Calls to sanction architects of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act grow

A prominent Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist Steven Kabuye, who nearly lost his life when he was attacked by unknown men in January this year, believes politicians and other leaders fomenting hate in his country against vulnerable communities must be put under targeted sanctions. As a result, Kabuye backs calls by LGBTQI+ campaigners in the United Kingdom to bar the Speaker of the Ugandan parliament, Anita Annet Among, from entering the country to attend celebrations around the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Day will be celebrated on Monday 11 March with a series of events and activities that will include a contingent of speakers and presiding officers from the Commonwealth countries, while the 75th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth will be celebrated on 26 April. Kabuye told Index that Among must be barred from these events as she championed the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act last year, which has triggered a rise in attacks against LGBTQ+ persons. Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act imposes mandatory life imprisonment for consenting same-sex acts, and the death penalty for “serial offenders”. Anyone who rents property to persons who commit offences under the legislation faces up to seven years in jail.

Kabuye, the co-executive director and co-founder of Coloured Voices Media Foundation, a youth-led organisation that advocates for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community, told Index that the environment he finds himself in after the passage of that law is so dangerous that he fears for his life. In January this year, he was hospitalised for three days in Uganda and two weeks outside the country after he was attacked by two men on a motorbike. He said a colleague who took him to hospital after the attack was arrested for assisting him.

“The attack was aimed at silencing me. What the attacker said while trying to swipe a knife to cut my neck and what transpired after the attack clearly shows that,” he said adding that the attacker said “Ffa Musiyazzi Gwe“, translated as “Die you homosexual”, to Kabuye.

He said he has received a lot of death threats, especially on his X account. “Someone could come and tell you, I know your address. We are coming any day, count yourself dead. Dead or soon dead, that’s how I can describe that environment,” he said.

Kabuye’s fears are not unfounded. In 2011, a Ugandan gay rights activist, David Kato, was beaten to death at his home outside Kampala. Before his death, Kato had brought an injunction against a local newspaper, Rolling Stone, which printed his name, photograph and address alongside those of dozens of others the paper claimed were gay or lesbian and called for them to be hanged.

Kabuye believes the architects of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act must be sanctioned, hence his support for the campaign both in Uganda and the UK for Among to be barred from entering the UK.

“Banning the speaker from the UK will send a clear message to any politician out there who is willing to support laws like the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023. You will be punished,” said Kabuye.

“We want all politicians, religious leaders, and other entities who supported the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 to be sanctioned individually.”

Samantha Ainembabazi from Kuchu Times, an online platform that gives a voice to LGBTQ+ people whose are otherwise censored in the mainstream media in Uganda, emphasised in a phone interview with Index the key role that Among played in passing Uganda’s draconian law. She added that the environment the Ugandan LGBTQ+ community lives in can be summarised by a report from late 2023 compiled by the Strategic Response Team, a coalition of Ugandan LGBTQ+ rights organisations, which showed how the controversial law has not only created a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ individuals but has also been used as a pretext to infringe upon a wide range of human rights.

“By the time of this report there had been 180 cases of evictions targeting LGBTQ+ individuals and families, 176 cases of torture, abuse, and degrading treatment inflicted upon LGBTIQ+ individuals. One-hundred-and-fifty-nine cases of violations and abuse of the right to equality and freedom from discrimination have been documented,” said Ainembabazi.

“LGBTIQ+ individuals in Uganda continue to face systemic discrimination and prejudice, which hinders their access to education, healthcare, employment and other essential services and 102 cases of mental health issues among this community highlight the psychological trauma endured due to discrimination, violence and social exclusion. These numbers have almost doubled since the last report.”

UK rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has since joined the campaign to bar the Uganda speaker. Tatchell wrote a letter to Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, saying Among is one of those who championed Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which he described as one of the world’s harshest anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

“Among’s presence in the UK would send a terrible signal that Britain tolerates the extreme homophobia of those who advocate the killing of LGBT+ people. There should be no facilitation and collusion with a politician who has blood on her hands,” wrote Tatchell.

He said Hoyle should make representations to the UK home and foreign secretaries that the Ugandan Speaker of Parliament should be denied entry to the UK because she opposes the British values of respect and equality, and that her presence would not be conducive to public good, harmonious community relations and public order.

Such a move would certainly send a strong message and for people like Kabuye can’t come soon enough. For them every day brings with it new fears.

The rape of Uganda

Uganda’s natural resources base, one of the richest and most diverse in Africa, continues to be degraded, jeopardising both individual livelihoods and the country’s economic development.

