The recent anti-gay crusade underway in Uganda has been fueled by the participation of a number of Ugandan men who claim to be “reformed” from homosexuality. Most prominent in this hate-filled campaign is George Oundo, formerly known as Georgina. George has participated in a series of press conferences, interviews and television appearances to make public the names, addresses and workplaces of men and women accused of being homosexual.
As part of George’s public repudiation of his gay identity, he repeatedly describes how he used to “recruit” young men into homosexuality. He also accuses the Ugandan LGBT community of taking money (more than $1 million at last count) for such recruitment. Orchestrated and financed by the conservative religious group Family Life Network (FLN), with support from Martin Ssempa’s Makerere Community Church, George is now is using the oldest, most reliable tactic to attack LGBT people: accusing them of molesting children. We can’t help but wonder if this strategy wasn’t part of the training provided by members of the U.S. religious right—Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Exodus International Board Member Don Schmierer—when they were in Kampala for the March 2009 anti-gay conference sponsored by FLN.
See below a March 29, 2009, news report broadcast by Uganda’s NTV, in which Oundo skillfully twists efforts to provide condoms, lubricants and dental dams for HIV prevention education in Uganda, and portrays it as “homosexual recruiting.”
Strangely enough, there have been no call for Oundo’s arrest despite his frequent, televised admissions to recruiting boys into homosexuality. That alone should be enough to raise concerns that his performance is part of a strategy to attack Uganda’s fledgling LGBT movement.
In his former life as a gay activist, Oundo experienced first hand the viciousness of human rights abuses motivated by homophobia. On September 10, 2008, he was arrested in his home in Nabweru, Wakiso district, outside Kampala, along with Kiiza Brendah. They were held first at Nalukologolo Police Station and then transferred to Nabweru police station, where they were subjected to extensive interrogation about the identity of LGBT human rights defenders. Oundo was detained for seven days and finally released on September 18, 2008. Ugandan LGBT activists spent hours moving from police station to police station trying to locate George, and international LGBT human rights organizations issued urgent appeals on their behalf.
George seems to have decided that local and international activists didn’t do enough to help him, and has since used his intimate knowledge of the community to target and attack. With the help of Ugandan religious leaders, particularly the conservative FLN, he has “outed” dozens of individuals and destroyed countless lives, careers and families. The Ugandan government is currently considering legislation that may increase already extreme criminal penalties for consensual homosexual relationships and make LGBT organizing and “recruitment,” whatever that might be, illegal.
Oundo seems to be making the most of his 15 minutes of fame. In phone calls to members of the Ugandan LGBT community, Oundo admits that his claims to be an “ex-gay” are an elaborate facade developed to further his own personal ambitions and to please his current handlers. One can only hope that Oundo will not have sold out so many of his former friends, bartered so much of his soul, and caused so much violence that there will be no LGBT community left for him to return to.
Cary Alan Johnson