I am called Eunice Nyamatala, 28 years old. In March 2019, I fled my home district Kasese Western Uganda, when I survived mob justice. Lydia Mutesi (RIP), my fiancé and I were attacked and lynched in our rental unit by an irritated mob. Lydia didn’t survive. She died of her injuries. Painfully, I had to abandon her lifeless body at a clinic in Fort Portal district. Fearing for my own life since the clinic had started questioning my relationship with Lydia and asking about my sexual orientation, it was my time to flee again.
It wasn’t my time to die. I connected with a human rights organization (which later put me in contact with an LGBTQi organization), and I was offered a job by this organization as a case worker, working on gender-based violence cases involving LGBTQi people.
Life was moving on very well. Since I was in-closet, I did all I could to appear straight so as not to arouse any suspicion. However, late last year things started to change. A government spokesperson and a minister hinted that the Ugandan government is reconsidering passing another anti-homosexuality bill. Having survived a mob justice, I was so traumatized and, though I tried to calm down, I wasn’t myself. My fears came to light in August 2020 when there was a nationwide hunt for the LGBTQi, in different parts of Uganda. The local Ugandans are claiming that the Ugandan government has failed in eliminating homosexuality. Actually, this is not true because the Ugandan government has special security operatives who are charged with man-hunting LGBTQi persons all over the country. However, it has to be done so secretly so that people in the West don’t know what is going on.
Back to my story: on the 10th of August my name was mentioned on Bwera FM Radio in my home district Kasese, that a lesbian who fled Kasese in 2019 has been sighted in Eastern Uganda. This set me packing and I sought for a safe house to hide. I had to abandon my work, which was taking care of me. Fortunately, a group of Quaker friends organized under the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund have never given up on us or the entire Ugandan LGBTQi community. During times of crisis, they are always there to help us. We are lucky at least somebody somewhere out there cares.
Later in September 2020 with several others, we were helped to flee Uganda. I don’t think I can ever go back to Uganda. I think I am out of danger. I have gotten a job working with an international tourism company. Actually, they don’t even care about my orientation or lifestyle.
Friends, the job you do is very important and I wish to take this opportunity to thank you. You saved my life. ….. now this is living.
On November 19th, Ugandan President Museveni, currently campaigning for President, openly attacked the gay community. On the radio, he called upon “peace-loving Ugandans” to take matters into their own hands by arresting, reporting, and stalking any suspected gay people.
People are fleeing for their lives. Right now the conductors Friends Ugandan Safe Transport supports have 64 people in hiding, seeking to leave the country. The majority of them are transgender. We need funds ($75 per person) to accomplish this. We have very courageous conductors prepared to undertake this work at great personal risk.
Please help! They cannot do it without your financial support!
Good (and bad) news from Uganda. After months of backlog, everyone that Friends Ugandan Safe Transport had waiting is now out and safe! We can hardly believe it, and we have some debts, and we are sure there will be more, but at least we can have an interim celebration.
The conductor who worked on these rescues, after the last 20 got out, quite literally collapsed. He is in the hospital, diagnosed with BOTH bacterial meningitis and pneumonia!
Fortunately, both are treatable. We spoke with him, and after a rough week he is in surprisingly good spirits.
So FUST has medical bills! The only other thing we use FUST money for besides the direct transport costs is medical care for our conductors. For without them and their extraordinarily courageous work, there is no FUST. We have lost conductors previously, and do not want to lose one more.
Please consider giving generously. Funds can either go directly to the Olympia Friends Meeting earmarked FUST, or through the FUST PayPal account (which also goes through the Meeting. See: http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/
For the record, 2281 people are now out of harm’s way, transported out by brave transporters who are supported by funds donated to FUST.
Eight members of Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting were arrested by police in Kamuli, Uganda on “suspicion of homosexuality”. They were held for four days, during which time they were starved and tortured, and entirely traumatized.
A Bulungi Friends Meeting member and friend traveled to Kamuli, and, at great personal risk, remained in contact with the eight the entire time, while negotiating with a corrupt and criminal police force.
As horrible as the experience was, having them held for four days, rather than being bound over to the court, was a good thing, as they then would have been tortured for more information. (The torture they received was purely sadistic, and for no other purpose.)
After several days of intense negotiations, all eight were ransomed, and have been moved to another town. Antibiotics and painkillers have been purchased for them (and food provided.) They are still extremely traumatized.
