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Ugandans flee as Kill the Gays gains momentum across Africa

Gay Pride, Uganda, Africa 2014. Held in secret by Lake Victoria, Entebbe
Gay Pride, Uganda, Africa 2014. Held in secret by Lake Victoria, EntebbePhoto: Shutterstock

Gay Ugandans are fleeing the country as the government’s Anti-Homosexuality Act moves closer to becoming law.

“The government and the people of Uganda are against our existence,” said Mbajjwe Nimiro Wilson, a 24-year-old refugee now living in a shelter in neighboring Kenya.

Before escaping with just a backpack of belongings, Wilson was cornered by a hostile crowd on the street as he tried to buy groceries.

“They kept saying, ‘We will hunt you. You gays should be killed. We will slaughter you,’” he told The New York Times. “There was no option but to leave.”

Uganda’s latest Kill the Gays law is having its intended effect.

“It is good that you rejected the pressure from the imperials,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday, as he sent the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act back to Parliament for additional consideration before he signs it.

The Biden administration calls the latest “Kill the Gays” bill “one of the most extreme” anti-LGBTQ+ measures anywhere in the world. The proposal mandates life in prison for anyone convicted of engaging in homosexual sex, among other draconian provisions.

Museveni congratulated lawmakers who stood up to “international pressure and shielded Uganda’s moral fabric during the passing of the bill.”

The president had in mind liberal Western influences whom he and others in the East African nation have accused of promoting homosexuality in the country and throughout Africa.

But while anti-LGBTQ+ allies have rejected pressure from the U.S., the European Parliament, and those condemning their latest attempt to erase homosexuality from the country, they have welcomed it from another Western power center.

Since 2009, conservative evangelical groups from the U.S. have been instrumental in promoting an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda in Uganda and other African nations, which have been the targets of religious indoctrination since the colonial era.

In a region where harsh penalties for homosexuality have been on the books since the British imposed them in the 19th century, conservative Christian and Muslim populations have been ripe for anti-LGBTQ+ proselytizing.

Family Watch International is an Arizona-based organization committed to spreading anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion ideology around the world, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group was instrumental in crafting the original “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda in 2009.

After the Uganda Supreme Court overturned that law on a technicality in 2013, Family Watch returned to help write revised legislation that would withstand judicial scrutiny, with willing partners publicly denouncing liberal Western influences, despite accepting close to a billion dollars annually in development aid from the U.S alone.

Last month, following passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act through Uganda’s unicameral Parliament, Family Watch sponsored a conference in the country that drew lawmakers from more than a dozen African nations, all committed to passing or introducing copycat legislation to combat “the sin of homosexuality.”

One Family Watch partner is Kenya, where the country’s Supreme Court sparked controversy recently when it allowed gay rights groups to legally register.

Kenya’s president and other anti-LGBTQ politicians have condemned the ruling, including Parliament member George Peter Kaluma, who introduced a bill to criminalize homosexuality in the country, ban Kenyans from identifying as LGBTQ+, and grant citizens the power to arrest anyone they suspect of being gay.  

“These people are perverts and I promise I will legislate to take every right they think they have,” Kaluma told the Times.

His bill would also return gay refugees like Wilson, still sheltering in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, to their home countries.

Laws like his, predicted Kaluma, will soon cover the continent.

“It is going to spread like a whirlwind.”

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