In April 2014, Olympia (WA) Monthly Meeting (Quakers), began a project called Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund (FUST)to raise funds for the safe transportation of LGBTQ Ugandans out of the country. This was in response to a desperate request from some of our Ugandan friends. At that time, Uganda had just enacted the Anti-Homosexuality Act which put all members of the LGBTQ community at great risk. While the Act was later invalidated on technical grounds, discrimination and violence continue. There have been several murders, beatings, stonings and kidnappings. Put bluntly, the safety of those in the LGBTQ community and their allies is constantly threatened.
To date, FUST has raised funds to transport 2,897 passengers to safety. 14 countries have accepted these LGBTQ Ugandan refugees.
Currently, there is a dire need for funds to transport 56 passengers who are being temporarily sheltered and fed by one of our friends. We are assured that these passengers will be safely transported as soon as the funds are raised. The cost is $85.00 per passenger.
There is also a man who worked with us as a conductor, helping hundreds of LGBTQ passengers out of Uganda over the years. He has suffered kidnapping, torture, hospitalization, and a serious accident, and as he put his life at grave risk to help others, we have helped him with his medical and other bills.
Dear Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund friends and donors,
We are asking for your help during these very desperate times for the LGBTQ people in Uganda. FUST works with a conductor who currently has 186 passengers in hiding, awaiting safe transport. Some of these people have been in hiding for weeks, and the situation has been especially difficult since food is in very short supply and an additional cost for the conductor. Of course, the situation with Covid has only increased the stress and pressure on our Ugandan friends.
We recently had a confidential Zoom meeting with this conductor to get an “in person” briefing on the situation. Waiting passengers are truly in dire straits, and once again we are working with a person who is willing to risk everything to do this dangerous work that they understand as critical.
Our role as FUST is to support them. What is needed immediately are funds for food to sustain them as they await transport. Then the cost of transport to a safer country outside of Uganda is $65.00 per person.
We have greatly appreciated your generosity and hope you will continue to support this very worthy, dangerous mission. FUST has saved 2739 lives since April 13, 2014 and has given hope to LGBTQ Ugandans who had despaired of ever finding safe refuge.
As soon as your donations to FUST are received, we send them out. Any amount you are able to give is helpful and very appreciated.
Please go to this page on our website to find out how to donate with a check or online: https://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/
You are welcome to contact us if you have questions or would like more information. With deep gratitude and appreciation,
Gabi Clayton (360) 888-5291 Kathleen O’Shaunessy (360) 943-0489 Co-managers of FUST, a project of Olympia Friends Meeting (Quakers)
It has been some time since we updated you on the activities of FUST. During the Covid pandemic, things have been especially difficult in Uganda. Out of a population of 45 million, approximately 4 million have received their first vaccination and only 1% are fully vaccinated. In addition, clinics are charging $140. per shot, which is prohibitive for virtually all of the people we work with there. The situation is beyond dire.
Our primary point person who has been sheltering and arranging transport for LGBTQ passengers has been under extreme stress. In addition, he has had some severe health issues. We strongly urged him to discontinue accepting passengers and to care for himself. He is currently hospitalized in Nairobi and requires major surgery. His hospital expenses to date are $4250. We are reaching out to those of you whose generous donations to FUST have supported the safe transport of 2739 passengers. Our dear courageous point person has sheltered and arranged transport for over 300 of these passengers. We want to help him with his medical expenses during this very difficult time. If you can help, please check our website (friendsugandansafetransport.org) for options on how to donate. If you have questions or would like more information, you are welcome to contact either of us.
With gratitude and appreciation, warmly,
Gabi Clayton (360-888-5291) Kathleen O’Shaunessy (360-943-0489) Co-managers of FUST
I have lived a life, a life I never dreamed of in my childhood, a life so punishing and yet so forgiving. I have lived a life full of strange events, a life without a biological family. I was disowned by my own family at an early age, and lived a life on the streets, a life of drugs and prostitution which dominated most of my early youth. Having a mother who wishes my death and a father who willingly volunteered to kill me given the opportunity, it wasn’t an easy path for a young man, so I am used to living life on the run.
I am called JK, a dedicated conductor with the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport (FUST) program, championed by Olympia Friends Meeting in Olympia Washington. I have been volunteering with the program since 2014. Earlier in 2010, after coming into contact with well-respected human rights defenders, I had made a decision to turn my life around. It wasn’t easy, having struggled with drugs and life on the streets for so many years, but I decided to start living. After four hard years, my life changed and hope returned. But there were still very limited opportunities for life in Uganda for gay men. I wanted to do something that makes me feel worth living – change lives, save lives – and I possessed aa burning desire to create a mark on history in movement organizing among the gay community in Uganda.