Friends Ugandan Safe Transport would like to move them out of the country as quickly as possible, and a conductor is ready to do so. At their interim destination, there is housing, food, medical care, and counseling waiting for them.
The transport will cost $600. If folks would like to throw in a few bucks to help pay for the loan made to ransom these folks, that would be great too.
Contributions go through the Olympia Friends Meeting, earmarked for FUST.
Olympia Friends Meeting 3201 Boston Harbor Road NE Olympia, WA 98506
Put “FUST” or “Uganda” in the note on the check
Please share this information.
Here is the story of a recent FUST passenger:
“Yes I can breathe”
by James Banawona – Age 27
I was born and raised in a very hostile family. My polygamous family never had any respect for women. My father’s primitive way of doing things has had very unforgiving results, which has left scars on many of his children. I never knew or saw any sign of love in our home. When I was 16, my mother noticed some gay behaviors in me. This didn’t go well with her. At our big home stead in Buwenge about 36 kilometers from Jinja, I was flogged by the entire family, I passed out and I only realized that I was at Jinja Main hospital after 4 days. I almost died, and to date I am disabled as my backbone moved out of position and one of my legs became shorter. I ended up spending almost 18 months in the hospital. As soon as I was able to support myself I escaped from the hospital, at the age of 17 and started a life on the streets of Jinja.
In 2011, I connected with an LGBTQ organization (which I won’t mention here) and they helped me complete high school and college and I was admitted at Kyambogo University for a Bachelors in Telecom Engineering. It’s a whole long story but I at least managed to complete my degree but of course not on time as the organization was also struggling financially.
Because of my sexual orientation, it was impossible to get a job in my field. I became depressed and that’s how I lost it. I became a drug addict as I had lost hope in life. I can’t even count the times I contemplated committing suicide.
Later in 2018, I started reconnecting with some people who had helped me in the past. I was introduced to a church-like setting, but unlike traditional churches, this was more of friends, friends coming together, without judging each other. Since late last year, the meetings became more persecuted and haunted so everything went underground. It’s through these meetings that I was able to be identified for safe transport.
Amidst the Covid 19 crisis, I was finally able to flee from Uganda thanks to the support of Quaker friends and the dedication plus courage of XX (the conductor), who did all it took so that we would leave the country and nobody was hurt.
I am happy that I can breathe now, I recently landed a juicy job in a telecom company!
“Uganda security forces raided a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth last week and arrested 23 people, including a nurse and the shelter’s executive director, charging them with unwarranted COVID-19 offenses after considering charging them under anti-homosexuality laws.
“Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) reports: “The Police first considered charging them with having carnal knowledge against the order of nature under section 145 of the Penal Code, but this was later changed to doing ‘a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease’ contrary to Section 171 of the Penal Code Act, and ‘disobedience of lawful orders’ under section 117 of the Penal Code Act. This was in the context of the Presidential Directives on COVID-19 which incidentally require people to stay indoors, the exact thing that the people at the shelter were doing.”
“Two people were beaten upon arrest. Three have been released on bond, “one of whom was the nurse and the other two for medical reasons.” and the other 20 have been sent to prison until April 29 when they are scheduled to appear in court.”
Friends from Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting in Jinja, Uganda, are under siege. They are the only welcoming and affirming unprogrammed Friends Meeting in east and central Africa. Their co-clerk is transgender.
38 of their members have had to flee for their lives, and two have been killed, including the clerk of a new worship group that was being formed. One of the founders was beaten and left for dead – he had been finding safe houses for LGBTQ folks. We managed to transport him to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, where he underwent 11 hours of brain surgery (he was suffering from intracranial hemorrhaging), then went back for another operation on his spine. The clerk was rescuing a transgender man on a motorcycle when she suffered a motorcycle accident, with much internal bleeding. Also to Aga Khan. LGBTQ folks don’t dare use a hospital in Uganda.
Below are two stories from last week. Friends Ugandan Safe Transport is a project of Olympia Friends Meeting. It is organized like the Underground Railroad. To date, 2,122 people have been helped to flee, including six children and eight allies. We need your help!
“The Sound of a Police Truck Speaks Terror” – by Solomon Ntanga
The sound of a police patrol truck speaks terror and fear to me. To me the sighting of a police officer, uniform, and even the word “police” itself are signs of danger. Twelve years later, I am still traumatized, and, yes, I still suffer nightmares.
