Authorities in Uganda rounded up and arrested 125 people in the raid of Ram, an LGBTQ-friendly bar in Kampala, according to activists on the ground. Most face drug charges, but the targeting of the Ram increased fears of a government crackdown.
“The past has shown that it is difficult to prosecute anyone for being LGBT,” activist Kasha Jacquelin told OutRight Action International. “Using trumped-up drug charges is a new and frightening tactic; one which is really hard to tackle and will make our battle even tougher.”
The Uganda Police Force only raided Ram and paraded arrests in front of media after a late night raid Sunday evening. Most charges related to the sale of Shisha, a tobacco product outlawed in 2015.
Ram is the only LGBTQ-friendly bar in the city, according to the Kuchu Times.
Just last month, Ugandan leaders sought to revive the internationally condemned “kill the gays” legislation around the same time that police in Kampala arrested 16 men suspected of engaging in homosexual acts, forcing them to undergo anal exams.
Meanwhile, OutrRight said at least four LGBTQ individuals in Uganda have died in hate-related attacks.
“The resurfacing of the anti-homosexuality bill in a country which already prescribes life imprisonment for same-sex relations could only have had one intention — to increase hate and stigma against LGBTIQ people, putting them at heightened risk of arbitrary detention and attack,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight.
“That is exactly what is happening. The growing intensity of arrests, the clear targeting of an LGBTIQ friendly bar, makes it painfully clear that a witch hunt is being mounted against LGBTIQ Ugandans.”
Uganda previously considered a "kill the gays" bill 10 years ago, but the maximum penalty was altered to life imprisonment when it finally passed in 2013. It was later ruled unconstitutional on a technicality, although the life sentence can still be imposed under another law. While some government officials recently said "kill the gays" legislation will be reintroduced in Parliament, aides to President Yoweri Musevini denied that it will be considered.