Police in Uganda are facing a narrowing space in local communities with relationships between civilian and officer deteriorating. The Ugandan Police Force is attempting to rehabilitate its image. Yet many feel that unless police actively prosecute their own for wrongdoing, the community outreach means very little. This short photo essay focuses on the often tenuous relationship between the people, their spaces and their police force.
When it comes to admonishing Uganda for its anti-homosexuality stance, millions are ready to weigh in. However, in all this admonishment, many forget that LGBT Ugandans actually exist — Ugandans who are willing to put their lives on the line for what they believe in. So as Pride nears (yes there is a Pride Parade in Uganda), let’s take a look at three easy ways you can support the LGBT community here in Uganda.
Support Local Causes
While it’s true that Uganda’s LGBT community faces daunting threats both to their rights and personal security, there are a number of out and proud Ugandan activists who run LGBT programs inside the country. These includes organizations such as Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Both organizations have been on the front lines, overturning the Anti-Homosexuality Act last year and implementing healthcare and outreach programs across the country.
By showing your support for these groups, you can help support legal battles, local health initiatives, security training and events like Pride.
Don’t Scare Monger
While the Anti-Homosexuality Act was realized with the help of Western evangelicals such as Scott Lively, it was challenged and repealed by Ugandans. When talking about Uganda and how much they “hate” homosexuals remember that LGBT Ugandans are proud of their culture and heritage and know that it can exist without hate.
In fact, before colonialism and English laws were implemented, prominent kingdoms had gay men in positions of power. In the West Nile region, a marriage between same-sex couples were considered normal. It takes time to rediscover culture when the demonization of local beliefs has been entrenched for decades. Let LGBT Ugandans and their allies do their work, and let’s not treat the country like a monolith.
Be Careful as to Which Evangelical Missions You Support
There are a massive amount of church groups that take yearly trips to Uganda in order to “help” the country. While some missions do truly care about the well-being of the community, a number of them are discriminatory and hateful. They spread this hate to local communities, scaring them into believing that the homosexuals prey on children and attempt to convert them into sexual deviants.
Rather than supporting missions that may or may not spread hate, why not support local Christian groups that are LGBT-friendly? Think that’s crazy?
Back in January I did a story for VOA on Uganda’s Hiccup Circus which can be found here. In it, I detailed how this circus troupe was bringing educational messages and entertainment to children in poorer regions of Kampala, as well as refugee camps around Uganda.
Many of the aerialists in the circus are self taught, and spend hours practicing dangerous drops and loops to entertain their fans. Here are some photos from the shoot, which highlights the incredible skill of these young men.
On Thursday, presidential aspirant Amama Mbabazi was arrested in Jinja town and brought to Kira Road Police Station in Kampala. Supporters and journalists flocked to the police station and in the high tension atmosphere, physical altercations between the police and Mbabazi supporters broke out. These are my photographs from that day.
Most slums in Kampala are situated in low lying areas, muffled by the hills around them. Wealth here is a vertical concept, but the Acholi Quarters in Kireka break this mold. One of the few low-income areas perched with a view, the neighborhood is a world away from the hustle of Kampala.
This small community is made up almost entirely of Northern Ugandans who had fled the LRA’s bloody insurgency years ago. Many here suffer from PTSD and psychosocial care is badly needed. However most NGOs in the area focus on skill creation for the women.
While well intentioned, this has created its own disparity. Focusing primarily on women, and leaving out men, has been blamed for the high rates of alcoholism in the area. Some men say that they are being left behind, and without the ability to contribute, feel worthless.
Those who do find work spend their days cutting and hoisting large stones out of the pits. They are brought to the surface where women sit, pounding them down into gravel. Most workers are paid less than 5,000UGX per day (about $1.50 USD) for up to 12 hours of labor.
It is a poor neighborhood but residents say that crime is low. This is because it’s a tight knit and somewhat secluded community. Discrimination against northerners, and Acholis in particular, is high in Uganda. Those with darker skin and thinner bodies (hallmarks to many of Acholi ethnicity) are often ridiculed. This is particularly true with children. It is because of this discrimination that many residents have a strong preference to keep to themselves.
A few years ago the Acholi Quarters opened a modern primary school for their children. They say that when their kids were finally allowed to learn without being picked on, they excelled in their studies. Many of the women bragged about some of the best students in Uganda coming from their schools.
Although there has been progress in recent years, dangers still exist throughout the area. Last year at least 3 children died falling into the quarries. Many families need both parents working outside the home, and with little time for supervision, accidents are common.
Yet this small ethnic enclave, which started as a refuge from violence, has high hopes that extend far beyond the quarry pits. Rather its the newly built schools, funded in part by the residents themselves, that leave most parents optimistic. Hopeful that their own children will never have to learn the price of gravel.
Two teams: The Rebels and the Nakeseros faced off in an epic showdown. They had come early that morning from all over Kampala’s outlying areas, waiting patiently for the court to free up. Once it was open, they took off spinning, ramming and shooting, flying up and down the court.
For the players it is not stigma, shame or disability that has become their biggest challenge. Rather, it’s finance. Without proper funding and sponsorship many have to pay to play, and therefore their ability to participate is limited to their personal budget.
I did a story on wheelchair basketball for Voice of America in February that can be found here. However I hope this small collection of photos can capture the passion these players have for the game.
In Uganda disabilities are still often kept behind closed doors. However, a number of players refuse to let public stigma stop them. These pictures are the first part of a two part series on parasports in Uganda. Taken during a citywide sports day, I wanted to capture not just the curiosity of onlookers, but the indifference of the disabled players. Comfortable and happy in their own skin, they took over the field, shouting, laughing and playing football on their own terms.