On the cold evening of Thursday the 21st August 2008, I was picked up from my boyfriend’s house by a group of six policemen. Did I say boyfriend? Actually NOT!!! He was an undercover homophobic police officer, who has a life time commitment to wipe homosexuality out of Uganda He picked me up from a local secret point where we always hung out. He used to make a scene buying us food and drinks, and he quickly won our trust. We didn’t suspect that the personal questions he was asking were meant to gather more facts about the gay community in our area. Because I was somehow desperate and I needed a place to stay, I managed to befriend him and I really opened up to him, quickly sharing my story with him. He was really “generous”; yes, generous with hidden motive and a dark secret, and yes he hates gay people, helps to get them arrested, secretly arranges mob justice and lynching, he frames them so it looks like they have been stealing, and, then, even before the police arrive, they are stoned to death or burnt to ashes. Richard is a self-proclaimed pro when it comes to hunting down gay people. He is proud that he has blood on his hands, and he has mastered the art of preying on gay people who are homeless, on-drugs, desperate, and broke. He has the resources to operate all over Uganda and he knows exactly what to do. He is well-connected to the right people in the government and he comes from the ruling tribe in western Uganda. He doesn’t believe in the rule of law, in his own statement “the parliament and all the so called laws won’t stop the spreading of homosexuality in Uganda, there is need for more brave strong men like me to hunt them down and wipe them out before they spread the “disease” to others.”
My ordeal started immediately I entered Richard’s car to head to his apartment, he handcuffed me and pushed a dirty cloth in my mouth to shut me up. He insisted I tell him about everything, including names, addresses, phone numbers of each and every gay person in our community. He made it clear he would later kill me, so I was ready to face my Creator. He beat me so hard without getting any more information. Later in the night, I really can’t tell but I must have gone into a coma. I don’t really remember much and don’t know if hours or days had passed, I was then picked up by yet another hostile group of policemen who really enjoyed inflicting pain. I still find it hard to forgive them, even though I strongly believe in forgiveness and peace.
In police custody, I suffered a broken leg and I lost an eye. They worked on my file so that I could be taken to court but the police officer in charge of the police station mentioned that in the state I was, I was going to attract both local and international media so taking me to court in that state, wasn’t a good idea. For two days they openly discussed either to take me to a hospital or do away with me. My life was being discussed as if was a chicken in regard for dinner. Some questioned who would pay my hospital bills. Richard insisted killing me now with all the information I had would be a big loss. He suggested that I get treatment and maybe I would cooperate and give them more information. That’s how I was dumped at a government hospital but since nobody was paying my medical bills, the hospital suspended all treatment and I was asked to leave That’s how I survived. Ye, I am still full of terror, disfigured, and lame, but I am happy to be alive.
It has taken me almost 12 years to flee from Uganda, thanks to friends of the Friends Uganda Safe Transport Fund.
Having escaped from Uganda, I am now 28, living here taking it day by day, I now have hopes that maybe one day I will be somebody. Those guys wanted to kill me but I know am out of reach for them to make decisions on how to kill me. It’s not easy living in hiding for 12 years.
God bless you all! Solomon Ntanga
“I wish times could just change” – by Nasali Sheila, March 15, 2020
My friends call me Nasa, but my full name is Nasali Sheila 20 years. I was born to peasant farmers who strongly believed that I should be married off, or to be more accurate “sold off”. At the age of 14, I was married off to a wealthy man Haji Mohammad Bin Ali, who was 67. I became his fourth wife. He happily paid my family three cows, five goats, several chickens, several kilos of sugar, rice, salt, oil lamps, clothes, and other goods to my “family”. I was sold off like an item.
On my wedding night, he raped me, and by the time I gave birth when I was 16 I had developed fistula. I hated men and has taken me a lifetime to heal. And I hate my family; they just never cared.
From my early childhood, I developed an attraction towards girls. By the time I was finally sold off, I knew I was not straight, and by the time I gave birth, I knew I was a lesbian.
When I gave birth to my daughter Shamira, I started plotting on how to disappear without a trace. That chance came when the man who bought m., had to go to Mecca on hajj.
