In a spartan safehouse with flimsy curtains and no furniture northwest of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, people from neighboring Uganda clung to the few valuables they could snatch while fleeing harsh new legislation targeting them back home.
A gay man clutched the white rosary that he took to church every Sunday. A transgender woman brought her favorite shimmering blue dress.
A lesbian couple clenched the one smartphone that held photos from happier days, going on dates and dancing in clubs. They began leaving after Uganda’s Parliament passed a sweeping anti-gay bill in late March that threatens punishment as severe as death for some perceived offenses, and calls for life in prison for anyone engaging in same-sex relations. “The government and the people of Uganda are against our existence,” said Mbajjwe Nimiro Wilson, a 24-year-old who fled with a single backpack days after a hostile crowd, including children, cornered him as he bought groceries near a gay shelter in the capital, Kampala. “They kept saying, ‘We will hunt you.
You gays should be killed. We will slaughter you,’” he said. “There was no option but to leave.” The bill, which passed 387 to 2, punishes anyone who leases property to gay people and calls for the “rehabilitation” of those convicted of being gay.