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article imageUganda gay pride postponed after minister threats

By AFP     Aug 6, 2016 in World

A gay pride parade in the Ugandan capital planned for the weekend has been postponed after a government minister was accused of saying mob attacks on participants would be their own fault.

Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo told AFP that minister of ethics and integrity Simon Lokodo told him ordinary citizens would be "mobilised to defend the moral values of Uganda" and that "if participants were to be beaten by a mob" they would have "brought it upon themselves".

The minister added that police would arrest anyone attending the parade, according to Opiyo.

Organisers said they had postponed the event -- which was held last year -- following the apparent threat, reportedly made at a meeting between the organisers' lawyer and a police representative.

"As the committee, we have agreed that all the remaining events of the pride week be postponed as we await a positive outcome from the already going negotiations," the organisers said in a statement.

"We will be communicating the new dates as soon as the negotiations are completed," the statement added.

The United States ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac tweeted her support for the gay community in Uganda after the organisers announced the parade's delay.

"The Embassy stands with Uganda's LGBTI community and Ugandans of all backgrounds and beliefs to defend the dignity of all citizens," said Malac on Twitter.

"No person should face abuse or discrimination because of who they are".

The US slapped sanctions on Uganda after it introduced tough anti-gay laws in 2013, which included life imprisonment for homosexuals.

The law was struck down a year later on a technicality, but under a colonial-era penal code homosexual acts remain illegal.

Prominent Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha slammed the minister's comments and accused the police of complicity.

"The minister is not entitled to give or withdraw permission to hold a parade," said Mugisha, who runs the local NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda.

"This is an abuse of power and the police let him do it."

On Thursday evening police raided a club in Kampala that was hosting a "Mr and Miss Pride" beauty pageant ahead of the weekend parade.

Twenty people were arrested for attending an "illegal gathering" but were later released.

One person was seriously injured when he jumped from a window to escape from police.

Homophobia is widespread in Uganda, and gay people face regular harassment and intimidation, including from government officials and police.

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