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A Ugandan Woman's Desperate Plea

A Ugandan Woman's Desperate Plea


The shocking murder of Uganda gay rights activist David Kato has heightened the urgency surrounding the case of Brenda Namigadde, a lesbian facing deportation from the United Kingdom to the virulently homophobic African country on Friday.

Namigadde spoke with The Advocate Thursday afternoon from the Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire, where she has been held for two months. In a soft voice, she repeatedly expressed fears that she would be killed if she is forced to return to her native Uganda.

"I'm not feeling well at all, just worried," Namigadde said, noting that anxiety had prevented her from eating for the past two days. "There is no hope. I am so broken."

The 29-year-old is scheduled to board a Friday evening flight from Heathrow Airport to Uganda, where her safety is anything but certain. On Wednesday, Kato, one of many LGBT people who had been outed and threatened with hanging in the country's Rolling Stone newspaper, was beaten to death with a hammer in the village of Mukono, east of the capital city of Kampala.

Namigadde worried she could suffer the same fate.

"It makes me feel very bad," she said. "It's really very scary to go back to Uganda. My life is gone as well. I am in danger. [Kato] is the one who was trying to stand for people."

British officials have thus far refused to grant asylum to Namigadde, saying there is insufficient evidence that she is a lesbian. Her attorney submitted another claim with new evidence this week.

It's unclear whether the frightening implications of Kato's murder will sway British Home Secretary Theresa May to reconsider Namigadde's deportation, though Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, said, "It seems like the changed circumstances [regarding Kato's murder] would provide at least a temporary reprieve from deportation."

"In the past, public scrutiny and public outcry in the U.K. have been somewhat effective and have resulted in temporary reprieves," Bromley said.

All Out, a New York-based organization launched this month and focused on the global movement for LGBT rights, initiated a letter-writing campaign after hearing about Namigadde's situation last week. According to All Out cofounder Andre Banks, the group has sent about 8,300 letters to May's office via its website as of Thursday afternoon.

"We've been talking with both Brenda and her attorney. She's very upset, very concerned to hear about David Kato's murder as well as her fear of imminent deportation," Banks said. He added that representatives with the home secretary's office told him they had received a deluge of mail in support of Namigadde over the past 24 hours. But Banks has not heard whether Namigadde's deportation is being reconsidered.

Speaking from the detention center, Namigadde dismissed recent reports that David Bahati, the Ugandan parliament member sponsoring a bill to make homosexuality punishable by death in certain instances, had offered to remove the capital punishment language from his legislation. Bahati told the U.K. newspaper The Guardian that Namigadde would be welcome in Uganda if she would "abandon or repent her behavior" and cease bringing international scrutiny on the country. Otherwise, he suggested that she would be punished with arrest or worse.

"I'm not going to repent, because that's who I am," Namigadde said. "David Bahati is going to put a death penalty on me."

Namigadde said that she has no family members or friends in Uganda, where some lesbians she once knew have disappeared or, she surmises, have been killed. She has not spoken to her Canadian partner, Janet, since about 2004, one year after they fled Uganda, where homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

"Nowhere to live, nowhere to stay, nowhere to be safe," Namigadde said. "I can't move out from the country. My life is in danger. I'm going to be killed. I can't be going back to Uganda."

If and when the moment of deportation arrives Friday, Namigadde said she would refuse to comply, even if that means she is forcibly removed. It would constitute one last plea to British officials.

"I gave them all the evidence. I provided everything," she said. "They don't believe me."
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Julie Bolcer