Ethics minister storms, closes gay meeting

The minister of Ethics and Integrity, Rev Father Simon Lokodo, cut short a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBTI) workshop yesterday, saying the participants were planning violence. He also said he had received information that the LGBTIs were gathered to recruit people into the practice of homosexuality.

Members of the homosexual community are referring to the incident as a ‘Valentine’s massacre’.

The workshop that was taking place at Imperial Resort hotel in Entebbe brought together different LGBTI groups. It started on February 9 and was scheduled to end today. According to the workshop coordinator and executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Frank Mugisha, the workshop was aimed at empowering members with essential life skills. LGBTIs were receiving training on leadership skills, self-improvement, human rights, advocacy and management, among others. Discussion of the recently revived anti-homosexuality bill was also on the agenda.

But at around midday, Lokodo walked into the hall and asked to speak to the group. When he was given an opportunity, he said that as a minister, and on behalf of the government of Uganda, he demands that the LGBTIs leave the building immediately. He was backed by plain-clothes security personnel. The LGBTIs left the workshop hurriedly. There were also unconfirmed reports that award-winning gay rights advocate, Jacqueline Kasha, was briefly arrested.

Lokodo’s phone was off when The Observer tried to reach him. Homosexuality is punishable under the Penal Code of Uganda. In 2010, government backed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and then distanced itself from it only after a lot of pressure from human rights organizations and the international community.

Sandra  Ntebi, commenting on a Facebook post about the issue, has called Lokodo “another Buturo”, referring to former Ethics minister Nsaba Buturo, who dedicated a lot of time to fighting what he believes is the evil and unethical practice of homosexuality. He often drew from African culture and Christianity to condemn homosexuals in Uganda, and once called upon them to leave the country if they were not willing to change.

Just last week, Lokodo said that while the government does not support the reintroduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, it has a Constitutional obligation to facilitate debate on the issue.

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