I just disappeared with Shamira, living a life on the run for years. Just last week, however, the local FM radio stations opened a fresh war on the people in my town, calling on the locals to destroy homosexuality in their communities since the government is like failing to do it. They called on churches and mosques to hand over gay people. This caused a lot of panic among us and thank Allah, we knew who to run to in this town. Till lately I have been living with my girl friends and when words went around that we were going to be attacked, we immediately called the local “conductor” because he had earlier assessed us in the process of helping us to flee from Uganda – to leave and go live in another country where we could be safe and free from the daily danger in which we live. We called the conductor, but currently he doesn’t have the resources to help us leave nor can he feed us as he looks around for the financial resources to help us flee. We decided that if death is going to meet us, it should find us at the local shelter, not in the township.
It is now coming to one full week, we are started, I have a crying child, no food, no safe water, no light. The conductor manages to get us one meal every two days. We are now sick and diseased, am so worried my baby might die before help finds us.
We are now 85 waiting. We lost one of our trans friends. day we become more desperate and hope is quickly fading, we are so worried what if the conductor abandons us and this leads to mass killings?
We are appealing to whoever can to help us flee We also wish to live but in my country life is cheap and one can easily be killed. I wish times could just change.
Help, Help. Nobody has ever gone broke by helping, we need your help to flee.
If you are able to financially support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund, please go to our DONATE page. Thank you!
Olympia Monthly Meeting is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Cash and non-cash contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of applicable law. Our Employer Identification Number (EIN) is 94-3145171.
I was born on the 25th March 1999 in the wrong body. I was named Isabella Nakintu. At the age of nine, everything indicated that I am a boy in a girl’s body. But since the culture demanded that I should be a girl, I had very limited support from my family. It became an intense personal problem. Later, I considered suicide as a solution but, as a Christian, the thought of taking my own life was overwhelming. Any attempts against the will of my parents were met with extreme violence, cultural rituals, flogging, and rejection.
At the age of 15, I made a difficult decision to go my own way; and street life gave me more comfort. This hard-knock life greeted me with crime, drugs, and prostitution and, by 2017; I had contracted HIV. I remember being arrested by the police in 2018 and the police had to undress me to ascertain my sex. Some were calling me a girl and others a boy. One police officer raped me in the night in the name of giving protective custody. Without any relatives interested in my plight, it took months before I was given a police bond, which I jumped. In the police statement I had made, I had clearly indicated that I am transgender, which was an automatic case of self-incrimination. I became a fugitive from our gruesome laws.
fellow street mate hinted to me that there is a welcoming church which
can help me hide away from the police and my family (by 2019, my family
wished my death and attempts were being made to kill me by rat poison
because of my gender and sexual orientation). After months of
searching, I was finally connected to a Friends’ group. My friend said
it was a church, but it was actually a Quaker Friends Meeting. They
pray differently and at first I thought they were strange. But that
didn’t really matter – they welcomed me as I am. They accepted me and
never judged me or even asked me questions. This is the place where I
belonged, this was the very first time I wasn’t trying to be something
different. It was me and I felt the comfort of changing my name from
Isabella Nakintu to Isaiah Kintu.
events of late 2019 again changed things around. A Minister in Uganda
announced the re-tabling of the “Kill the Gays” law. This meant that we
had to go into more confined hiding in safe houses. The media are
strictly controlled in Uganda and are ordered not to mention or report
any state-sponsored homophobia, though somehow once in a while such
news makes it to the international media. However, when a government
minister makes a statement and introduces a law to kill gay people, the
local people in rural villages and elsewhere understand this to mean
they can take up arms, stones, machetes, sticks, etc. to beat and kill
any suspected LGBTQI in mob justice (lynching).
hiding in safe houses for weeks and losing one of our friends in a mob
justice attack, more than 60 of us were safely helped to flee from
Uganda to a safe harbor. Though I am happy for now, my expected final
destination will be …. where I can get a job and start working, go back
to school, and rebuild my life.
wish to thank all the Quakers in the U.S. who are organized under the
Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund, who funded my escape and those of
my friends. You are miracle workers, and you saved our lives. Now we can
breathe. Thanks AGAIN & AGAIN!
If you are able to financially support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so that we can help us fund more people like Isaiah who need to get out of Uganda because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, please go to our DONATE page. Thank you!
