Rainbow Riots’ plans to establish an LGBT community center in Uganda, the first of its kind in East Africa, have recently been publicly condemned by the country’s famously homophobic Minister of State for Ethics & Integrity, Simon Lokodo.
The organization remains defiant against the remarks, made in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. Loko deemed the center “illegal” in a story which also featured an interview with Rainbow Riots founding director, Petter Wallenberg.
In The Guardian’s article, Neela Ghoshal, of Human Rights Watch, was quoted stating that the Center is now more crucial than ever for the quality of life for LGBT people in Uganda.
Crowdfunding for the project continues despite this threat to the center. The activists within the organization Rainbow Riots, plan to establish a safe space for LGBT people in Uganda. The center is to be opened in a secret location in Kampala, and welcomes the country’s LGBT people as a refuge for advice on safety, health and HIV issues.
However, the center’s launch is threatened by the Ugandan government; “They will have to take it somewhere else. They can’t open a center of LGBT activity here. Homosexuality is not allowed and completely unacceptable in Uganda,” Lokodo told The Guardian, “We don’t and can’t allow it. LGBT activities are already banned and criminalised in this country. So popularizing it is only committing a crime.”
Even though the threat is judged to be real, Rainbow Riots are intending to move forward with the center, which will host workshops and creative projects; arts and music being central to the activities allowing visitors to express themselves in ways they are now allowed to do anywhere else.
Petter Wallenberg said: “I got the idea for this center because there is not a single safe place for LGBT people in Uganda. I want to create a refuge to help the vulnerable. You cannot change the world overnight, but you can take action to make the world a little better.”
Rainbow Riots believe that art and music are a powerful means of decreasing homophobia and transphobia in the regions where LGBT people are condemned as non-African. Rainbow Riots has been part of the Ugandan LGBT movement since 2015. They have organized secret pride celebrations after the police stopped Pride Uganda 2017 and Wallenberg has recorded the internationally acclaimed music album “Rainbow Riots”, featuring LGBT Ugandan artists, to give this most vulnerable group a voice in a country where they are considered to be illegal.