After anti-gay law is signed, Uganda tabloid publishes list of the country's 'top' homosexuals

The Associated Press

A Ugandan reads a copy of the "Red Pepper" tabloid newspaper in Kampala, Uganda Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. The Ugandan newspaper published a list Tuesday of what it called the country's "200 top" homosexuals, outing some Ugandans who previously had not identified themselves as gay, one day after the president Yoweri Museveni enacted a harsh anti-gay law. (AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie)

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By RODNEY MUHUMUZA, Associated Press

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A Ugandan newspaper published a list Tuesday of what it called the country's "200 top" homosexuals, outing some Ugandans who previously had not identified themselves as gay one day after the president enacted a harsh anti-gay law.

Many of those named fear violence, and some want to leave the country, an activist said.

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" and warned that Washington could cut aid to the government of the East African nation.

"Now that this law has been enacted, 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.

The Red Pepper tabloid published the names — and some pictures — of alleged homosexuals in a front-page story under the headline: "EXPOSED!"

Red Pepper news editor, Ben Byarabaha, said they published the full names of only the well-known activists and had tried to use nicknames for those not publicly gay. Others, such as a retired Anglican cleric who supports gay rights, are listed as sympathizers. Byarabaha offered no details about how the full list was compiled.

The list included prominent Ugandan gay activists such as Pepe Julian Onziema, who has repeatedly warned that Uganda's new anti-gay law could spark violence against homosexuals. A popular Ugandan hip-hop star and a Catholic priest are also on the list.

But Onziema said the tabloid had sufficiently identified many who had not yet come out publicly as gay.

"They are scared and they need help," he said. "Some want to leave the country and they are asking to be helped. Some of the employers have read the paper, and from the descriptions they can tell who these people are."

Few Ugandans identify themselves publicly as gay, and the tabloid's publication of alleged homosexuals recalled a similar list published in 2011 by a now-defunct tabloid that called for the execution of gays. A Ugandan judge later condemned the outing of homosexuals in a country where gays face severe discrimination, saying it amounted to an invasion of privacy. A prominent Ugandan gay activist, David Kato, was killed after that list came out, and activists said at the time that they believed he was targeted because of his work promoting gay rights in Uganda.

"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 punishes gay sex with up to life in jail. The bill originally proposed the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults and acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner is infected with HIV. First-time offenders also face life in jail, contrary to an earlier version of the bill that mentioned a 14-year jail term.

The new law also creates the offenses of "conspiracy to commit homosexuality" as well as "aiding and abetting homosexuality," both of which are punishable with a seven-year jail term. 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, rejecting international criticism of the law as interference in Uganda's internal affairs. Museveni accused "arrogant and careless Western groups" of trying to recruit Ugandan children into homosexuality, but he did not name these purported groups.