A Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Asks for US Asylum
Fearing prison or even death, an openly gay activist from Uganda is seeking asylum in the United States since his home country toughened criminal punishment against gays.
John Abadallah Wambere came to the U.S. for a speaking tour in February, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni three days later passed the new measure that strengthened penalties against gay sex, including life in prison.
Wambere, 41, who now lives in Cambridge, said Tuesday, one day before his visa expires, that it was a heartbreaking decision to leave behind the gay community he has supported for over a decade and to leave his 16-year-old daughter.
"But my government is unable and unwilling to protect us from harm," Wambere said, fighting back tears.
The leader of the gay-rights group Spectrum Uganda Initiatives has been jailed, harassed, publicly ousted by several newspapers and had his life threatened. And attacks upon the gay community are only increasing since the law passed, Wambere said at a press conference.
After the bill was signed, more than 30,000 people gathered in Uganda to celebrate, he said. "They listened to speakers who called LGBTI people animals, criminals and devils," Wambere said.
Currently, 38 of Africa’s 53 countries criminalize homosexuality. Activists estimate that hundreds of thousands of gay people live in Uganda, but that many remain under the radar for fear of prosecution.