Leaders of LGBT rights groups in Uganda have asked Ugandan police to investigate reports that seven LGBT people have been stoned to death or burned alive in rural sections of the country in recent weeks.
Kampala-based LGBT organizations believe that the reports are untrue.
The reports came from the Friends New Underground Railroad (FNUR), an organization operating in the United States and East Africa that was founded to help endangered LGBT people in Uganda who wanted to leave the country.
FNUR said that three gay men, two lesbians and a transgender person were stoned by a mob during the week of Aug. 11. Five of them died from the stoning, while the sixth survived briefly until doused in kerosene and set on fire, FNUR said. In a separate incident elsewhere in Uganda, FNUR said, a 28-year-old gay man was attacked by another mob on Aug. 5, suffered head injuries, and died the next day. For more information about the allegations, see the group’s press release of Aug. 16.
The Friends Railroad said it had witnesses, documentary evidence, the names of victims and other details about the incidents, which it would provide to human rights organizations when it was safe to do so. Thus far, few details have been provided.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) is asking anyone with information about the alleged incidents to provide it in order to aid the investigation — whether that information tends to confirm or to refute the reports.
The Kampala-based Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) sent a five-person team to the general area where FNUR reported that six people were murdered. Working with scant information about the alleged attacks, the HRAPF team did not find evidence that they had occurred. (See HRAPF report below.)
Since then, HRAPF has received little additional information from FNUR and has decided not to pursue the matter further.
Several journalists, including the editor/publisher of this blog, have been requesting further information from FNUR, including access to people who reportedly witnessed the attacks and now have been evacuated to a neighboring country. Colin Stewart, the author of this article and editor/publisher of this blog, stated:
“I believe that the horrifying events that Friends New Underground Railroad described may have happened. I also believe that people of goodwill are involved in FNUR operations.
“But that group’s refusal to disclose specific information and provide access to people who could confirm the account is exactly the behavior that would be expected of people who had fabricated a story and didn’t want their lies to be exposed. I still hope that more information will be disclosed and more eye witnesses will step forward, but that has not happened yet.
“Without more specifics being made available, I agree with HRAPF’s decision not to devote resources to a further investigation.”
This blog published an article about the FNUR reports on Aug. 17 (“Report: 7 LGBT Ugandans slain; 65 flee abroad”) and removed it from the website after many Kampala-based activists protested that the reports likely were fabricated.
This is the preliminary report from HRAPF executive director Adrian Jjuuko on his team’s investigation, which occurred before FNUR reported that it had successfully helped 65 LGBT people leave the country and thus before FNUR was willing to disclose details of the events some of them allegedly witnessed:
I now have a preliminary report from the HRAPF team that went to Buyende. This team is made up of 3 lawyers and two paralegals and they have dealt with LGBTI cases for sometime and have been working closely with the communities, and the police.
The object of the verification exercise was to find out whether any one else has heard of the five murders so that we could independently verify the information.
The team started at Buyende Town and then moved on to Butukiro. One thing that was established even before the team left Kampala is that there is no village called ‘Itukira’ in Buyende. [Editor’s note: Itukira was cited by FNUR as the location of the six murders. FNUR says it has evidence that the village exists, but has not yet provided it.] We established this through an updated record of all Villages and other administrative units in Uganda issued by the Electoral Commission. Indeed in Buyende Town, no one knew of a village by that name. As such the team decided to go to Kitukiro Trading Centre and Kitukiro village which are the closest name to ‘Itukira’.
In Buyende Town, the team visited the Central Police Station and interviewed the Officer in Charge of the Station and the Officer in Charge of Criminal Investigations who both stated that they have not handled a case of mob justice or murder or homicide in the past one month or even in the recent past. Their only homicide was a last week murder of a one-year-old child by its mother. The team also spoke to ordinary people who had not heard of any case of mob justice or murder or any other form of homicide except the child murder.
The team then moved on to Butukiro. At the Police Post, the Officer also stated that they had not handled a case of homicide or mob justice. The team also spoke to a woman Councillor at the Parish level who also had not heard of any homicide or mob justice case. Ordinary people including boda boda [motorcycle transport] riders also had not heard of the case. The team also inquired about recent burials in the areas and there was none in the last week except the murdered child. They recalled a case of a person who was beaten last year when he tried to build at a well which is shared by the whole community.
Since it was getting dark and also since there was not a single lead to follow, the team called off the exercise.
So that is what we have found. The limitations are that the investigation was done in a space of 4 hours and that the none of those who claimed that this took place was interviewed.
My personal opinion is that however remote an area is, and Buyende is indeed remote, there is no way five people could be stoned to death and the news does not spread.[Editor’s note: Six people were reportedly stoned to death there. The location of the reported stoning of the seventh man on Aug. 5 has not been specified.]
So, that is it. That is what the HRAPF team has found. If any one needs further verification, we can involve the police leadership, but for now that is it.