Evidence from the UN Environment Programme reveals that its forests, home to several endangered or soon-to-be extinct animal and plant species, are being mercilessly ravaged by poachers, illegal charcoal traders and loggers, and greedy investors.

Overfishing in the country’s lakes and rivers is rife. Its wetlands are being cleared for agricultural use and the rate of forest cover loss stands at 2.6 per cent annually, according to independent sources.

As part of efforts to ensure that the east African nation’s natural resources are effectively managed and protected, a group of environmental activists has gone to war to protect these natural wonders from bleeding further.

“Environmental activism in Uganda is not a safe identity – it’s a hostile and fragile environment,” William Amanzuru, team leader at Friends of Zoka, told Index.

“Activists are seen as fronting foreign views and opinions, enemies of the state and enemies of development.”
Amanzuru, who won the EU Human Rights Defenders Award in 2019, says environmental abuse in Uganda is highly militarised, so any intervention for nature conservation seems like a battlefield in a highly sophisticated war.

William Amanzuru, team leader at Friends of Zoka

“You directly deal with our finest military elite who run the show because of the huge profits gained from it,” he said. “We are always being followed by state and non-state actors and those involved in the depletion of natural resources like the Zoka Central Forest Reserve.”

Amanzuru said he had received threatening phone calls and had been intimidated by government and local police officials. “My phone is always tapped,” he added.

Anthony Masake, programme officer at Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights organisation, said environmental human rights defenders in Uganda were increasingly operating in a hostile environment.

“They repeatedly face reprisal attacks in the form of arbitrary arrests and detention, character assassination, being labelled traitors, assaults, intimidation and isolation, among others,” he said.

Masake added that illegal loggers and charcoal dealers, land grabbers and corporations often connived with their government backers to shield them from the law and accountability.

“Politicians, police officers and local leaders have often been cited in incidents of reprisal attacks against environmental defenders in Adjumani, Hoima and other districts,” he said.

Hidden from view

Uganda’s environmental battlefields are located in rural and remote areas where life and time seem to stop – far from the public eye and the noise and the vibe of big cities.

“The terrain has exposed them to easy targeting because the operation areas are far removed from urban areas where they would be able to access quick and competent legal services,” said Masake.

“The rise of incidents of corruption, abuse of office, lack of accountability for abusers and deterioration of the state and rule of law has further emboldened perpetrators to continue attacking environmental defenders because they know they can get away with it.”

As watchdogs of society, journalists who attempt to expose environmental crimes and abuse are also often the victims of sheer brutality and violence, according to several sources who spoke to Index.

“I deplore the way [president Yoweri] Museveni’s security forces ill-treat journalists, especially environmental journalists,” said one. “They have done nothing wrong. All they do is to tell the nation and the world that our natural resources are in danger of being extinct if we do not trade carefully. Is that a crime?”

The journalist, who claimed to fear Ugandan security forces and intelligence services “more than God”, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Silencing the critics

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its partners, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and the World Organisation Against Torture, have vehemently and repeatedly condemned the arrest and arbitrary detention of environmental journalists.

Venex Watebawa and Joshua Mutale, the team leader and head of programmes at Water and Environment Media Network (Wemnet), were recently arrested in Hoima, in western Uganda, on their way to attend a radio talkshow at Spice FM.

The FIDH reported that they were supposed to discuss the risks and dangers of sugarcane growing projects in the Bugoma forest and of allowing oil activities in critical biodiversity areas including rivers, lakes, national parks, forests and wetlands.

Home to more than 600 chimpanzees and endangered bird species, including African grey parrots, Bugoma is a tropical rainforest which was declared as a nature reserve in 1932.

Following the arrest of Wemnet members, all hell broke loose when security forces arrested more environmental activists who went to the police station to negotiate the release of Watebawa and Mutale.
The arrests, which are believed to have been called for by Hoima Sugar, the company decimating the Bugoma forest to convert it into a sugarcane plantation, were a bitter pill to swallow. (Index asked Hoima Sugar to comment on these allegations but received no response.)

“Environment stories are so delicate because the people behind the destruction of the environment are people with a lot of money, who are well connected and have a lot of influence,” Watebawa told Index.

He slammed the National Environment Management Authority – which is mandated to oversee conservation efforts – for having been influenced by Hoima Sugar.

“To our surprise, it gave a report in a record time of two weeks to clear the below-bare-minimum-standard environmental impact assessment report to clear 22 square miles of land in a sensitive and fragile ecosystem,” he said.

