A gay pride parade in the Ugandan capital planned to take place over the weekend was on Friday postponed after a government minister was accused of saying mob attacks on participants would be their own fault.
Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo told reporters that Ugandan State Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo told him ordinary citizens would be “mobilized to defend the moral values of Uganda” and that “if participants were to be beaten by a mob” they would have “brought it upon themselves.”
The minister added that police would arrest anyone attending the parade, Opiyo said.
Organizers said they had postponed the event — which was held last year — following the apparent threat, reportedly made at a meeting between the organizers’ lawyer and a police representative.
“As the committee, we have agreed that all the remaining events of the pride week be postponed as we await a positive outcome from the already going negotiations,” the organizers said in a statement.
“We will be communicating the new dates as soon as the negotiations are completed,” the statement added.
US Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac voiced her support for the gay community in Uganda after the organizers announced the parade’s delay.
“The [US] Embassy stands with Uganda’s LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] community and Ugandans of all backgrounds and beliefs to defend the dignity of all citizens,” Malac said on Twitter. “No person should face abuse or discrimination because of who they are.”
The US slapped sanctions on Uganda after it introduced tough anti-gay laws in 2013, which included life imprisonment for homosexuals.
The law was struck down a year later on a technicality, but under a colonial-era penal code homosexual acts remain illegal.
Prominent Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha slammed the minister’s comments and accused the police of complicity.
“The minister is not entitled to give or withdraw permission to hold a parade,” said Mugisha, who runs local non-governmental organization Sexual Minorities Uganda.
“This is an abuse of power and the police let him do it,” Mugisha said.
On Thursday evening, police raided a club in Kampala that was hosting a “Mr and Miss Pride” beauty pageant.
Twenty people were arrested for attending an “illegal gathering,” but were later released. One person was seriously injured when he jumped from a window to escape from police.
Homophobia is widespread in Uganda and gay people face regular harassment and intimidation.
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