In a statement, organizers of Uganda Pride announced the event’s cancelation due to threats of violence and arrest.
“It is with very heavy hearts and deep-felt sadness that we announce the cancellation of Pride Uganda 2017,” the LGBT site Kuchu Times posted in a statement. “Following the police raid and interruption of the Pride parade last year, extra precaution was taken in organizing this year’s festival.”
Last year’s Pride was called off after Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo threatened to gather a mob in the streets to attack marchers. One day earlier, police raided the Mr. and Miss Pride Contest, beating attendees, who were locked inside the club while the media was called.
Lodoko made similar threats this year, claiming Pride is some sort of recruitment drive to “turn” people gay.
“He has categorically stated, time and again, that gender and sexual minorities have no rights in Uganda and today had all the venues of the planned Pride events surrounded by state militia,” the statement read. “The courage and determination that we carry in our hearts is not enough to put the lives of so many innocent people at risk.”
Kuchu Times insisted activists’ work fighting for equality has just begun: “We will not stop until every sexual and gender minority is accorded their rights as a human being.”
Uganda is the only country in East Africa that celebrates Pride, and its importance was made crystal clear by lesbian activist Qwin Mbabazi Fiona, who told NNN last year “[it] is a space were I feel free to celebrate who I am, to convene with those that are like me—LGBTQ members coming from all corners of the country.”
Of course, the plight of LGBT Ugandans and their allies goes beyond the cancelation of a parade: Not only are citizens arrested for being perceived as gay or socializing with gay people, but in some cases even renting a room or hosting someone thought to be gay.
Organizations like Kuchu Times that advocate for the rights of LGBT people are considered to be “promoting homosexuality” and are often harassed and shut down by the government.