Ugandan tabloid “The Red Pepper” has published a list of “Uganda’s Top 200 Homos” in its February 25 issue; some of those named in the front-page story under the headline “EXPOSED!” had not previously been outed.
The publication comes only a day after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the country’s Anti-Homosexual Bill, also known as the “Jail All the Gays” bill, into law on live television. Even before its passing, anti-LGBT violence saw an undeniable upswing as the bill went through the court system.
The list calls out well-known gay rights activists such as Pepe Julian Onziema and Frank Mugisha; according to Gay Star News, “Also on the list was a popular Ugandan hip-hop star as well as a Catholic priest.”
The article has left the local LGBT community, if they are named and pictured in the tabloid or not, fearing a surge in homophobia-motivated violence.
In 2010, the Ugandan tabloid “Rolling Stone” (no relation to the American music magazine of the same name) published a front-page article titled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak”; alongside each photograph was the name and address of the person, and printed next to the article was a banner reading “Hang Them.” A later issue had the headline “Homo Generals Plotted Kampala Terror Attacks,” claiming that the LGBT community had connections with the militant group al-Shabaab.
Activists reported an immediate increase in physical and verbal harassment against those known or thought to be LGBT, especially the people called out in the articles. A court case led to the tabloid being ordered to cease publishing personal information and shut down, but the court’s upholding of LGBT citizens’ civil rights failed to have a positive impact on their day to day treatment.
Activist David Kato, a plaintiff in the case, told his colleagues that since the court victory, the number of threats and harassment he was being subjected to only increased; on January 26, 2011, he was beaten to death in his own home.
After Museveni signed the bill into law, Onziema told Gay Star News, “They call their bill ‘theirs.’ It is not. They don’t understand it. The law doesn’t allow you to go attack people. It’s a badge of violent ignorance.
“I am afraid of a hunt. Some of us, my face particularly, is well known everywhere.
“They will attack anyone who they suspect is gay. This was happening before it was made law, and it will only increase. They are probably on the hunt now.”
He reported that he knew of more than a dozen gay people that had fled Uganda since the bill passed in December out of fear for their safety, and three that had committed suicide; he also knew of at least another five that had attempted it.
According to Onziema, the police have already made six arrests that he’s aware of; those found guilty of multiple offenses under the new law can be sentenced to life in prison.