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Originally published Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 8:57 PM

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Tumwater might end sister-city relationship with Ugandan town

Tumwater is deciding whether to sever ties to its sister city in Uganda. Officials in the Thurston County city cite the anti-gay laws in Uganda, and a man delivering a gift from Tumwater — a surplus ambulance — was ambushed by bandits.


The Olympian

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Tumwater will decide this month whether to end its lone international sister-city relationship because of human-rights violations.

In 2007, local citizens formed the nonprofit Tumwater-Mubende Sister City Association to foster cultural connections between Tumwater, in Thurston County, and Mubende, a town of 22,000 people in Uganda.

However, Tumwater officials say the East African country has oppressive laws that clash with Tumwater’s views on human rights. Uganda recently passed an anti-homosexuality bill with tougher criminal penalties for same-sex relations. Those who fail to report gay people also face punishment, and the law has led to a rise in attacks on gays, according to media reports. Uganda is among 37 African nations where homosexuality is illegal.

In addition, one of Tumwater’s biggest donations to impoverished Mubende was marred by violence. In 2011, a Poulsbo firefighter was ambushed by bandits in Uganda while delivering a surplus ambulance on Tumwater’s behalf.

The firefighter was the only association board member to have visited Uganda, according to the board. Likewise, city officials say communication between Tumwater and Mubende has dwindled to almost nothing.

Mubende Mayor Zziwa Kizito last visited Tumwater in 2009. In an April email, the Mubende mayor asked Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet to support a new primary school. In response, Kmet said Tumwater would likely dissolve the relationship.

Mubende is Tumwater’s only foreign sister city, but the relationship is not officially part of the Sister Cities International program. City Administrator John Doan said he is unable to locate any official city documents or proclamations on the relationship. No city money has been spent on Mubende, Doan said.



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