Uganda Days 76-78: Pride

Okay, so technically I leave next Tuesday, not Monday, but the flight is at 3 a.m. so I'm counting it as Monday anyway. Yes, exactly one week from now I'm sure I'll be darting around like a mad man trying to make sure I've got everything packed, stressing about my departure. I hate that part, the last few frantic minutes, followed by the cab ride and the security checks, all the luggage and the lines. Once I'm finally sitting on the plane, I'm happy. I actually really enjoy the flight itself, since it's usually just some free time to read, watch movies, listen to music. It's really the only part of the journey when you can simply be excited without any stress or effort attached.

Anyway, what have I been doing with my first three days post-internship? Working on job applications, that's what. They take such a long time—three days and I haven't even started writing cover letters yet, and that's going to be the hardest part! So much to do, so little time. I'm feeling good about it, though. I was researching firms today and getting really excited.

I'm afraid that's not terribly interesting as far as updates go, especially given the fact that I am so recently freed of work. My would-be plans were more exciting, but sadly, they were thwarted. I found out on Thursday or Friday that Uganda Pride was just getting underway, and I got it in my head that I should check out the parade, which was scheduled for Saturday—I mean, after all, there's a plausible chance I may never be back in Kampala and it's almost certain that I'll never again be here during Pride. Of course, this was just a vague notion of a plan, since I had no idea when or where it was supposed to happen on Saturday—the organizers only announce the details the night before for security reasons, but even then I wouldn't have known where to look. I suppose I would have figured it out one way or another.

Not that it mattered. On Thursday night there was a Pride event at a pub in town, which I think was basically a fashion show. Unfortunately it quickly turned into a shit-show when police stormed in and raided the place. From what I've read and heard, it was chaotic. They arrested a whole bunch of prominent activists and other people in attendance. Others were subjected to humiliations and abuse. Some people tried to get out, and one guy was so desperate to escape police brutality or exposure or something else that he jumped from a balcony and is now in a hospital in critical condition.

There's a lot more to it than that, so if you want to know more just do a search and you'll find lots. On Friday, in the aftermath, a prominent human rights lawyer met with Uganda's Minister of Ethics, Simon Lokodo, to discuss the police raid, during which Lokodo essentially said, in a nutshell, that if the parade was held on Saturday he would mobilize a violent public mob to suppress it. As a side note—that prominent human rights lawyer is actually Nicholas Opiyo, whom I interviewed a few weeks ago. He's been heavily involved in all of this (I think he was in attendance), including getting those who were arrested released from detention on bail. I wish I could interview him a second time now, just for my own sake.

Anyway, given the severity of these threats, the organizers decided to cancel Saturday's parade. All of which explains why that particular plan of mine was dashed before it was even fully formed in my head. And by the way, I'm not oblivious—believe me, I know how homophobic Uganda is, but before any of this happened I had decided I was willing just to go for it anyway and check out the parade, maybe not to go marching with it all across town, but just to see, and more importantly, to understand. It was never going to be like the Pride parades you're thinking of. I have no idea how big it would have been, but my guess is relatively small, and probably not in the downtown core (but again, I never learned the details, so who knows). At any rate, originally the organizers said that they had secured the cooperation of the police in advance so that the parade could hopefully be unmarred by too much trouble. Clearly the police have since received other directions from higher up—and I wouldn't be terribly surprised if it came from the top.

So no Uganda Pride parade for me, not this time. Anecdotally, on Saturday some unexpected rainfall forced me to stay around the mall longer than I'd planned to, so I sat down at the Mexican place for dinner. It took me a while to realize, but the group of four or five people at the table right next to mine were talking about the police raid on Thursday—they had all been there. I think some were activists and others were journalists, from what I could gather.

Just thought it was kind of fortuitous, in a way. A bit of rain and suddenly I'm sitting three feet from these people. I was actually tempted to introduce myself and ask about it all, but of course I didn't.

Well, this turned into quite a sombre post. I hope it's at least been informative or enlightening. Like I said, I already knew about the entrenched homophobia here, but the past few days have certainly made it seem more real, more palpable. And I think that's important.

I think that's it for tonight. To everybody—much love from Uganda, and good night.