Thank you so much for your assistance with Friends Ugandan Safe Transport (FUST) in this hour of great need. To bring you up to date, in October 2019 a bill was introduced into the Uganda Parliament calling for criminal penalties against LGBTQ people, including the death penalty. While the bill itself is not likely to be acted upon anytime soon, it reopened an active phase for expressions of homophobia and hatred throughout Uganda. In eastern Uganda alone, we know of five murders (with our contacts having witnessed two of them.) Eight radio stations and a tv station are airing anti-gay propaganda around the clock, and homophobic sermons are being preached from the pulpit, including by at least one Catholic bishop. People are being beaten in the streets or at markets, forced to leave school and families and are living in a constant climate of fear. We would note that little of this is allowed out by the press/media, which is pretty much confined to the capital Kampala.
Through your help and courageous action on the part of our “conductors,” 113 gay, lesbian, and transgender people, (including 38 members of Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting – a welcoming and affirming Quaker Meeting in eastern Uganda; ‘bulungi’ means “welcome’) – have left Uganda, including 67 on Christmas Day itself. They are now all at their interim destinations, where they are well-housed, fed (many of them had been virtually starving), receiving medical care, and provided with services that will help them reach their final destinations around the world. Please note that funds from FUST are not used for this purpose, but only to facilitate the transport of those leaving Uganda, and for medical expenses of conductors and other directly involved in these efforts. Among the 113 were four gay members of the Ugandan Presidential Guard!
But it has been hard! And will continue to be so. Four “safe houses” had been set up in eastern Uganda. As there was not enough food, one transgender woman named Thelma ventured out of one of the houses to buy some bread at a market about a mile away, where she was beaten to death. (She had also been one of the conveners of the Buikwa Friends Worship Group.) Another individual, having just witnessed a lynching of a lesbian woman, was transporting a transgender person to safety when she was involved in a very serious motorcycle accident. She was transported by ambulance to Agha Khan Hospital (from experience they don’t trust Ugandan hospitals) in Nairobi, Kenya, where she underwent seven hours of surgery for internal injuries. She is now back in Uganda and recovering well.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of Robert Mboise (one of the co-founders of Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting) who had been helping individuals reach the safe houses. Robert was attacked, beaten, and left for dead. He was found the next day and eventually sent via ambulance to Agha Khan, where he underwent 10 hours of surgery to relieve intracranial hemorrhaging. The operation was a success, but just the beginning, as he has a major spinal cord injury and is likely to require additional emergency surgery. Robert is one of the most extraordinary people you might ever meet, and we are committed to doing whatever is necessary to assist in his recovery.
Meanwhile, our conductors have a confirmed list of 85 people awaiting transport. The safehouses are currently closed as there is no money for food or fuel, and with floods sweeping Uganda there are now cholera outbreaks that can easily be spread among people living in close quarters. So we are working on more fundraising efforts to get these people out, and we expect there will be more.
You have collectively already done so much! Since we started in 2014 when the first anti-gay legislation was introduced, with your financial support some 2,057 people in justified fear for their lives (with 12 murders along the way) left Uganda and are rebuilding their lives around the world.
We are blessed that we are able to do this work, and so grateful for your ongoing assistance in doing it.
Thank you for giving us this opportunity to serve.
Gabi Clayton and Kathleen O’Shaunessy – Co-Managers
Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund – Olympia Friends Meeting
Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund is a project of Olympia Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, a 501(c)(3) religious organization (tax identification number: #94=3145171). Donations to Olympia Friends Meeting are tax-deductible to the extent allowed under the Internal Revenue Code. No goods or services have been rendered.
This is the letter we have been sending out this week to many of our supporters:
December 7, 2019
Friends and Supporters,
been over two years since we last updated you on Friends’ Ugandan Safe
Transport (FUST). This is because two of
our conductors felt they needed to back away from active participation in the
project due to stress and personal safety concerns — which is certainly
understandable given their longevity and dedication to the project. FUST
continued with only one conductor during that time and we didn’t feel an urgent
need for active fundraising again until now. The Ugandan government is reviving
the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2013 which was repealed in 2014.
proposed legislation calls for the death penalty for LGBTQ citizens. As a result, many LGBTQ Ugandans are in desperate
need to get out of the country, so we are gearing up our fundraising efforts
again. Currently, we are in direct
contact with the two Ugandan transport allies, both of whom we know personally
and have worked with before.
