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‘Don’t come back, they’ll kill you for being gay’

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Young men embracing

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For years Mohamed’s family tried to make him more like other boys – tougher, more “masculine”. They even sent him to have a female spirit driven out with hallucinogenic drugs. Eventually, writes Layla Mahmood, they decided to kill him.

The heat enveloped 20-year-old Mohamed, as he zig-zagged through the alleyways of Hargeisa. It was around noon, during the summer of 2019. The city was asleep for the daily siesta – shops, restaurants and offices were all closed – so it was a perfect time for anyone who needed to move around under the radar. Mohamed was secretly visiting his boyfriend, Ahmed, an act punishable by imprisonment and sometimes death in Somaliland.

Hargeisa is the capital of the self-declared state of Somaliland, which broke away from Somalia nearly 30 years ago. The courts enforce Islamic law, Sharia, which deems homosexuality illegal, so LGBT+ Somalis must conceal their sexuality. They live in fear of being exposed. For Mohamed, who says he is quite feminine, it was harder to pass as straight than for some others.

Mohamed and Ahmed began their usual romantic encounter behind closed doors, when, to their surprise, Ahmed’s sister unexpectedly entered the room. She began yelling, waking up the whole house. Within minutes Mohamed was out of the door and hiding at a friend’s home, where he received a chilling phone call from a well-wisher: “Don’t come back home, they are preparing to kill you.”

“The first time I realised there was something confusing about my sexuality, the desire, the genders that I like and don’t like was when I was four or five years old,” Mohamed says.

When he was young he shared a room with his older brothers and male cousins. They would discuss girls at night during pillow talk, and then pointedly ask him, “So what’s your favourite part of a girl’s body?”

“It was then that I knew I was different,” he says.

Mohamed gravitated towards makeup and beauty, preferring to spend time with his sisters rather than his brothers. He would often try on their dresses, and after being caught for the third time, his mother felt that she had to do something.

His oldest brother was instructed to teach him certain passages of the Koran and its companion scripture, made up of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, the Hadith. Every night Mohamed would be forced to recite: “God punishes men who make themselves look like women. And also women who make themselves look like men.”

“He told me that I am making God angry. He’s cursing you. He’s planning for you to go to hell in the afterlife,” Mohamed says.

“I was 10 years old, I couldn’t take it. I used to wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat screaming: ‘Oh help me! Help me from God, he’s burning me in hell!'”

For a while Mohamed attempted to satisfy his family’s wish to behave more like other boys.

“But at the end of the day, I cannot stop something that I like,” Mohamed says. “And I was young. When people are young they forget things quickly.”

Finally, when Mohamed was 12, his mother sent him to a “rehabilitation centre”.

Institutions designed to reform children, teenagers and young adults who are judged to have strayed from Somali values are scattered throughout Hargeisa, and the rest of Somaliland and Somalia. People are often held in them against their will in harsh and abusive conditions. According to Mohamed, in many cases they are run by scammers,who distort Islamic scripture for financial gain.

Mohamed’s family believed that his effeminate behaviour was a result of being possessed by a female jinn, or evil spirit, so the staff claimed they would drive it out. They called themselves “life savers”, arguing that they were saving their patients from hell.

“I think it’s the worst place that ever existed,” Mohamed says.

Mohamed was schooled every day on how to behave like a traditional man. They taught him how to walk and talk, and forced him to play football with the other patients – something he would always avoid if he could.

This was accompanied by daily readings of Islamic texts.

On the fourth day, the “life savers” started sexually abusing Mohamed.

“They used to rape me at midnight, and sometimes came in groups,” Mohamed remembers.

Rape was common in the centre, and was committed both by patients and by staff, he says.

Everyone was crammed together in a large hall with sleeping bags, with ages ranging from 10 to 30. There was no protection. The staff preached one thing during the day and did the complete opposite at night.

“They are doing these things because they know that we will never tell anyone,” he says.

To drive out the jinn, patients were sometimes given a herbal drug called harmala. Similar to ayahuasca, it induces hallucinations and vomiting with the promise of spiritual enlightenment and cleansing. But it has been reported that the quantities given in rehabilitation centres often far exceed safe doses, making them lethal – particularly for children.

