After a sold out first night, the organizers of Uganda’s only LGBTIQ film festival closed down the event on Saturday afternoon after police were tipped off to its secret location.
Police attended the location with the intention of arresting organizers – including festival founder, Kamoga Hassan – and attendees.
The second ever Queer Kampala International Film Festival (QueerKIFF) was due to run from 8 – 10 December in the east African country.
It opened on Friday night to a sold out crowd after organizers were forced to convert an empty warehouse into a cinema because they could not find an LGBTIQ-friendly venues.
To ensure the safety of attendees QueerKIFF keeps the location of its film screenings secret. Organizers screen attendees to make sure they aren’t police or anti-LGBTIQ protestors.
Shortly before 2pm on Saturday, organizers received a warning that police would be there within 30 minutes to arrest them.
‘Why do people want to do this?’ a distraught Hassan told Gay Star News.
‘The police are coming and searching for me, they want to arrest me. But I won’t go because I have to make sure everyone is safe.’
Hassan alleged a fellow Ugandan LGBTIQ organization tipped off the police and told them where the secret venue was. He said he was alerted to the tip-off by a prominent Ugandan human rights advocate.
Police eventually turned up to the event brandishing AK-47 rifles.
The Human Rights Tattoo art project was also occurring at the same time in the same location, but Gay Star News understands they are safe and have not been arrested. But police also shut down that event.
Police were improving on LGBTI rights
Human Rights Awareness and promotion Forum (HRAPF) had three lawyers on standby at QueerKIFF if there were any problems.
HRAPF’s deputy executive director, Joaninne Nanyange, said the organization had been working with police on raising awareness about the LGBTIQ community. The group had run training workshops with local police.
She told Gay Star News that police had been receptive and she’s not sure why they would suddenly raid this event.
‘For now the best thing is for everyone put everything on hold to know what’s going on, but we don’t think there’s a serious threat,’ she said.
‘We get the feeling… it’s people deliberately trying to sabotage the event. When we called the police to find out what was going on, they had no idea what had happened.’
HRAPF will have lawyers on standby to help Hassan if he is threatened or arrested.
But Nanyange was very surprised the police attended the event considering how well their LGBTIQ workshops and training were going.
‘The police have changed quite a bit,’ she said.
‘That’s why we get shocked it’s still happening, we’ve tried to reach out to police and they’ve been very accepting but we don’t know what it is, we don’t know where that disconnect it is.
‘Maybe we need to engage them more.’
Nanyange said HRAPF would investigate how people found out about the event.
But for QueerKIFF founder, Hassan, said he couldn’t help feeling sad about today’s events. He felt he’d let down the people who opened up their space to the festival.
He would still also have to pay for venue hire and other festival costs even if it was shutdown. An emergency fundraiser is still open for people to help by donating money.
‘This event is going to leave the venue owners in debt who had trusted me with their space,’ he said.
‘I am feeling sad right now.’