CURRENT STATUS AND REQUEST:
the last four months, five members of the LGBTQ community have been
murdered. One of our friendly allies was
severely beaten three weeks ago and is in the hospital in Nairobi awaiting
surgery. We are in urgent need of funds
to pay for his surgery and medical expenses as well as to transport passengers
to safety that are being held in hiding. There are currently 67 passengers in
hiding awaiting transport. Our primary
conductor has successfully transported 42 people to the border in the past
three days. This is a very risky, remarkable accomplishment.
Ugandan friends report that fear and panic within the LGBTQ community is
extremely high. We are again asking for
your support in this time of urgent need.
Thanks to you, our donors, we have raised $190,000 and safely
transported 1990 passengers since FUST began in 2014.
of you know, FUST is a project initiated by Olympia Friends’ Meeting (Quakers)
in April 2014. It has the support of
more than 25 Friends’ Monthly and Yearly Meetings, several other faith
communities and many individual donors.
It is a project conducted by and controlled by Ugandans for Ugandans. Our role is to provide the financial support
which allows conductors to do their work.
No funds are used for staffing or administration except for postage and
mailing supplies. To date, 14 countries
have accepted LGBTQ Ugandan refuges. We
hope to expand this number.
have question or would like to know more, please visit our website which
provides background information, FAQs, updates and links to other relevant
sites We also invite you to visit our
blog at http://friendsugandasafetransport.org/blog/ and read the personal, heartfelt
stories of some of the refuges you helped be transported to safety. You may also wish to view a February 2016 local
television program, “Bold, Friendly Action to Help LGBTQ Ugandans Flee to
Safety,” done by Olympia Fellowship for Reconciliation (FOR). You can watch it on the homepage of our
most grateful and appreciative of your support and donations. We hope you will continue to support FUST in
these most critical times.
warm regards and good wishes during this holiday season.
Gabi Clayton and Kathleen O’Shaunessy Co-mangers, Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund
While Friends Ugandan Safe Transport (FUST) has not been very active in the last few months, we are still in operation, working with one amazing Ugandan transporter. This morning he put in a plea for funds to help move two men out of the country.
Brian and Edward, ages 27 and
24, are gay Ugandan soldiers who belonged to the presidential elite guard.
They deserted because of severe harassment based on their sexual orientation and have now been in hiding with the FUST transporter for two months, waiting for us to come up with the funds to get them out of Uganda.
It will cost $370.00 USD to
do that – $185.00 for each person – and so far we have raised $55.00.
We thought we could enjoy our rights wherever and whenever we could as human beings. Enjoy our rights in the context that we are adults and for as long as our enjoyments did not in any way violate the rights of other folks. For example, choosing who I have an intimate relationship with in our view would be perfectly okay.
We were very wrong on this, at least wrong for being in a military cadet training and more so in Uganda.
Having been recruited for the training seven months ago in a nationwide recruitment exercise, we thought we had started on a journey that would improve our livelihoods. Unemployment is rife in Uganda and its alarming levels have turned it into among the major social problems that the government has to grapple with.
The screening for the cadet training was rigorous, and out of the over 3500 youth that turned up for interviews at different countrywide centres, only 325 were finally recruited. We were told during our orientation that the military training we had enrolled for was not a tea party but a very rigorous exercise that called for a lot of combined attributes, patience, commitment, time management, and most importantly highest level of discipline. We surely did not have any issues with the aforementioned requirements at a glance.
All trainees were university graduates, and upon completion would all come out at the rank of lieutenant. Many trainees knew each other considering that many also came from the same universities.
I subscribed to the Q-Hearts, an informal group of LGBTs which is silently operating at different universities and colleges in the country, and coincidentally a good number of our members had been recruited for the cadet training. We were gradually able to establish that the Q-Hearts members for the training were in the region of 37 men and women who included lesbians, gays and transgender people among others. Precisely, 13 were women and 24 were men. Either by design of default almost half were in attendance with their partners. We were able to constitute a loose leadership structure for ease of coordination. We did this, however, very cautiously.
The training is meant to last 12 months so we progressed well for the first seven months until some information filtered in to the leadership that there is a small group of like-minded cadets who were ‘misbehaving’ and were becoming ‘undisciplined.’ We suspected that someone had been planted to follow every step of our activity clandestinely, and since we did not expect anyone to beat our level of organization, we knew we were on top of our game. We were wrong on this as well.
One morning we appeared for the early morning parade and as usual roll-call was done and the subsequent routine drills, exercises and the classroom lessons that followed. However, around break time, we got wind of the pregnant plan to summon four of our members over ‘indiscipline’.