“The only thing that I remember is that I was flying in some place that is full of stars… I don’t know what happened during those days. I don’t know if I got raped. I just don’t know anything,” Mohamed says.

The last time he was given harmala, he came round in hospital. He says he has had stomach pains ever since.

After being released from the centre, Mohamed learned to hide his sexual orientation for most of his teenage years. But that changed when he met Ahmed on a secret online chat group for gay Somalis. They found solace with each other behind closed doors.

After Mohamed fled from Ahmed’s house and learned that his family was preparing to kill him, he made urgent plans to flee.

Most countries will not grant Somalis visas unless they fulfil a set of almost impossible standards, for example having tens of thousands of dollars in a bank account. For those who live in Somaliland it is even more difficult, as only Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and South Africa recognise it as an independent state.

There is little option but to spend thousands of dollars on the black market buying counterfeit passports, fake yellow fever vaccination certificates and often visas too.

This was how Mohamed escaped. A helper obtained the necessary documents within a couple of days, giving him instructions to meet a fixer in front of Hargeisa airport. He collected them on the day of departure – three days after Ahmed’s sister had burst in and raised the alarm – and then he was off. It was his first time flying in a plane. “It was surreal. I couldn’t stop looking out the window,” he remembers.

His destination was Malaysia, because tourist visas are free on arrival.

But life as a Somali asylum seeker in Malaysia is tough – and there too homosexuality is illegal.

While most asylum seekers live in limbo for years before being recognised as a refugee, Mohamed’s case was fast-tracked and he has been accepted for resettlement. It could be another year before this happens, though. In the meantime, Mohamed’s financial situation is insecure; as Malaysia is not a signatory of the Geneva Convention he does not have the right to support himself by working.

There is also the worry that his family might find him, force him to return to Hargeisa, and murder him. He cannot fully trust other Somali refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, in case they give him away.

“There is a hope in me that someday I can go somewhere else – maybe Europe, maybe America,” Mohamed says.

“Until then, I try to keep a low profile, and pray my family does not find me.”

What happened to Ahmed, he doesn’t know. All his attempts to make contact have failed.

All names have been changed

Illustrations by Sarah Elsa Pinon

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‘How do I convince the Home Office I’m a lesbian?’



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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Year of the Overcomer-Prophet Elvis Mbonye

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The eagerly awaited first fellowship of controversial Prophet Elvis Mbonye left viewers shocked as he declined to issue his now famous prophecies citing a refusal to settle for the new normal. In an on online service watched by thousands, the Prophet said him prophesying would “ be a concession to gathering online, rather than physically” further stating that it is not the will of God that church should meet online!

The Covid-19 SOPs given by the government and Ministry of Health have heavily impacted gatherings and as a result, ministries with large congregations have resorted to online services. The prophet however insists that this is a ploy to diminish the influence of the Kingdom of God.

He however proceeded to give the Prophetic Word of the year , saying “This is the year of the Overcomers” amidst cheers from those present. He also stated that this would not be a “gloomy” year, probably meaning that this would be a good year. Given that many of his prophecies have actually come to pass, should we pay more attention to him? We eagerly await the prophecies this year.

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Kabuleta blasts Media over “COFIT” reporting in new rant.

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Presidential hopeful Joseph Kiiza Kabuleta has expressed dissatisfaction with the media over what he says was”alarmist reporting” over the Covid-19 pandemic which he calls “COFIT” a term we believe is a wordplay between covid and profit, a view held by many that claims that the disease was exaggerated to maximize funding and corruption. Kabuleta has come to be known for his straight shooting style and admirable command of facts and policy, even being touted as the “smartest candidate” in the race.here is the full statement:

MEDIA AND THE COFIT ENTERPRISE

By Joseph Kabuleta

“Don’t look at where you fell, but where you slipped”
AFRICAN PROVERB

We know where the media fell. They fell when they were caught in the crossfire between opposition politicians and trigger-happy security hitmen; when they were unfairly targeted as they went about their noble duty of covering this explosive elective season. Sadly, some journalists are nursing wounds; others weren’t so lucky.
But it’s important for us to understand where they slipped.

