Steven Kabuye had to flee his home in Uganda after being stabbed because he is gay. Rainbow Railroad helped him escape and is helping him continue his activism

CAROLINE SAVOIE | Contributing Writer

After 26-year-old gay Ugandan activist Steven Kabuye was stabbed on Jan. 3, this year, he made the difficult decision to flee his home country in Africa and move to Vancouver, Canada, with the help of Rainbow Railroad, an organization that helps LGBTQ people who face violence find safety.

Kabuye said on Jan. 3, he was attacked by two helmeted men riding on motorcycles who yelled homophobic slurs at him. The two men stabbed him in the neck and stomach before he was able to escape and get help from a friend who got him to a hospital. He was hospitalized for three days.

“The people at the hospital were worried I would get arrested, so they helped me find safety,” he said.

“Kabuye’s story underscores the deadly reality LGBTQI Ugandans face since President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law nearly one year ago,” said Timothy Chan, director of communication for Rainbow Railroad.

Kabuye said AHA23 stops LGBTQ people from being employed and can result in lifelong imprisonment for those found in homosexual acts, including LGBTQ minors. So when Kabuye was in the hospital, he was worried he would be arrested and thrown in jail, even though he knows that the two people who attacked him will not be brought to justice.

“Ugandan Security Forces want to arrest and imprison me instead of looking for the people who attacked me,” he said.

Since the passage of AHA23, Kabuye said, the LGBTQ community has been under relentless attack. “Lesbians will be raped by straight people to covert them, LGBTQ+ people are deemed to be evil, and the law says that because they are not Ugandans, the laws cannot protect them or give them safety,” he explained.

He believes he was attacked because of the work he did. Ever since the act passed, he’s been posting on his X account, and he received threats on his life. He thinks those who attacked him are either involved with Ugandan Security Forces or the government because he co-founded an organization called Coloured Voices Media Foundation to speak out against AHA23.

“We worked with Ugandans who are LGBTQIA+ and did reports on more than 300 people who were evicted from their homes, lost their jobs, got beaten up by mobs or received death threats,” he said.

Uganda remains one of the top countries from which Rainbow Railroad receives requests for help, with a 49 percent increase in requests for assistance in the first two months of 2024 compared to the same period last year, according to Chan.

“We continue to receive disturbing reports of persecution that include torture, suicide, loss of employment, violent arrests and evictions of LGBTQI+ people,” he said.

Kabuye said that after having to leave his mom and his siblings in Uganda without saying goodbye, he’s starting fresh in Vancouver. “All I had when I left was my passport and a few clothes,” he said.

After he escaped Uganda and spent two months being treated at a hospital in Nairobi, Rainbow Railroad got Kabuye to Toronto on March 6. From there, he flew to Vancouver, where he lives now.

“I fear for the lives of the people I left behind,” he said. “I have colleagues who have come to me for protection, and I want to stay in a position where I can help my brothers and sisters around the globe, but majorly in Uganda. I hope they receive liberty.”

Kabuye said he is continuing his work for the Coloured Voices Media Foundation remotely, explaining that people can support the cause by going to his X account, @stevenkabuye5, and finding the linktree in his bio.

He also said Americans can help by supporting grassroots organizations like Rainbow Railroad, holding politicians accountable for their role in oppressing LGBTQ people, supporting activists and standing up against organizations who work against the rights of LGBTQ people across the globe, like Family Watch International.

“This organization goes against all human rights under the guise of promoting family values,” Kabuye warned.

He said he is healing, and he’s made friends who help him stay strong.

“It will be difficult, but I’m the kind of person who takes everything one at a time,” Kabuye said. “Vancouver is a nice place with diversity and inclusivity, with cultures from around the globe. I can be on the street without worrying that someone will attack me for who I am and the work I do.”