April 25, 2014
Uganda is among the most anti-gay countries in the world, and has received more attention than most during the five years it debated legislation that came to be known as the “Kill The Gays” bill. President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill — which replaced the death penalty with life in prison — into law earlier this year, sparking international outrage from the LGBT community and its supporters, and praise from the religious right.
One California man decided to protest in a unique way.
In an open letter to Uganda’s president titled, “What I did on vacation” and posted to Facebook, Neal Gottlieb writes:
April 22, 2014
Dear President Museveni of Uganda,
On April 16, 2014, after a 6-day climb, I summited your country’s tallest peak, Mount Stanley’s 16,753 foot tall Margherita Peak, and mounted a gay pride flag at its summit in protest of your country’s criminalization of homosexuality. Your country’s highest point is no longer its soil, its snow or a summit marker, but rather a gay pride flag waving brilliantly, shining down from above as a sign of protest and hope behalf of the many thousands of Ugandans that you seek to repress and the many more that understand the hideous nature of your repressive legislation.
The wiser of us understand that humans possess certain unalienable rights. These rights include freedom to express oneself, freedom to worship one’s god or none at all and freedom to live and love as one is born.
Despite this, you recently signed legislation into law that allows those born homosexual to be imprisoned for life. This is a disgusting, despicable act that threatens to ruin countless lives. If you had a son, daughter, niece or nephew that was homosexual, would you want her or him to be imprisoned for life? What if you have friends that are closeted homosexuals? Should they be locked up for the rest of their lives? If you were born gay, would you deserve to be imprisoned?
In a country that is dependent on the United States to fund the majority of its HIV/AIDS care, where less than 5% of those with cancer have access to treatment and where those with access to electricity is still a small minority of the populace, does it make any sense to devote precious and limited resources to imprison those who should be free? Does it make any sense that your administration never successfully prosecuted anybody from Amin’s reign of terror that resulted in over 100,000 murders, yet you wish to imprison for life those who have not committed atrocities but are simply born gay?
As the president of a nation you have the opportunity to be a great man and lead your country forward. Instead, you choose to hold your people back like the imperialists, the dictators and the warlords that have held Africa back generation after generation. The people that you wish to imprison are the same people who can help Uganda grow into a great nation.
When you choose to deny the people of Uganda their human rights, you are no better than Amin.
If you don’t like said flag on your highest peak, I urge you to climb up and take it down. However, you are an old man and surely the 6-day climb through the steep muddy bogs and up the mountain’s glaciers is well beyond your physical ability. Your days are more limited than most. Do you want your remaining days to be yet another blight on the history of your nation or will you find the strength to reverse your actions and allow all Ugandans to be free?
With all due respect,
P.S. This protest action is mine and mine alone. Neither my fellow climbers nor the Ugandan guides and porters had anything to do with it. The Ugandan guides present at the summit as the flag was mounted had absolutely no idea what the flag stands for, nor did they ask.
Gottlieb, aside from being a hero, brave, and wise, also has a day job.
Via email, Gottlieb told The New Civil Rights Movement, “I am the Founding Twin of an ice cream company called Three Twins Ice Cream that sells ice cream at our California scoop shops and nationwide through groceries.”
He adds that he’s “just a recreational climber,” but this epic act should entitle him to a far more important title.
Was this a dangerous act? Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality law provides for jail terms, some 14-years, some life in prison, for various act of homosexuality or homosexual “propaganda.”
Was Gottlieb worried?
“I was definitely concerned about the consequences, as promoting homosexuality, however that is interpreted, can result in some serious time in Ugandan prison…5-7 years I believe.”
He says he “concealed the flag within a decoy flag (Republic of California) in a pocket in my backpack that a search wouldn’t necessarily reveal and was prepared to play dumb if caught. Knowing that there would only be a handful of Ugandan guides at the summit, I figured that they wouldn’t know what the flag stood for…”