He cannot help be scared. He is. He has to be.
That day of the Implementers Meeting, he was at the meeting place. Hadnt planned to be there. But he was, and such is luck.
We were many, and we all, but one entered the conference hall. Royal Imperial Hotel, in the heart of Kampala. It was the 2008 International HIV/AIDS Implementers meeting. And we were bent on protesting. We, gay Ugandans, had been told that we did not deserve an HIV prevention programme.
So, we were there.
It was a peaceful demonstration. We have some pride in that. Organised to be 5 minutes of fame. And then out of the conference hall. We got out, that is most of us, except 3, who were arrested.
There followed 2 nights in police cells. Sleeping on the hard, cold floor.
They got out, and were greeted as heroes.
They had a court case to answer. And they stood tall and straight in court.
First hearing, flopped.
Second hearing, went ahead.
Third hearing. Did I hear the government angry at the judicial constraints that there are?
That was Friday, the third hearing.
He went there, in a suit, and smart, like he was supposed to be. An official function, and a hero of his community, as we judged it to be.
Afterwards, the day being Friday, and him being a Moslem, he went to Mosque. Left the mosque. Jumped on a boda-boda, a powered motorcycle taxi, the sort that is very popular in Uganda. He left Nakasero Mosque. They stop at traffic lights, and a police patrol vehicle swerves infront of them.
They are pick ups. Blue, a deep blue. The khaki uniformed police on top. It was the day the city was tense because of the problems with the Mengo traditional government.
Through his mind some thoughts. Maybe the boda-boda rider had a traffic violation. That is always likely. They are reckless and unprincipled, except in getting their passenger to the destination.
Or maybe it was because the of the likelihood of the legal-illegal demonstrations.
3 men off the police pick-up. 2 in uniform, 1 not. And they come, not for the driver, but the suprised passenger on the boda boda taxi.
He was bundled into the 999. Roughly.
A criminal, forced onto the floor.
He begged to leave the bodaboda man with his contacts, to tell a few people that he has been arrested. That is how we came to know. Through the boda-boda man, whose passenger had been kidnapped, or arrested, or taken, in broad day light, on a street in Kampala.
We searched the police stations. Decided that he was not there, late in the night.
We were scared.
And we hoped, and prayed.
The next day, he comes back.
A scared man now. No bravado. No shouting about him. Shadows lurking behind those eyes.
So, where was he taken?
From the police 999 patrol, into an unmarked, tinted car window. A ride through town. And then into a house.
[We call them 'safe houses' in Uganda. Un-official torture chambers. State owned, state operated.
Ask the Danish (or Dutch??) Ambassador to Uganda. One day, he made news. A young man jumped over the fence of his residence. Soon to be followed by pursuing others.
The diplomat was livid. Who dared?...
The young man was tortured. The chasers were the torturers. And, apparently, the house next door was a 'safe house'. The diplomat's residence was not the embassy, so, he could not ask and be given protection. The torturers took the tortured young man, and the frustrated diplomat did what he could. He talked to the Monitor newspaper. And they published the story, and it died a natural death thereafter. No one follows up cases of the government torturing opposition in the name of them being opposition.]
So, our young man was taken to a safe house.
(We talked about it, before. Wondered what would happen if one of us was taken to these torture chambers? Talk, had been the consesus. Talk, we have nothing to hide)
So, he talked, we hope.
And the answers were not enough.
And he was taken into a room, with 4 other young men. With broken bones.
Are there 'truth serums'? Well, the young man has no questions about that. He was asked questions. He talked.
But that was not enough. Some more torture. GWB and Guantanamo has taught a lot of lessons. Torture, without leaving any marks. The aim to make the person spill all the innermost secrets. So, since these were not inner most secrets, and they were just on the surface, they were spilled.
What do they want to know?
Easy. Who are the leaders. Who are the organisers. Who are these homosexuals? Who funds them? Where do they get the money. What does he get, how much? So, if he doesnt get any money, how come he is a homosexual? He must be having lots of money.
Did he talk? No, he sang.
And, life was spared, because there seems to be so little to know, to understand, to feret out.
Would you risk your life hiding who gayuganda is?
A famous one in cyber, maybe, an anonymous laughing, crying face, articulating something of what happens in a tiny central African country, Uganda.
Would you not talk? At the threat of torture?
I am afraid, me, gug, I would quickly reveal that huge secret. Even if it was me.
Later, the next day, he was driven out of the safe house.
He was dropped on the street of Kampala.
Minus his smart suit. Minus his wallet. Minus shoes. Minus his phone.
Only the trouser he was in, and his shirt.
And he was feeling all sore, and sick. He walked to where he knew his friends would be. And I saw him later. A scared young man. A very scared young man.
Princess. I know you love your country. You have been most insistent that I reveal myself to you. But even having my phone number can be a risk. No. Sometimes it is better to know that I, gayuganda, a voice in the wilderness of cyber, is a voice in the wilderness of cyber. We can cry, and sing, and dance, and be happy. Doesnt make me forget that we live in a jungle.
If google ever fails me, and blogger is broken apart, and my identity is revealed, well-
what will be will be. We live in a dangerous, unhealthy world. And me, because of my sexuality, a blessing to me, a curse because it seems to be an automatic qualification for some people, because of that I can be dangerous to myself, and to you. The guilt of association.
Oh, I am scared too. As scared as I will ever be.
But, I also have to remember that this poor world of mine is not perfect. And it is my world, and my home. And I have decided to see it as home. It is my home, and well, no other place will be home to me. This is home.
Cry, My Beloved Country.