Considering, the degree of isolation and discrimination meted on our members in the past month we knew something terrible was looming.
One very senior lady officer had one time around the fifth month in the training talked about the crisis that had eaten up the army globally as being the phenomenon of homosexuality, and cautioned us against being lured into it. She passionately talked about it and emphasised that this is a western culture which we should not copy. She knocked her words of caution really hard in that we knew that in the circumstance that any of us was apprehended, military rules and regulations would be brought to apply. Actually, the lady officer went an extra mile to inquire whether there were any homosexuals among us and the whole class went dead silent. She ended her presentation by seriously reminding us that engaging in homosexuality in the army grossly violated army code of conduct in Uganda and also contradicted the norms and cultures of the country, hence should be accorded the contempt it deserved.
Luckily, when a crisis meeting was called to discuss the emerging group of homosexuals, one sympathetic officer who we later learnt was among the founding members of the Q-Hearts while still at university, reached out and informed one of us he personally knew through another forum that 32 cadets were targeted for a very heavy punishment. Remember, we had 37 known members and now 5 were not listed. This kept us scratching our heads and thinking that unless we looked at the list, we could not be certain that the names there were of all our members. We managed through our sympathetic officer friend to see the list and learnt that the 32 were all members of the Q-Hearts. However, we now concerned ourselves with the fact that five members had been skipped and left out on the list. Anyhow that now mattered less since we now knew who the victims were and had to devise means and ways to sort out ourselves as fast as possible.
Mobilizing ourselves as a group of Q-Hearts is the most efficient activity and we undertook it with precision. We spread the word that we had to hastily find our way out of the training venue or else be subjected to the court martial which is a military court. If this was to happen, that would be the most tormenting experience of our lives. We knew many rules would be bent as we had been told by the sympathetic officer that he would never wish any of us to be brought before the court martial as in his view there is no fairness and equity.
We now grappled with the hard thought of how we were going to get out of the high security training facility.
Indeed, our escape is the hardest thing that ever happened in our lifetime considering that we know the penalty that one would get upon arrest. We agreed in unison that hook or crook we had to get out of the facility or else we face dire consequences.
Our group had five cellular phones which were also kept secretly as they are not allowed for trainees. We effectively coordinated our plans using WhatsApp and word of mouth to spread on what happens next.
We mooted a plan to mobilize money and gauge the option of bribing the guards. None of us had a coin on us and we only had to solicit for money from relatives and friends who we could not even tell the exact reason why we needed money. Luckily, we managed to do all the ground work and established that our plan of bribing the guards was the riskiest venture one would undertake on planet earth. Bribing guards with money was now off the list and we now considered reverting to our sympathetic officer friend. However, access to him was not as easy as we hoped. Since he had given his number to our leader, contact was made and a meeting was arranged for the two to discuss our issue. Time was running out since we had been told that the next meeting would decide our fate in three weeks’ time.
We were to later learn that one trainer of the morning drills was gay and actually he would be our redeemer in our escape plan. We did not bother establishing how our sympathetic officer friend did the final manoeuvre plan but certainly it worked out for us after three days. Know that 32 people had to vanish out of the drill and escape to safety.
Long story short, we were able to finally escape from the morning drills of over 300 people at different points and from around three groups. We managed to find our way to safety using hired motorcycles for transportation to different points. Unluckily, six of our members were arrested later on in a small township near the training facility and are now apparently helping the army find us. We get updates on the hunt for us from our sympathetic officer friend.
Eight of us managed to regroup and make contact with a volunteer who is widely known in the Q-Hearts fraternity. He [a FUST conductor] accommodates us and is making effort to reach his friends abroad to get financial support so that we can move to safety in another country within the region.
We are living in constant fear since we know that our actions border on a very serious crime of treason.
Please kind-hearted people out there do help us by giving money to FUST who will in turn have it passed onto the volunteer that will finally arrange our exit.
We are eight and are looking forward to knowing that there are people who mind about the fate of persecuted LGBTs in the world in general and Uganda in particular.
The conductor Friends Ugandan Safe Transport works with has these eight military cadets in his care, and they are in extreme danger. He also has six lesbian nursing college students who were found out and escaped to seek safety and transport.
Please make a donation if you can help us fund these people out of Uganda. It cost $185 for each passenger. Any amount helps! Thank you.