- Sexual minorities in Uganda were given a surprise Christmas present by a Kampala court, which ruled that the suppression of their activist organisations is unconstitutional. Uganda is one of Africa's strongest suppressors of gays and lesbians.
In a surprising victory for the human rights of sexual minorities, Ugandan Justice Stella Arach this week issued a ruling in favor of gay activists and human rights defenders Victor Mukasa and Oyo Yvonne in their suit against the Attorney General of Uganda related to an illegal raid on Mr Mukasa's home.
Speaking to a courtroom packed with Ugandan, Kenyan, and Rwandan gay and lesbian activists, the judge cited constitutional violations of the rights to privacy, property and the fundamental rights of women. The ruling is likely to become a landmark case in a country that currently criminalises homosexuality and has repeatedly made efforts to silence sexual rights activists.
In July 2005, local officials raided the home of gay rights activist Victor Mukasa, looking for "incriminating material." They seized documents and other materials related to the organising of sexual minorities in Uganda. Mr Mukasa was absent but officials arbitrarily arrested and detained Oyo Yvonne, taking her to a police station and subjecting her to humiliating and degrading treatment, including forcing her to undress "to prove that she was a woman."
After the Ugandan government failed to investigate or take any action to remedy the wrongs that had occurred, Mr Mukasa and Ms Oyo filed a private suit against the Attorney General.
In yesterday's ruling, Justice Arach acknowledged that the government was not directly responsible for the actions of the local official, an elected town councillor, but nevertheless held the Attorney General's office responsible for the actions of the police. In addition to the sharp rebuke to the state in the wording of the judgment, the court also awarded financial damages.
Justice Arach cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention of the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) ad key human rights treaties that had been violated by the police's actions.
Ugandan and international gay and lesbian activists this week hailed the court decision. "This is a profound ruling that will limit police intrusiveness into the private lives of human rights defenders," said Paula Ettelbrick, Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), adding she was "proud of Victor and Oyo's courage to set this precedent."
"The most important role that police can play is to protect people," said Mr Mukasa, one of the founders of Sexual Minorities Uganda. "This judgment is a serious reminder to the Ugandan police that all Ugandans, including [sexual minorities], should be handled with respect and dignity."
Nearly a dozen arrests of gay and lesbian people on charges related to homosexuality have been documented in Uganda over the last 5 years. Authorities have harassed homosexual human rights defenders in their homes and in public and fined a private radio station that broadcast a programme on HIV prevention among men who have sex with men.
In July 2005, Uganda's Parliament passed an amendment to the constitution making Uganda only the second country in the world to use its supreme law to outlaw marriage between people of the same sex. In 2007, a coalition of religious leaders marched through the streets of Kampala demanding the arrests of homosexuals, with one cleric even calling for the "starving to death" of this minority.
Buttressed by the official homophobia of the state, Ugandan media have published lists of gay men and lesbians, leading to physical violence, loss of employment and the curtailing of educational opportunities for those people who were named.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.