KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) – A Ugandan newspaper published a list Tuesday of what it called the country’s “200 top” gays, outing some Ugandans and raising fears of violence against those named just a day after the president enacted a severe anti-gay law.
Many on the list “are scared and they need help,” said Pepe Julian Onziema, a prominent Ugandan gay activist who was named in in the Red Pepper tabloid. “Some want to leave the country and they are asking to be helped.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday’s signing of the bill by President Yoweri Museveni marked “a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights.”
He warned that Washington could cut aid to the East African nation over the new law, which punishes gay sex with up to life in prison.
“We are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values,” Kerry said in a statement.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded the revision or repeal of the law, warning on Tuesday that it could fuel prejudice and harassment against gays.
The Red Pepper ran its list of names – and some pictures – in a front-page story under the headline “EXPOSED!”
News editor Ben Byarabaha said the paper published the full names of only the well-known activists and tried to use nicknames for those not publicly gay. A popular Ugandan hip-hop star and a Catholic priest are among those on the list.
Byarabaha offered no details on how the names were compiled.
Onziema, who has repeatedly warned that Uganda’s new law could spark violence against gays, said the tabloid had provided enough information to identify many people who had not come out publicly.
“Some of the employers have read the paper, and from the descriptions they can tell who these people are,” he said.
Few Ugandans identify themselves publicly as gay, and the tabloid’s actions recalled a similar list published in 2011 by a now-defunct tabloid that called for the execution of gays. A prominent Ugandan gay activist, David Kato, was killed after that list came out.
“The media witch hunt is back,” tweeted Jacqueline Kasha, a well-known Ugandan lesbian activist who is among those listed in the Red Pepper story.
Uganda’s new anti-gay law also creates the offenses of “conspiracy to commit homosexuality” and “aiding and abetting homosexuality,” both of which are punishable by seven years behind bars. Those convicted of “promoting homosexuality” face similar punishment.
In signing the bill, Museveni said the measure is needed because the West is promoting homosexuality in Africa, and he rejected international criticism of the law as interference in Uganda’s internal affairs.
Ugandan police spokesman Patrick Onyango said Tuesday that no gays have been arrested since Museveni signed the bill but that at least two had been taken into custody since lawmakers passed the measure in December.
Onziema said that he had counted up to six arrests and that more than a dozen gay Ugandans had fled the country since December.
Homosexuality has long been criminalized in Uganda under a colonial-era law that outlawed sex acts “against the order of nature.”
Some Ugandan lawyers and activists have said they will challenge the new law as unconstitutional and impossible to implement.
The Ugandan law came just over a month after Nigeria passed a similar measure.
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