Skip To Content

    American Plants Gay Pride Flag On Uganda's Highest Peak In Protest Of The Anti-Homosexuality Act

    "If you don’t like said flag on your highest peak, I urge you to climb up and take it down," wrote Neal Gottlieb in an open letter to President Museveni.

    Neal Gottlieb climbed Uganda's highest peak this week to plant a gay pride flag "in protest of Uganda's recent criminalization of homosexuality."

    Ugandan law includes harsh penalties for homosexual acts, including up to a lifetime sentence in prison.

    The activist, who resides in California, posted about his six-day climb up Margherita Peak on his Facebook.

    Gottlieb also published the text from an open letter he wrote to President Museveni:

    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 [...]

    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,

    Neal Gottlieb

    According to Gottlieb, the response to his actions have been "overwhelmingly positive" though the climber has received a few negative comments from Ugandans.

    "There have been a few negative comments from Ugandans relating to posting a link to my FB post on one of their media outlet's FB pages. And two or three folks that think that a protest by a white guy in Uganda echoes of imperialism and can do more harm than good. But, this isn't a black or white issue. It's a human issue."

    When asked if he considered the colonial symbolism of "planting a flag" with the fact that Museveni has framed homosexuality as a western import, Gottlieb told BuzzFeed:

    Yes, I was aware of that framing. But, I think that view is largely one of ignorance and denial. I think that it is important to keep the issue at the forefront and continue the conversation until the populace recognizes that homosexuality is a natural part of humanity. Unfortunately is is very dangerous for Ugandans themselves to protest the anti-homosexuality laws (they can't just slip out of the country), so I felt that I should do my part to protest this harmful legislation.

    He added that his protest action was his alone. He did not consult with any Ugandan activists before the climb.

    According to his letter, the Ugandan guides who helped Gottlieb ascend the mountain either didn't know what the flag represented – or simply didn't ask.

    Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities of Uganda, provided his personal reaction.

    Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

    For me, its a good thing and he is showing support and solidarity , the LGBT movement in Uganda. Many people will do so many things because they are concerned about the fundamental human rights of Ugandan LGBT individuals and some solidarity messages or gestures are simply out of passion and none political like what this American man did at the peak of mountain rwenzori , I think it's simply human.

    Geoffrey Ogwaro, co-chair of the civil society coalition opposing the anti-homosexuality act, said of the action:

    "It's a very brave action, but it's also bordering on insensitivity based on the attitude towards the west right now [...] Going into someone's territory and planting a flag on the highest peak. But, I commend him for what he did – it's very brave. I admire him for what he did, but I think it might be incorrect for right now.