“The deployment of paramilitary agencies to give sanctuary to the destroyers of the forest speaks volumes of the government’s commitment to protect the environment.”

Journalists who have attempted to get anywhere near the Bugoma central forests have been harassed or faced the wrath of the army.

“These incidents have demotivated and scared us,” said Watebawa. “Between March and June, two of our members lost their cameras and laptops. Our communications officer, Samuel Kayiwa, was trailed, his car broken into in Kajjasi, and his gear stolen.”

The trade in environmental abuse

In another incident targeting the environmental media, Wemnet reported that someone broke into the house of Agnes Nantambi, a journalist working for New Vision, after midnight, forcing her to surrender her laptop and camera.

Amanzuru was arrested in February after an incident in which locals impounded a Kampala-bound truck ferrying illegal charcoal. He claimed that the military provided protection for those investing in illegal logging, illegal timber harvesting and the commercial charcoal trade.

He said the country’s environment sector was highly politicised, with the government drawing a lot of illicit money from the abuse of natural resources.

“Politicians trade in environmental abuse because this is an unmonitored trade … They make quick money for their political sustainability.”

And as the Museveni government’s aggression towards environmental activists increases day by day, human rights organisations have vowed to fight and to die with their boots on.

Amanzuru’s arrest attracted the attention of the EU ambassador to Uganda, who wrote to environment minister Beatrice Anywar Atim to request a fair and speedy trial.

Entities offering support include the Defenders’ Protection Initiative, Chapter Four Uganda and the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in Uganda.

But despite the grim outlook, Watebawa remains optimistic about the future of environmental activism.
He says society is stronger, more organised and more determined than ever, and the media persistently exposes environmental abuse.

He believes all responsible citizens must challenge the impunity to which environmental human rights defenders so often fall victim because the environment, ultimately, is a shared resource.

Jodie Ginsberg on Uganda trying to censor its musicians and filmmakers (The World Tonight, BBC World Service, 26 February 2019)

Jodie Ginsberg, hate speech, BBC Breakfast, 16/10/2018


Uganda’s government is proposing regulations that will affect all artists in the country. These include vetting new songs, videos and film scripts, prior to their release. Musicians, producers, promoters, filmmakers and all other artists will also have to register with the government and obtain a licence that can be revoked for a range of violations. Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg spoke to The World Tonight about the issue.

Uganda: Artists should not have to seek government approval to make their art

More than 130 musicians, writers and artists, together with many British and Ugandan members of parliament, have signed a petition calling on Uganda to drop plans for regulations that include vetting songs, videos and film scripts prior to their release.  Musicians, producers, promoters, filmmakers and all other artists would also have to register with the government and obtain a licence that can be revoked for a range of violations.

Index on Censorship is deeply concerned by these proposals, which are likely to be used to stifle criticism of the government.

“Around the world from Cuba to Indonesia and Uganda, artists are being pressured by governments seeking to control their art and their message. These misplaced efforts are an intolerable intrusion into artistic freedom and must not be enacted,” Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index said.

Signatories to the letter include U2’s Bono and Adam Clayton, author Wole Soyinka, and Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell.

Full text of the letter follows:

Uganda’s government is proposing regulations that include vetting new songs, videos and film scripts, prior to their release.  Musicians, producers, promoters, filmmakers and all other artists will also have to register with the government and obtain a licence that can be revoked for a range of violations.

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned by these proposals, which are likely to be used to stifle criticism of the government.

We, the undersigned, vehemently oppose the draconian legislation currently being prepared by the Ugandan government that will curtail the freedom of expression in the creative arts of all musicians, producers and filmmakers in the country.

The planned legislation includes:

  • All Ugandan artists and filmmakers required to register and obtain a licence, revokable for any perceived infraction.
  • Artists required to submit lyrics for songs and scripts for film and stage performances to authorities to be vetted.
  • Content deemed to contain offensive language, to be lewd or to copy someone else’s work will be censured.
  • Musicians will also have to seek government permission to perform outside Uganda.

Contained in a 14 page draft Bill that bypasses Parliament and will come before Cabinet alone in March to be passed into law, any artist, producer or promoter who is considered to be in breach of its guidelines shall have his/her certificate revoked.

This proposed legislation is in direct contravention of Clause 29 1a b of the Ugandan

Constitution which states:

  1.   Protection of freedom of conscience, expression, movement, religion,

assembly and association.

