s programs director Julian Pepe Onziema, Ganafa was arrested Tuesday after Kampala District Police Commander Chemonges Seiko, summoned him to a police station on the outskirts of the Uganda capital city, where he was arrested upon arrival.

“Without showing a warrant of arrest he was forced onto a police truck and taken twice to his residence, which was searched. The search was conducted without a search warrant,” Onziema said.

“During the unwarranted search, three houseguests, Joseph Kayizi, Kasali Brian, and Michael Katongole were also arrested and taken to the police for questioning as well,” he said. “His nephew Brian Kasirye, who had rushed to the police station to check on him was also detained.”

Onziema alleged that Ganafa was then forced to take an HIV test, without a court order.

The four other men arrested remain in police custody and have not been formally charged.

Onziema and other activists noted that Ganafa and the others have been held in police custody for more than 72 hours in violation of the country’s constitution, which stipulates that an accused cannot be held for more than 48 hours before being taken to court.

“This is despite the fact that he has not been found guilty by a court and is thus presumed innocent under the law. The five suspects remain in custody without being officially charged and without being brought before the courts despite the expiry of the constitutionally warranted 48 hours,” Onziema said.

He added that his organization, along with the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, are closely following the case, and have instructed lawyers to represent all of the accused.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda with the country’s Parliament considering proposed new legislation that prescribes harsher penalties against those accused of being LGBT including possible capital punishment for those being convicted of “repeated offenses of homosexuality.”

A respected member of the Ugandan LGBT community, Ganafa works for Uganda Telecom, the country’s leading telecommunications firm, where he was demoted, suffered a pay deduction, and was forced to return his company car in 2005 after being outed by a local tabloid, The Mirror, which printed his name and place of employment.

In an interview with Canadian freelance journalist Kaj Hasselriis in February 2010, Ganafa urged LGBTQ Ugandans not to reveal their sexuality in order to protect themselves.

“I know I’m suffocating them, but there’s no better option than that,” said Ganafa. “I know what I’ve been through, and I don’t want others to go through it too. Life became very difficult Outing is primitive. It sows the seeds of hatred and homophobia. Nothing good comes to the people who are [forcefully] outed.”

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