Ever since I became a “conductor” (FUST is modeled on the Underground Railroad in the U.S. prior to the Civil War), many good things have happened in my life. I have aided in the transportation of over a thousand “passengers”, who have crossed over to other countries to rebuild their lives.
Working with passengers can sometimes be challenging. I am working with people who have lost hope, who are on the run, who are fleeing death, who have survived lynching and mob justice, who have been disowned by their own families, who have no friends or allies or connections. Some even run mad while in the safe houses. Their mental health is always extremely fragile, and, no, we don’t have a psychiatrist on standby.
In this journey I have witnessed death, ritual rape, passengers taking their lives. Some of the conductors have died in the struggle. Yes, we have lost some battles but victory is on our side and we shall surely win the war. It’s just a matter of time. The current political turmoil in Uganda has made things much worse. The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, running to extend his 36-year rule, incited local communities to violence by claiming that the opposition candidate Bobi Wine was funded by an “international homosexual conspiracy. This has drawn so much attention to gay people. In the past year, violence escalated against both the political opposition and the LGBTQi community.
It should be emphasized that we are dealing with a corrupt police system in Uganda, which has mastered the art of extortion, abuse, torture, and blackmail. This makes things more complicated. You can only expect ‘justice” if you can buy it from the very authoritarians who can even decide if you live or die. Three quarters of Ugandans believe that the entire police system is corrupt, and it’s the very reason they turn to mob justice and lynching, since they know that gay people will be set free, not charged and hence won’t serve any jail term. Local homophobes believe that the LGBTQi community can always do whatever it takes to be released, since the police are always willing to take a bribe.
I have been a victim and I have paid my fair share in my struggle to save lives but that’s another story.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Friends of Olympia and the administrators of and donors to the Friends Uganda Safe Transport fund. You guys are living heroes. Introducing some of us to the life of Quakers has renewed our hopes in life. We have something spiritual which speaks to us, it has reorganized our movement in our community, we can’t trade you for anything. As for our Friends meeting here, I don’t feel comfortable sharing more details, as it can end up being closed by the authorities. Yet it is an open, welcoming, and affirming Friends meeting.
The active political season especially the general elections for president and the members of parliament plus other elective posts, is always hell for the gay community. This season initially left us with many desperate passengers. Thanks to you we have been able to transport many and at this time are only left with 88 passengers who are hiding in poorly lit, small houses we call safe houses, with little access to food. Please HELP!
I will be sharing briefs as often as I am able, an account that will tell the story of this movement.
Please help with a donation to support the work of JK and FUST!
FUST is a project of Olympia Friends Meeting (Quakers) and contributions go through the Olympia Friends Meeting, earmarked for FUST. This means your donation is tax-deductible.
The fastest way to donate is through this PayPal link:
Right now, the conductors Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund works with have 119 LGBTQ Ugandans hiding in four secret locations, waiting for the funds needed to move them out of Uganda to safer countries in order to save them from extreme homophobic / transphobic violence and sometimes death.
It costs $75.00 for the conductors FUST supports to move each person, and so we are posting this update as a plea to those of you who can to make a donation and to share this with others.
Please help! They cannot do it without your financial support!
Here is a story of one of the passengers we were able to fund out of Uganda. She survives because of our donors.
Rape doesn’t cure lesbianism – Aisha Fatuma Lukoma 20 Years Old
I wish to tell my story, not because am proud of what happened to me but rather to tell the world about the gruesome things happening to the gay community in Uganda. Maybe my story will speak to someone, somewhere. Maybe my story will cause the world to stand up and tell Uganda that enough is enough. Maybe this story will speak to Friends to understand that at least personally I really appreciate that they saved my life from the edge of death. Maybe this story will stand out, so that Friends know that they have done a lot not only for me but many others.
I was born on the 3 May 2000 in a non-religious family in Nyenga village, about 70 kilometers from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Neither my father nor mother had any belief in education or western medicine. My father is a native witchdoctor and so polygamous, with eight wives and over 40 children. Despite the many shortfalls and extreme abuses committed by my biological dad daily, he still commands a lot of respect in and around Nyenga village.
