Bernard Randall, a British man deported from Uganda after being found with a gay-sex video, has decried Britain’s failure to take decisive action against the east African country’s increasingly homophobic government.
The 65-year-old, who is battling to get his partner, Albert Cheptoyek, out of the country, where he faces up to seven years in jail on indecency charges, said that other countries had sent strong messages to Uganda over its persecution of gay people, but Britain needed to be “much more aggressive.”
Randall, from Conyer, Kent, on England’s south coast, was charged with “trafficking obscene material” last year after robbers stole a laptop containing images of him having sex with a man in Morocco. The images were subsequently published by Ugandan newspaper Red Pepper and the couple were arrested, though charges against Randall were dropped on condition that he was deported back to Britain.
Fears over Cheptoyek’s safety have intensified after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last week signed into law a bill that imposes life sentences for acts of “aggravated homosexuality.”
The bill strengthens already strict legislation outlawing homosexual acts in the country and criminalizes the “promotion of homosexuality.”
Museveni’s decision provoked international condemnation.
US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the law as “atrocious,” while South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu compared it to antisemitic laws in Nazi Germany or persecution in apartheid South Africa.
Donors, such as Denmark and Norway, have announced that they will redirect aid away from the Ugandan government to aid agencies. On Friday, the World Bank said that it had postponed a loan to Uganda because of its anti-gay law.
Randall said the reaction of the British government was mealy-mouthed by comparison.
“We need a much more aggressive line. Look at what Norway, Denmark and Holland [Netherlands] have done. Even the noises the Americans have made,” he said from the home he hopes one day to share with Cheptoyek.
He points to an e-mail from the British High Commission in Kampala that arrived last week in response to Randall’s growing concern for Cheptoyek’s safety.
“The UK, along with our international partners, will continue to press the government of Uganda to defend human rights for all, without discrimination on any grounds. The UK is in close contact with Ugandan civil society groups and will continue to support their efforts to improve human rights in Uganda,” the e-mail said.
It adds that British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Mark Simmonds has raised the issue of the bill several times with the Ugandan government, but Randall believes that officials should also directly raise Cheptoyek’s case.
“Albert is so worried for his safety. There is a lot of very frightened people at the moment. He is very, very worried and living under a lot of pressure,” said Randall, a retired computer analyst. “It would be great to have the Foreign Office on the case with the Ugandan authorities, saying that we are watching it.”
Shortly after the men’s arrest, two Red Pepper reporters visited the police station where they were being held and, Randall alleges, Cheptoyek was photographed on the floor after having his legs kicked away and being hit around the head by police.