Uganda: Gay activist murder sparks outrage

February 5, 2011

David Kato Kisule, described by The New York Times on January 28 as the father of Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender rights movement, was murdered in his home on January 26.

Kato was advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda. The killing came as increasingly violent homophobic tensions continued to escalate in the east African nation.

Kato, aged 46, was bludgeoned to death with two blows to the head from a hammer in his Kampala home. The attack was carried out by one or more male attackers.

Kato had just successfully sued Ugandan paper Rolling Stone and its editor Giles Muhame for breach of privacy after the paper published a hit list of “Uganda's Top Homos”. The paper included the names, pictures and addresses of 100 suspected homosexuals.

Kato’s face was among those on the front page, next to a banner that read: “Hang Them.”

On January 3, 2011 High Court Justice V. F. Kibuuka Musoke ruled in favour of Kato and two other plaintiffs. They were awarded 1.5 million Ugandan shillings (about A$650) each and won a court injunction preventing the paper from publishing more names.

Kato had complained of receiving death threats since the court victory.

Fellow gay rights activist Julian Pepe Onziema told the January 27 British Guardian: “Since the ruling, David said people had been harassing him, and warning they would 'deal with him'.”

However, police are blaming the death on a robbery. They have apprehended one suspect and have issued a warrant to detain another.

Concerned that the murder could be swept under the carpet, Human Rights Watch issued a call for a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the killing on January 27.

The NYT said Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, had stated: “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”

Anglican priest Thomas Musoke delivered Kato’s eulogy. He used the opportunity to reaffirm the views that led to Kato’s death, comparing homosexuals to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Musoke told funeral-goers: “Homosexuals must repent … or be punished by God.”

Musoke was shouted down by Kato’s supporters, who stormed the pulpit and took the microphone away from him.

When locals refused to bury the coffin, Kato’s friends took the coffin to the grave themselves and buried it themselves.

Homophobia has increased dramatically in Uganda since an actively homophobic campaign was run by evangelical Christians from the United States in March 2009.

The campaign, titled “The gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda — and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family”, portrayed homosexuals as targeting children and seeking to undermine Christian marriage.

Uganda’s parliament is currently considering an Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would allow the execution of homosexuals. The bill has wide support among Ugandan parliamentarians.

[Pastor Karl Hand is an ordained minister in the Metropolitan Community Church, and currently pastors CRAVE MCC, .]

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