My father always insists that all his children should be married off at or before the age 18. However, when it came to me, things were different. I had not shown any interest in boys nor was I even attracted to boys. Shortly after my 14th birthday, my mother once asked me one evening after coming back from the water well why I only liked girls, I didn’t answer her but my sexuality was slowly growing. By the time I was 16, I knew I was not straight, despite my trying to force myself, and hiding. I realized I can never get attracted to boys or men. For fear of my tough ironman father, one day I had to pretend but this pretense affected so much that I even contemplated suicide. But I had a secret lover, a sweet 19-year-old Pauline who is still stuck and held up in Uganda. Pauline loves me and I keep the love on the daily despite the fact that fate separated us
So having failed my father from marrying me off before I turned 18, this June 2020 things started to change. My entire family wasn’t happy with my life style of a tomboy. My father and mother made some arrangements and they got for me a 65-year-old man from Kiyula Village. He was already old, married with grandchildren who were way older than me and also with children. My family arranged the bride price and dowry with the elderly man, actually I was just like being sold off, just like an item.
When the marriage was being arranged, the man whom I later learned was named Al-Haji Musa Karim Ssemukasa came to pay a visit and also take a look at his bride-to- be. He was disappointed. He told my father that Aisha has an evil spirit of sapphism or female homosexuality, and that my father should arrange a ritual ceremony to cleanse me of this evil spirit. What it actually means is that, a blood relative (most likely a young, healthy, strong man) of the man (Al-Haji) who is going to become my husband is appointed to do a ritual rape ceremony. It is done publicly before my paternal aunties and my elder sisters. The ceremony is always conducted at midnight.
Of course I objected to the entire arrangement, but I had limited choices. My father had earlier on threatened me with death. My movements were restricted, and I was beginning monitored 24/7. At around 11 p.m. on July 24th, 2020, I was pinned to the ground under the strict watchful eyes of four of my own family members, I was undressed and a young man held his genitals and he seemed like he was enjoying the fighting and the struggles I was putting in attempt to run away. Finally I was restrained and then I was gruesomely raped by 25-year-old Nasur. It was the most painful thing to ever happen to me, and it left me bleeding and disabled, I could hardly walk and the ordeal was just beginning. I can’t remember much as I think I passed out because of the trauma. At around 2 a.m., I remember I was still forced to participate in the rest of the rituals, of bathing herbs, taking and eating moringa leaves and juice. For about a week, I was so helpless, and only receiving basic traditional herbs for treatment. I developed fistula and when this news got to the man who was supposed to marry me, it was a turn off and he came home demanding that the dowry and bride price he had earlier on be refunded. This made my family so desperate. They wanted me to recover so quickly so that they could at least have me taken by Al-Haji Musa. But things were not working out so well.
My mother came up with another plan, to reach out to organizations that work with victims of rape. I don’t know if I will ever forgive my own mother. After days of searching, she was directed to an organization in another town and, on reaching there, she lied to the organizational leaders that I had been raped by strangers. My mother even warned me that if I told the truth, that it was ritual rape, she would herself make sure that I died.
As I write this story, I have been told not to mention some personal names nor organizational names, so I might not share some specific details.
The organization with their shelter got for me some treatment and I received a procedure and they paid all the bills. After one month, I was going to be discharged but I faked another sickness, so that I don’t leave the hospital as I needed buy time to figure out how to flee. Somehow a strong outspoken women and leader at the organization which works with raped women and children noticed something wasn’t all right. She begged to have a word with me in private. She asked my mother and other relatives of mine who here around to step aside, I talked privately with her and I told her that I don’t want to go back home, that I was ritually raped, and the rape ceremony was organized by my family, and that my father would marry me off, immediately upon my leaving the hospital. My prolonged chat with this strong leader made my family members very uneasy, and before we knew it, they had fled the hospital premises. This made the strong woman realize that I was speaking the truth. With her little resources, she handled me over to another organization which specifically works with LGBTQi community.
Word got around that my family was looking for me and I knew that I was going to be killed if they ever found me. So I asked this other organization if there is any way I could leave Uganda. I wanted to leave the country because I knew I am not safe, just like that and I was also afraid that the strong woman who helped me was going to go after my family and I know how they love revenge.
Luckily, help came in from very unlikely sources, sources which I didn’t know existed. I was told, together with other people, that Friends (Quakers) in Olympia, Washington USA have organized some safe transport for us, I was so scared, as I didn’t know how this was going to work. Everything fell into place, and after two days and one night I was far, far away from my home village in another country.
