Uganda: Police raid US-funded program that offers AIDS services

Gov’t spokesperson alleges program ‘training youths in homosexuality’: report

Police in Uganda raided an American-funded program that offers AIDS services to gay people in the capital city, Kampala, briefly detaining one of its staff members, the Associated Press reports.

A government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, alleged that the Makerere University Walter Reed Project was “training youths in homosexuality.”

A police spokesperson later denied that the raid on the project took place, claiming that someone posing as an officer arrested the worker, a Ugandan citizen, and that the program was not under investigation, BuzzFeed says in its account of the incident.

But human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo took to Twitter to say he spoke to senior police officers, who confirmed the incident did occur. Opiyo also posted the names of the officers involved in the raid. He writes that not one, but two, Ugandan staff members were arrested and “asked to make statements on the allegation of promoting homosexuality.” Opiyo, who says he went to the police station where the detainees were held to try to get more information about the raid, added that authorities removed a number of items, including boxes of condoms and a clinicians manual on MSM (men who have sex with men), and photographed clinic patients.

Opiyo says those who were arrested were released when American embassy staff showed up at the police station.

Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, signed the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act into law in February. Speaking at a March 31 rally to celebrate the law’s enactment, Museveni told the hundreds-strong crowd that he would continue to defend the measure in defiance of international condemnation, and pressure — in the form of aid withdrawal or rerouting — to repeal it.

March participants bore signs that read, “Obama, we want trade not homosexuality,” and “Museveni, we the children thank you for saving our future.”

Museveni’s rhetoric about the anti-gay law on the domestic front differs from the tone he strikes when dealing with the international community.

Natasha Barsotti is originally from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. She had high aspirations of representing her country in Olympic Games sprint events, but after a while the firing of the starting gun proved too much for her nerves. So she went off to university instead. Her first professional love has always been journalism. After pursuing a Master of Journalism at UBC , she began freelancing at Xtra West — now Xtra Vancouver — in 2006, becoming a full-time reporter there in 2008.

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