Ugandan LGBTIQ activist murdered days before gay death penalty outrage

uganda president yoweri museveni death penalty activist
Photos (L-R): YouTube, HRAPF

Human rights groups want a thorough investigation into the brutal murder of an LGBTIQ activist in Uganda, as some in the African nation push for the death penalty for homosexuality.

Paralegal and activist Brian Wasswa, who identified as gay and gender-nonconforming, was attacked this month at his home in the east Ugandan city of Jinja.

Local group Sexual Minorities Uganda said the murderer struck the 28-year-old multiple times in the head with a garden tool.

After finding him in a pool of blood, neighbours rushed him to hospital. But Wasswa died in an ambulance en route to capital city Kampala.

Since 2017, Wasswa worked as a paralegal at legal aid organisation Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF). He also worked as a peer educator with The AIDS Support Organization, an HIV prevention NGO.

HRAPF colleague Justine Balya described Wasswa as well-loved and committed to counselling young people living with HIV about staying on treatment.

Uganda government rhetoric will ‘fire up more hatred’

Wasswa’s death came as a Ugandan lawmaker claimed the government would reintroduce an anti-gay bill putting in place the death penalty for gay sex.

A Ugandan government spokesperson later walked back plans for new laws, but activists remain concerned.

Human Rights Watch said the government also put out “conflicting messages” ahead of the passage of a similar death penalty bill in 2014.

Uganda faced international outcry when President Yoweri Museveni (pictured above, left) signed the previous bill. Shortly afterward, the country’s constitutional court annulled it on a technicality.

However, the law contributed to violence, discrimination, evictions, and arbitrary arrests of LGBTIQ people, Amnesty International said.

And they said the government’s new anti-LGBTIQ rhetoric alone will “fire up more hatred in an already homophobic environment.”

Both male and female same-sex sexual activity has long been illegal in Uganda.

Amnesty International’s African director Joan Nyanyuki said the Ugandan government must instead take “urgent steps” to decriminalise gay sex.

“Uganda’s MPs must resoundingly reject any plan to legalise this kind of bigotry and witch-hunt of anyone perceived as being different,” she said.

‘Make it clear violence is never acceptable’

Sexual Minorities Uganda say three gay men and a transgender woman were killed in Uganda in recent months.

Human Rights Watch’s Africa researcher Oryem Nyeko said it was incumbent Ugandan authorities deliver justice for Brian Wasswa’s murder.

“Police should conduct thorough investigations. Political leaders should refrain from any rhetoric that might encourage violence against LGBT people,” Nyeko said.

“The Ugandan government should be making it crystal clear that violence is never acceptable, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Instead, a government minister charged with ethics and integrity is threatening to have gay people killed by the state.”

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