I have been here for more than a month, and life is so different here, so different. I don’t have to live to anybody’s expectations, I don’t have to fake anything. Yes, though I still recovering I have gotten a full time job as a janitor. Everybody knows am a lesbian with a story and they just don’t care, it’s my life and it’s mine to make the best out of it. For the first time in my life, it’s more of like hakuna matata “no problem”.
I wish to thank the Friends, you saved my life. And for the thousands still stranded in Uganda or who don’t know where to get help, stay strong, stay calm under fire and don’t lose hope, that hope of being free and the freedom which awaits you, Hope is all you have now.
Ritual Rape doesn’t heal lesbianism.
Share my story Aisha
Police brutality: Activists demand ICASA boycott of Uganda by Colin Stewart on November 23, 2020 – posted here includes:
Reports also indicate that President Museveni is alleged to have ‘blamed” the protests saying, “they were being funded and supported by homosexuals who do not want a stable Uganda.” This anti-gay rhetoric is not new to the President as he has been on record as saying similar, if not, instigating comments against LGBT persons.
From testimonies, including photos and videos circulating online, it’s clear that the current administration is bent on crushing opposition voices and presence while trampling human rights, including those which Uganda is a signatory to, on regional and global platforms.
I am called Eunice Nyamatala, 28 years old. In March 2019, I fled my home district Kasese Western Uganda, when I survived mob justice. Lydia Mutesi (RIP), my fiancé and I were attacked and lynched in our rental unit by an irritated mob. Lydia didn’t survive. She died of her injuries. Painfully, I had to abandon her lifeless body at a clinic in Fort Portal district. Fearing for my own life since the clinic had started questioning my relationship with Lydia and asking about my sexual orientation, it was my time to flee again.
It wasn’t my time to die. I connected with a human rights organization (which later put me in contact with an LGBTQi organization), and I was offered a job by this organization as a case worker, working on gender-based violence cases involving LGBTQi people.
Life was moving on very well. Since I was in-closet, I did all I could to appear straight so as not to arouse any suspicion. However, late last year things started to change. A government spokesperson and a minister hinted that the Ugandan government is reconsidering passing another anti-homosexuality bill. Having survived a mob justice, I was so traumatized and, though I tried to calm down, I wasn’t myself. My fears came to light in August 2020 when there was a nationwide hunt for the LGBTQi, in different parts of Uganda. The local Ugandans are claiming that the Ugandan government has failed in eliminating homosexuality. Actually, this is not true because the Ugandan government has special security operatives who are charged with man-hunting LGBTQi persons all over the country. However, it has to be done so secretly so that people in the West don’t know what is going on.
Back to my story: on the 10th of August my name was mentioned on Bwera FM Radio in my home district Kasese, that a lesbian who fled Kasese in 2019 has been sighted in Eastern Uganda. This set me packing and I sought for a safe house to hide. I had to abandon my work, which was taking care of me. Fortunately, a group of Quaker friends organized under the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund have never given up on us or the entire Ugandan LGBTQi community. During times of crisis, they are always there to help us. We are lucky at least somebody somewhere out there cares.
Later in September 2020 with several others, we were helped to flee Uganda. I don’t think I can ever go back to Uganda. I think I am out of danger. I have gotten a job working with an international tourism company. Actually, they don’t even care about my orientation or lifestyle.
Friends, the job you do is very important and I wish to take this opportunity to thank you. You saved my life. ….. now this is living.
On November 19th, Ugandan President Museveni, currently campaigning for President, openly attacked the gay community. On the radio, he called upon “peace-loving Ugandans” to take matters into their own hands by arresting, reporting, and stalking any suspected gay people.
People are fleeing for their lives. Right now the conductors Friends Ugandan Safe Transport supports have 64 people in hiding, seeking to leave the country. The majority of them are transgender. We need funds ($75 per person) to accomplish this. We have very courageous conductors prepared to undertake this work at great personal risk.
Please help! They cannot do it without your financial support!
Good (and bad) news from Uganda. After months of backlog, everyone that Friends Ugandan Safe Transport had waiting is now out and safe! We can hardly believe it, and we have some debts, and we are sure there will be more, but at least we can have an interim celebration.
The conductor who worked on these rescues, after the last 20 got out, quite literally collapsed. He is in the hospital, diagnosed with BOTH bacterial meningitis and pneumonia!
