the Guardian | South Africa drops deportation case against Ugandan gay rights campaigner

Posted February 26, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Anti gay bill ~ 3,871 views


mini-paul semugooma

A Ugandan LGBT activist living in South Africa had his deportation case over-turned following the developments in Uganda last week. We pick up this story from the Guardian newspaper. — Government officials tried to force Paul Semugoma on to flight to Uganda, say activists, despite court order allowing him to stay. A Ugandan gay rights activist has thwarted an attempt by the South African government to deport him amid fears he would be at risk of imprisonment or death if sent home.

Officials dropped their case on Thursday against Paul Semugoma, a critic of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. But South African activists said it raised questions about their government’s treatment of foreign nationals and silence about homophobia on the continent.

Semugoma, a doctor, was detained at a Johannesburg airport on Monday while returning from a trip to Zimbabwe because, the government claimed, his visa had expired. A day later immigration officials hauled him to the boarding gate for a South African Airways (SAA) flight to Uganda, according to activists who phoned the airline and other officials informing them of a court order preventing his deportation. Semugoma, 42, resisted boarding the flight and SAA refused to take him.

The South African government appealed against the order but finally capitulated when the case came to court. A spokesman for the home affairs department said it had granted Semugoma a four-year exceptional skills work permit in return for him dropping a claim for political asylum.

He was released from detention at OR Tambo international airport on Thursday afternoon, prompting celebrations from supporters gathered outside.

His partner, Brian Kanyemba, a 35-year-old Zimbabwean, said: “It’s exciting, it’s fantastic, it’s really beautiful. Justice has been done.”

Reflecting on the past few days and the prospect of Semugoma being deported to Uganda, Kanyemba added: “It was terrible, we thought the world had tumbled down. He has been very vocal about the bill so it would have gone haywire.”

According to Ugandan activists, Semugoma is on a “wanted list” in Uganda for his activism around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights issues in the country. One of close friends, activist David Kato, was murdered in Uganda in 2011. Semugoma moved to South Africa with his partner soon after.

Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, declared last week that he will sign into law a anti-gay legislation, passed by parliament in December, that imposes life sentences for a broad range of offences including touching in public.

Semugoma has volunteered at the Johannesburg-based Anova Health Institute, which focuses on HIV, for three years. In a joint statement with the activist groups Treatment Action Campaign and Section27, the institute said: “We welcome the news that Dr Paul Semugoma has been released from custody and that he will not be deported to Uganda.

“While we are relieved that the department eventually acted reasonably, serious questions has to be asked over their conduct over the past three days. Had the department not ignored a court order issued on Tuesday, Dr Semugoma would have already been released on Tuesday evening. Furthermore, the department attempted to deport Dr Semugoma yesterday afternoon. Had Dr Semugoma not refused to board the flight, he would now have been in Uganda and at serious risk of incarceration or death.”

The groups added: “The events of the past three days expose serious problems with the manner in which foreign nationals are treated in South Africa. Whereas Dr Semugoma had the support of the medical and activist community, many other foreign nationals have no such support networks.

“Additionally, we were reminded of the worrying silence of the South African government in relation to anti-gay legislation in other African countries and more specifically the recent developments in Uganda.”

Semugoma’s special skills visa application has been pending since March 2012, according to the rights groups. His application was lost twice by the home affairs department and he subsequently re-submitted his application repeatedly. He was given a visitor’s visa that allowed him to travel in and out of the country.

Homophobia is rife in Uganda and the bill commands wide public support. South Africa is the only African state where same-sex marriage is legal and discrimination based on sexual orientation is constitutionally outlawed.

Source – the Guardian

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Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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