Uganda: Tourism, gay pride and police brutality


“We welcome you all to the Venom Experience! Come, have fun and cheers to Venom Craft Beer!” These are the words about Club Venom in Kampala, Uganda, circulated in the New Uganda Tourism Resource Center. “All” means Ugandans and visitors. “All” may have also meant for Club Venom gay and straight.

When Club Venom opened its doors to the public in October 2012 it lit up the night scene in Kabalagala. Venom didn’t want to be just another addition to the night scene in Kampala, it dared to be different. The result? The only club in East Africa that has a micro-brewery and brews its own fresh beer flavors for their clients to enjoy.

Club Venom has excellent ratings by both Ugandans and tourists alike.

Yesterday this night club was scene of a violent police raid in Kampala during a pageant where several people were reported injured.

The raid caused U.S. ambassador Deborah R. Malac to issue a statement condemning police brutality against the LGBT community The crackdown was directed against the LGBT community. Several people were reported wounded.

The U.S. ambassador posted on the embassy homepage: I was dismayed to hear the accounts of a police raid last night on a peaceful event in Kampala to celebrate Uganda Pride Week and recognize the talents and contributions of the country’s LGBTI community. The fact that police reportedly beat and assaulted Ugandan citizens engaged in peaceful activities is unacceptable and deeply troubling.

This incident adds to a growing list of reports concerning police brutality in Uganda.

While the United States has faced its own recent allegations of improper use of force by law enforcement officials, the fact remains that abuses committed by those sworn to uphold the law are unacceptable in any country.

As our own experience shows, issues of police brutality and impunity can only be resolved by holding officials accountable, and by encouraging open and frank dialogue between citizens and their government.

I hope Ugandan authorities will investigate this and other incidents, and treat them with the seriousness they deserve.

No person should face abuse or discrimination because of who they are.

The U.S. Embassy stands with Uganda’s LGBTI community and Ugandans of all backgrounds and beliefs to defend the dignity of all citizens.We call on the Ugandan authorities to safeguard the freedoms of all Ugandans under the law.

Voice of America reported: A police crackdown on an LGBT event this week in Uganda’s capital may have marked a reversal of strides made in the past year on gay rights in the country, some activists fear.

Police shut down the event Thursday in Kampala, which was part of Ugandan Pride Week, and they arrested 10 of the organizers.

The event, a “Mr. and Ms. Pride” contest, began with costumes, dancing and revelry. But an hour into the event, police arrived and, without explanation, barred all entrances and exits to the venue.

In March 2014 during ITB Berlin Stephen Asiimwe, CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board told eTN, “Uganda welcomes all tourists, regardless of sexual orientation.” Let’s hope this policy remains valid in 2016 and beyond.

Tourism is a main source of revenue for the country, and Uganda has an advanced infrastructure in the travel and tourism industry. The country is also known for friendly smiling people.

Uganda is a year round destination with great weather, variety of tourism attractions.

According to Human Rights Watch, the event was a pageant to crown Mr/Ms/Mx Uganda Pride. Police claimed that they had been told a “gay wedding” was taking place and that the celebration was “unlawful” because police had not been informed of the event. However, police had been duly informed, and the prior two Pride events, on August 2 and 3, were conducted without incident.

“We strongly condemn these violations of Ugandans’ rights to peaceful association and assembly,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a human rights lawyer and executive director at Chapter Four Uganda. “These brutal actions by police are unacceptable and must face the full force of Ugandan law.”

The police locked the gates of the club, arrested more than 16 people – the majority of whom are Ugandan LGBT rights activists – and detained hundreds more for over 90 minutes, beating and humiliating people; taking pictures of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) Ugandans and threatening to publish them; and confiscating cameras. Witnesses reported that the police assaulted many participants, in particular transgender women and men, in some cases groping and fondling them. One person jumped from a sixth-floor window to avoid police abuse and is in a hospital in critical condition.

By approximately 1:20 a.m., all those arrested had been released without charge from the Kabalagala Police Station.