(1)    Every person shall have the right to—

(a)    Freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the media;

(b)    Freedom of thought, conscience and belief which shall include academic

freedom in institutions of learning;

Furthermore, in accordance with Clause 40 (2)

(2)       Every person in Uganda has the right to practise his or her profession and to

carry on any lawful occupation, trade or business.

As a Member State of the African Union, the Republic of Uganda has ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Article 9 of the Charter provides:

  1. Every individual shall have the right to receive information.
  2. Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.

We therefore call upon the Ugandan government to end this grievous and blatant

violation of the constitutional rights of Ugandan artists and producers, and to honour

its international obligations as laid down in the various international human rights

conventions to which Uganda is a signatory and for Uganda to uphold freedom of speech.


  • Although freedom of expression is protected under the Uganda constitution, it is coming under increasing threat in the country.
  • In 2018, authorities arrested popular musician and opposition member of parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine. He was badly beaten in military custody. Musicians, writers and social activists including Chris Martin, Angelique Kidjo, U2’s The Edge, Damon Albarn and Wole Soyinka, signed a petition calling for his release, which ultimately succeeded.
  • Since July 1, Ugandans have had to pay a tax of 200 shillings, about 5 US cents, for every day they use services including Facebook, Twitter, Skype and WhatsApp.
  • The government said it wanted to regulate online gossip, or idle talk but critics fear this meant it wanted to censor opponents.
  • During the presidential election in 2016, officials blocked access to Facebook and Twitter
  • On Thursday January 31 a statement was made by Jeremy Hunt MP, the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs: “”We are aware of the proposed regulations to the Ugandan music and entertainment industry that are currently being consulted on and are yet to be approved by the Cabinet. The UK’s position is that such regulations must not be used as a means of censorship. The UK supports freedom of expression as a fundamental human right and, alongside freedom of the media, maintains that it is an essential quality of any functioning democracy. We continue to raise any concerns around civic and political issues directly with the Ugandan government.”

ABTEX – Producer, Uganda

ADAM CLAYTON – Musician, U2

ALEX SOBEL – Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

AMY TAN – Novelist, Screenwriter

ANDY HEINTZ – Freelance journalist and author, USA

ANISH KAPOOR – Artist, United Kingdom

ANN ADEKE – Member of Parliament, Uganda


ASUMAN BASALIRWA – Member of Parliament, Uganda


BELINDA ATIM – Uganda Sustainable Development Initiative

BILL SHIPSEY – Founder, Art for Amnesty

BONO – Musician, U2

BRIAN ENO – Artist, Musician and Producer

BRUCE ANDERSON – Journalist Editor/Publisher

CLAUDIO CAMBON – Artist/Translator, France

CRISPIN BLUNT  – Member of Parliament and former Chair of Foreign Affairs Select Committee, United Kingdom

DAN MAGIC – Producer, Uganda

DANIEL HANDLER – Writer, Musician aka Lemony Snicket

DAVID FLOWER – Director, Sasa Music

DAVID HARE – Playwright

DAVID SANCHEZ – Saxophonist and Grammy Winner

DEBORAH BRUGUERA – Activist, Italy

DELE SOSIMI – Musician – The Afrobeat Orchestra


DR VINCENT MAGOMBE – Journalist and Broadcaster

DR PAUL WILLIAMS – Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

EDDIE HATITYE – Director, Music In Africa

EDDY KENZO – Artist, Uganda

EDWARD SIMON – Musician and Composer, Venezuela

EFE OMOROGBE – Director Hypertek, Nigeria

ERIAS LUKWAGO – Lord Mayor of Kampala Uganda



FEMI ANIKULAPO KUTI – Musician, Nigeria

FEMI FALANA – Human Rights Lawyer, Nigeria

FRANCIS ZAAKE – Member of Parliament, Uganda

FRANK RYNNE – Senior Lecturer British Studies, UCP, France

GARY LUCAS – Musician

GERALD KARUHANGA – Member of Parliament, Uganda

GINNY SUSS – Manager, Producer

HELEN EPSTEIN – Professor of Journalism Bard College

HENRY LOUIS GATES – Director of the Hutchins Center at Harvard University


IAIN NEWTON – Marketing Consultant

INNOCENT (2BABA) IDIBIA – Artist, Nigeria

IRENE NAMATOVU – Artist, Uganda

IRENE NTALE – Artist, Uganda

JANE CORNWELL – Journalist

JEFFREY KOENIG – Partner, Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill LLP

JESSE RIBOT – American University School of International Service

JIM GOLDBERG – Photographer, Professor Emeritus at California College of the Arts