Fortunately, both are treatable. We spoke with him, and after a rough week he is in surprisingly good spirits.
So FUST has medical bills! The only other thing we use FUST money for besides the direct transport costs is medical care for our conductors. For without them and their extraordinarily courageous work, there is no FUST. We have lost conductors previously, and do not want to lose one more.
Please consider giving generously. Funds can either go directly to the Olympia Friends Meeting earmarked FUST, or through the FUST PayPal account (which also goes through the Meeting. See: http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/
For the record, 2281 people are now out of harm’s way, transported out by brave transporters who are supported by funds donated to FUST.
Eight members of Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting were arrested by police in Kamuli, Uganda on “suspicion of homosexuality”. They were held for four days, during which time they were starved and tortured, and entirely traumatized.
A Bulungi Friends Meeting member and friend traveled to Kamuli, and, at great personal risk, remained in contact with the eight the entire time, while negotiating with a corrupt and criminal police force.
As horrible as the experience was, having them held for four days, rather than being bound over to the court, was a good thing, as they then would have been tortured for more information. (The torture they received was purely sadistic, and for no other purpose.)
After several days of intense negotiations, all eight were ransomed, and have been moved to another town. Antibiotics and painkillers have been purchased for them (and food provided.) They are still extremely traumatized.
Friends Ugandan Safe Transport would like to move them out of the country as quickly as possible, and a conductor is ready to do so. At their interim destination, there is housing, food, medical care, and counseling waiting for them.
The transport will cost $600. If folks would like to throw in a few bucks to help pay for the loan made to ransom these folks, that would be great too.
Contributions go through the Olympia Friends Meeting, earmarked for FUST.
Olympia Friends Meeting 3201 Boston Harbor Road NE Olympia, WA 98506
Put “FUST” or “Uganda” in the note on the check
Please share this information.
Here is the story of a recent FUST passenger:
“Yes I can breathe”
by James Banawona – Age 27
I was born and raised in a very hostile family. My polygamous family never had any respect for women. My father’s primitive way of doing things has had very unforgiving results, which has left scars on many of his children. I never knew or saw any sign of love in our home. When I was 16, my mother noticed some gay behaviors in me. This didn’t go well with her. At our big home stead in Buwenge about 36 kilometers from Jinja, I was flogged by the entire family, I passed out and I only realized that I was at Jinja Main hospital after 4 days. I almost died, and to date I am disabled as my backbone moved out of position and one of my legs became shorter. I ended up spending almost 18 months in the hospital. As soon as I was able to support myself I escaped from the hospital, at the age of 17 and started a life on the streets of Jinja.
In 2011, I connected with an LGBTQ organization (which I won’t mention here) and they helped me complete high school and college and I was admitted at Kyambogo University for a Bachelors in Telecom Engineering. It’s a whole long story but I at least managed to complete my degree but of course not on time as the organization was also struggling financially.
Because of my sexual orientation, it was impossible to get a job in my field. I became depressed and that’s how I lost it. I became a drug addict as I had lost hope in life. I can’t even count the times I contemplated committing suicide.
Later in 2018, I started reconnecting with some people who had helped me in the past. I was introduced to a church-like setting, but unlike traditional churches, this was more of friends, friends coming together, without judging each other. Since late last year, the meetings became more persecuted and haunted so everything went underground. It’s through these meetings that I was able to be identified for safe transport.
Amidst the Covid 19 crisis, I was finally able to flee from Uganda thanks to the support of Quaker friends and the dedication plus courage of XX (the conductor), who did all it took so that we would leave the country and nobody was hurt.
I am happy that I can breathe now, I recently landed a juicy job in a telecom company!
“Uganda security forces raided a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth last week and arrested 23 people, including a nurse and the shelter’s executive director, charging them with unwarranted COVID-19 offenses after considering charging them under anti-homosexuality laws.
“Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) reports: “The Police first considered charging them with having carnal knowledge against the order of nature under section 145 of the Penal Code, but this was later changed to doing ‘a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease’ contrary to Section 171 of the Penal Code Act, and ‘disobedience of lawful orders’ under section 117 of the Penal Code Act. This was in the context of the Presidential Directives on COVID-19 which incidentally require people to stay indoors, the exact thing that the people at the shelter were doing.”
“Two people were beaten upon arrest. Three have been released on bond, “one of whom was the nurse and the other two for medical reasons.” and the other 20 have been sent to prison until April 29 when they are scheduled to appear in court.”