If someone is sitting by the roadside sipping on his brew and he sees a gang of people sprinting past him, as if for their lives, it’s understandable if he impulsively joins without asking questions. But if after nine months he is still sprinting, and has still not asked any questions, then there’s something terribly wrong with him.

When we first went into lockdown in March, it was probably the best course of action because we didn’t know the full extent of the Cofit threat. But in the first 90 days, it was clear to all and sundry that it was never going to rank among Uganda’s top health challenges. And that’s not my opinion.

The Daily Monitor on July 15th quoted Dr Baterana Byarugaba, the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, describing the Cofit strain in the country as a mild form of flu which does not require hospital admission since it can be treated at home or in lower health facilities.
“l told Ugandans right from the beginning that the type of coronavirus we expect in Uganda is the mild one. It can be treated at health centre II, III, IV or the district hospital,” the top Medic said.

I read the story with glorious delight supposing that finally common sense, (or should I say science sense) would inform our decisions as a nation. But it’s difficult to know where science stops and politics starts. It’s become clear over the months that Cofit is not just a virus that causes respiratory problems, it’s a lot more than that; it’s a weapon in the hands of politicians that gives them power beyond their wildest dreams. In America, for instance, Democrat Congressman Jim Clyburn said Cofit is a “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our (leftist) vision” while actress and activist Jane Fonda said that Cofit was “God’s gift to the left.”

Our media could have taken the side of poor Ugandans by showing the immense suffering and death from preventable sicknesses that resulted from the harsh Cofit measures; they could have highlighted the plight of businesses permanently closed and workers rendered redundant and sent back to villages. They could have wondered why truck drivers were testing negative in Kenya and positive in Uganda, or wondered why Cofit deaths only started after Prophet Museveni showed us a macabre lineup of coffins in his address, or why every celebrity who dies since then is ruled as Cofit (no autopsy required)

They could have told us that according to Worldometer, Cofit has a 0.28% mortality rate (or a 99.72 survival rate) and that it doesn’t rank anywhere in the Top 10 of Uganda’s health challenges; they could have told us that a child dies of malaria every two minutes (and Uganda accounts for 3% of the world’s malaria fatalities), which means that more Ugandans die from mosquitoes in ten days than Cofit has (allegedly) killed in the nine months it’s been on our lips.

Ugandans (especially of my age) have lived through real pandemics. As a young man growing up in the early 90s, nobody had to remind me that AIDS was real. Goodness me, I knew it was! And I didn’t need police to force me to wear protection, I knew the consequences. The fact that we are constantly being reminded that ‘Cofit is real’ tells a story of its own.

The media could have asked why Uganda, with one of the lowest Cofit cases or deaths, still holds on to a 9:00pm curfew when Kenya moved to 11:00pm in September, as did South Africa and several countries. The media could have told us that Malawi, Burundi, Tanzania and, recently, Ghana all held successful elections with full blown campaigns in 2020, and we aren’t hearing people dropping dead from Cofit in any of those countries. May be they should have tried to find out if people are dropping dead in Tanzania which altogether ignored all Cofit measures and went on to acquire middle-income status while Ugandans were still in lockdown.

They could have told us about the asymptomatic Cofit patients who were filmed dancing the night away in hospital wards, or of people suffering from other diseases who dare not go to hospital because they fear to be given a fake Cofit label and held for two weeks against their will.

The media could have told us that Cofit deaths across the world have been grossly inflated. Minnesota lawmakers say Cofit deaths could have been inflated by 40% after examining death certificates (according to The Washington Examiner) while Fox News reported that in Colorado 45% of Cofit corpses “were also found to have bullet wounds”.

They could have told us that 22 European countries, all of which had tens of thousands of Cofit deaths, opened their schools in the fall, and there has not been any reported spikes in cases as a result. They could have told us that more people have been killed by security men enforcing Cofit measures than by the virus itself.

Well, they could have…but they didn’t. And that’s where they slipped.