JODIE GINSBERG – CEO, Index on Censorship

JOEL SSENYONYI – Journalist, Uganda

JON FAWCETT – Cultural Events Producer

JON SACK – Artist

JOHN AJAH – CEO, Spinlet

JOHN CARRUTHERS – Music Executive

JOHN GROGAN – Member of Parliament, United Kingdom


JONATHAN MOSCONE – Theater Director

JONATHAN PATTINSON – Co-Founder Reluctantly Brave

JOHNNY BORRELL – Singer, Razorlight

JOJO MEYER – Musician

KADIALY KOUYATE – Musician, Senegal

KALUNDI SERUMAGA – Former Director – Uganda National Cultural Centre/National Theatre

KASIANO WADRI – Member of Parliament, Uganda


KEMIYONDO COUTINHO – Filmmaker, Uganda

KENNETH OLUMUYIWA THARP CBE – Director The Africa Centre

KING SAHA – Artist, Uganda


LAUREN ROTH DE WOLF – Music Manager Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

LEMI GHARIOKWU – Visual Artist, Nigeria

LEO ABRAHAMS – Producer, Musician, Composer

LES CLAYPOOL – Musician, Primus

LINDA HANN – MD Linda Hann Consulting Group

LUCIE MASSEY – Creative Producer

LUCY DURAN – Professor of Music at SOAS University of London

LYNDALL STEIN – Activist/Campaigner, United Kingdom

MARC RIBOT – Musician


MAREK FUCHS – MD Sauti Sol Entertainment, Kenya


MARK LEVINE – Professor of History UC Irvine – Grammy winning artist

MARY GLINDON – Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

MATT PENMAN – Musician, New Zealand

MARTIN GOLDSCHMIDT – Chairman, Cooking Vinyl Group

MEDARD SSEGONA – Member of Parliament, Uganda


MICHAEL LEUFFEN – NTS Host, Carhartt WIP Music Rep

MICHAEL UWEDEMEDIMO – Director, CMAP and Research Fellow King’s College London

MILTON ALLIMADI – Publisher, The Black Star News

MORGAN MARGOLIS – President, Knitting Factory Entertainment, USA

MOUSTAPHA DIOP – Musician, Senegal MusikBi CEO

MR EAZI – Musician, Producer, Nigeria

MUWANGA KIVUMBI – Member of Parliament, Uganda

NAOMI WEBB – Executive Director, Good Chance Theatre, United Kingdom

NICK GOLD – Owner, World Circuit Records

NUBIAN LI – Artist, Uganda



OMOYELE SOWORE – Founder Sahara Reporters and Nigerian Presidential Candidate

PATRICK GRADY – Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

PAUL MAHEKE – Artist, United Kingdom

PAUL MWIRU – Member of Parliament, Uganda


RACHEL SPENCE – Arts Writer and Poet, United Kingdom

RASHEED ARAEEN – Artist, United Kingdom

RAYMOND MUJUNI – Journalist, Uganda

RHETT MILLER – Musician, Writer

RILIWAN SALAM – Artist Manager

ROBERT MAILER ANDERSON  – Writer and Producer

ROBIN DENSELOW – Journalist, United Kingdom

ROBIN EUBANKS – Trombonist, Composer, Educator


RUTH DANIEL – CEO, In Place of War


SANDOW BIRK – Visual Artist, USA

SANDRA IZSADORE – Author, Artist, Activist, USA

SEAN JONES – Musician, Composer, Bandleader, Educator

SEBASTIAN ROCHFORD – Musician, Pola Bear

SEUN ANIKULAPO KUTI – Musician, Composer

SHAHIDUL ALAM – Photojournalist and Activist, Bangladesh

SIDNEY SULE – B.A.H.D Guys Entertainment Management, Nigeria

SIMON WOLF – Senior Associate, Amsterdam & Partners LLP

SRIRAK PLIPAT – Executive Director, Freemuse

STEPHEN BUDD – OneFest / Stephen Budd Music Ltd

SOFIA KARIM – Architect and Artist

STEPHEN HENDEL – Kalakuta Sunrise LLC

STEVE JONES – Musician and Producer


TANIA BRUGUERA – Artist and Activist, Cuba

TOM CAIRNES – Co-Founder Freetown Music Festival

WOLE SOYINKA – Nobel Laureate, Nigeria

YENI ANIKULAPO KUTI – Co-Executor of the Fela Anikulapo Kuti Estate

ZENA WHITE – MD, Knitting Factory and Partisan Records