After her mysterious arrest in Rwanda, internationally recognised Ugandan LGBTI activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera is back home and revealing the circumstances of her detention.
Nabagesera was arrested at the Kigali International Airport on Thursday when she arrived on a flight from Entebbe, apparently to meet a group of US filmmakers.
The reasons for her detention were unknown as were her whereabouts for more than 24 hours. Concerned international activists mounted an online campaign demanding that the Rwandan government explain its actions.
Rwandan police later stated that she’d been arrested at the airport “over drunkenness and gross misconduct”.
Nabagesera finally surfaced on Facebook in the early hours of Saturday morning, confirming that she was safe and back in Uganda.
She denied the police allegations as “total nonsense”. She instead says she was detained because, as she queued to board the flight in Entebbe, the co-pilot heard her call Rwandan President Paul Kagame “a young dictator following in big bro [Ugandan President Yoweri] Museveni’s footsteps”.
Nabagesera wrote that this led to the flight being delayed as the crew discussed whether to let her on board. She was, and the plane flew on to Kigali.
Outside the airport, while loading her luggage into her driver’s car, she was asked to go back inside to resolve a minor technicality at immigration. Upon re-entering the building, she says that “eight policed besieged me n handcuffed me”.
Nabagesera was then driven to the Criminal Investigation Department, where her ordeal unfolded.
She claims to have endured hours of integration. Police toyed with charging her on various grounds, including: treason; terrorism; then hate speech and being disrespectful to a government leader; and finally, with being a spy.
“I was interrogated in five different rooms by different security agencies,” she wrote, noting that she was given no food for 27 hours and slept on the floor. It appears that the police did not initially know who Nabagesera was until they googled her during her detention.
Finally, she was put on a flight back to Entebbe. A defiant Nabagesera insists that she will not retract her statement that President Kagame is a dictator. “If deportation is my price I will take it,” she said, urging Kagame to “plz retire with dignity. Let Africa have some hope plz”.
Kagame has been criticised for holding a constitutional referendum in 2015, which allowed him to run for a third term in office as president.
Nabagesera is one of the founders of the LGBTI rights movement in Uganda and is executive director of Freedom & Roam Uganda (FARUG). She is also one of the organisers of the annual Uganda Pride event (which last year was raided and blocked from going ahead by the authorities).
In 2011, Nabagesera was awarded the prestigious international Martin Ennals Laureate Award for Human Rights Defenders for her work in promoting the rights of LGBTI and marginalised people in Uganda.
In 2014, she founded Uganda’s first ever LGBT magazine, Bombastic. The following year she appeared on the cover of Time magazine to highlight an article about Africa’s LGBT community.
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