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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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Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema

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When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.

Background

Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded

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The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      





Source – observer.ug

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19

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Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  





Source – observer.ug

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