Instead they chose to go down the path of alarmist reporting and in so doing became, inadvertently or otherwise, enablers of Uganda’s trillion-shilling Cofit enterprise. Like Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the media used flowery language to drum up fear by keeping people’s eyes transfixed on swelling numbers while the thieves carried their loot and stashed it away, and loan money was distributed among family members or used in regime prolongation.

The recent joint television news bulletin, and the adverts that followed, were the peak of hysterical reporting. “Zuukuka Tusaanawo” (wake up, we are perishing) screamed an advert featuring top media personalities. What a load of……(fill in appropriate word).

Remember, all the tyranny we have witnessed in this season has been done in the name of Cofit, and such sensationalist reporting justifies it; it gives dictators like Museveni the perfect pseudo-moralistic cover to unleash their most despotic fantasies while actually pretending that it’s for the good of the people. Unfortunately, the terror has now spread to the very media people whose hyperbole enabled it in the first place. There is such a thing as the law of cause and consequence, after all.

Instead of the media walking out of pressers and threatening to boycott government functions, let them threaten to stop all Cofit reporting. Museveni himself would come running with chocolate in hand.

If the president extended curfew by just two hours, for instance, he will have put as many as 200,000 Ugandans back to work especially in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industries; but he doesn’t care, and sadly neither do many middleclass Ugandans who suppose that it’s their moral obligation as responsible citizens of the Global Village to fret over Cofit just because their ‘fellow citizens’ in Europe and America are doing so. Of course they can afford to do that because their corporate jobs have, for the most part, insulated them from the devastation of the government-instituted Cofit measures. They can enjoy working at home, beer in hand, as they listen to CNN and BBC and still expect the full complement of their salaries at the month end, and that makes them feel every bit like ‘their brothers’ overseas.

Such aspirational conformists are more likely to be offended by my stance on Cofit because they haven’t traversed crook and creek of this country and seen the damage reigned on this fragile society; not by the virus, but by the measures supposedly instituted to mitigate it.

You see, perhaps the most enduring damage this regime has done to our society is creating a three-part hierarchy of class and needs. At the zenith are a handful of connected ‘1986 generation’ and their families who feel entitled to all power and wealth. Beneath is a small (and shrinking) middleclass, and at the bottom of the pyramid is a mass of peasants. Every society, to various degrees, is ordered in the same fashion, but what makes Uganda unique is that the megalomaniacs at the top don’t give a nickel about the plight of the middleclass and the middleclass in turn don’t care a bit about the quandary of the peasant. The charlatans at the top will impose punitive taxes on the middleclass, then dip into NSSF coffers at a whim to share out their savings, and no one can stop them.

And the middleclass Ugandan, armed with his medical insurance, and safe in the knowledge that his wife is unlikely to die in child birth (20 Ugandans do EVERY DAY), and his children are very unlikely to die of malaria (20 do EVERY DAY), or from malnutrition (thousands do every year), will go around trumpeting Cofit because it’s more relevant to his status than malnutrition or malaria.

I could just as easily go down that path. I could also close my eyes to mothers failing to get breast milk because they can only afford half a meal a day (black tea with a piece of cassava), and the malnourished babies that emerge as a result; I could close my eyes to the teenage girls that were given out in marriage because schools closed, or those given out to meet family needs; I could ignore the fact that our president is opening 5-star markets in cities which have 1-star referral hospitals; I could also choose to look the other way and enjoy my middleclass lifestyle, but as an aspiring leader, I cannot.

As a leader, my aspiration is to remove the privileged/entitled class, to expand the middleclass (and their income), and to shrink the peasantry; but mostly to blur the lines that separate each category.
It doesn’t bode well for our country if the average Corporate Ugandan knows more about racism in America than about extreme poverty in Teso or Busoga because that disqualifies him/her from the solution to those local problems.

And finally, I have come to the realization that the biggest pandemic afflicting our country is poverty and the virus that causes it is called M7-1986. Vaccination against it is January 14

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge

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Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

STATEMENT
Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.

ChangeYouCanTrust

CountryBeforeSelf

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