Gay Anglicans Spring Activist from Ugandan Prison
EXTRA!, April 6, 2000
2nd Floor, 491 Church St., Toronto, Ontario
Tel: 416-925-6665, Fax: 416-925-6503
By Tom Yeun
A gay Ugandan activist is seeking refuge in Canada after enduring torture and
imprisonment in his home country for advancing gay rights.
Ronald Lwabaayi returnedsafelyto Vancouver in March.
In a visit last summer to a British Columbia religious retreat, he spoke to fellow gay
Anglicans about the church-sponsored persecution he suffered in Kenya, including more than
two months in solitary confinement.
So in August he decided to go home, to Uganda. Lwabaayi was optimistic he could effect
change in his native country, where free speech laws are stronger.
What Lwabaayi found was far worse.
Instead of solitary confinement he was thrown in with the prisons general
population. Instead of a cell he spent his days in a room crowded with hundreds of other
In an unusual move, Lwabaayi (and five friends) were placed in a military prison. The
killers, thieves and rapists surrounding him were all former soldiers.
The Vancouver chapter of a support group for gay Anglicans, called Integrity, pulled
together the $1,000 to bail out Lwabaayi and his friends. Under cover of night they
boarded a bus to Tanzania, where homosexuality is punishable by 14-year jail sentences.
From there, Integrity was able to arrange Lwabaayi a trip to Vancouver.
Lwabaayi immediately sought asylum. But seeking refuge in a more tolerant country
doesnt signal defeat: he wants to continue the fight for equality back home.
"Its not good for me to have a comfortable life in North America, when my
people are suffering," he says.
Vancouverss Dr Donald Meen helped arrange for Lwabaays escape. He is
bothered by the role of the African Anglican church in Lwabaayis persecution.
"It pained us to see the (Ugandan) news article where the primate of Uganada said,
I agree with the president, these people are animals," says Meen.
Troubles for gay Ugandan men did not begin until late last year. Although sodomy can
net you a life sentence, the International Lesbian And Gay Association reports
prosecutions are rare. However, Ugandan president Yosemi Museveni announced Sep 28 a
nation-wide sweep for gays, following a media frenzy about two men getting married (not
involving Lwabaayi or his colleagues).
Lwabaayi and friends were arrested Oct 6. Ugandan police also raided their newsletter
offices and seized subscription records which list addresses for 167 other gay Ugandan
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