Responses to the brutal murder of Ugandan LGBTI activist David Kato and Egypt’s inspiring revolution are the key topics covered in this week’s round-up of the African blogosphere, compiled by Sokari Ekine.
Last Wednesday 26 January at approximately 2pm, David Kato was brutally murdered in his home outside Kampala. David was the advocacy and litigation officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) who released the following statement on his murder:
‘David has been receiving death threats since his face was put on the front page of Rolling Stone Magazine, which called for his death and the death of all homosexuals. David’s death comes directly after the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that people must stop inciting violence against homosexuals and must respect the right to privacy and human dignity’.
David’s death has been covered throughout the international mainstream media and blogs. Most of the coverage has been positive and welcome but it is painful to see a few organisations use his death as an opportunity to further their own agendas.
Much has been written about David’s work in challenging the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill but less is known of his plans to work with local communities in changing their perceptions of LGBTI people. Gay Uganda makes reference to this in one of his many posts on David:
‘The situation in Uganda, we can only change with what we have. That depends on us. Engaging the populace, making them see that we were no different...............That is something which David had achieved at his village. All seemed to know that he was gay. Few seemed to really mind. And, at the wake, they saw us, knew us, and didn't seem to be really bothered. Pity that he had to be buried at another place. We would have had less hostility shown to us.’
David’s colleague at SMUG, ValKalende, comments on the statements by Martin Ssempa (his death was a result of ‘gay on gay bashing’) and David Baharti (donors who send money “to promote homosexuality in Uganda”) on the death of David Kato:
‘But why should this concern Uganda's LGBT citizens? Ssempa is washing his hands clean of David's blood and literally saying "gays killed their own man." This language has everything to do with what Scott Lively said while speaking at the March 2009 conference in Kampala where he said that the Nazi holocaust was masterminded by homosexuals, including Adolf Hitler himself. I watched this video for the umpteenth time this morning. David's death warrant was signed at that conference. It also has everything to do with why Ugandan LGBT activists are condemning U.S. Christian evangelicals who are sponsoring homophobia in Uganda.’
‘In this UG Pulse interview, Baharti says police should use the occasion of David's killing to "dismantle the illegal networks, particularly financial, which are being used to facilitate gay activities in Uganda, especially in schools. Still wondering why David's murder is good news for Bahati?
‘What people like Ssempa and Bahati need to understand is the extent to which spreading misinformation about homosexuality puts LGBT Ugandans at risk of being attacked by robbers who will kill for it. On his TV appearance on the Rachel Maddow show, Bahati alleged that 50m dollars was sent to Uganda last year to promote homosexuality. I can bet my bottom dollar if Bahati has delivered on his promise to send evidence to Rachel's email address that there is "recruiting" of children into homosexuality.’
African Activist sees David’s death as also a possible moment of hope as Uganda’s Daily Monitor published an editorial asking ‘Can we talk honestly about homosexuality’ and thus opening up the space for serious debate and challenges the positions of people like Ssempa and Bahati:
‘Whatever the motive behind the killing, this incident reminds us of the homophobia that is widespread in our country and society – and the deadly consequences of not dealing with it.
‘Homosexuality is illegal under Ugandan law and the Anti Homosexuality Bill prescribes harsher punishments, including the death penalty for sodomy.
‘While such legislation might serve as a deterrent, it will not eliminate homosexuality and might cement the discrimination of sexual minorities.’
The homosexuality question in Uganda has two major flaws. First is that a lot of the debate is shouted down from extreme positions of moral self-righteousness; as a result there is little common understanding among those who oppose gay rights and those who advocate for them.
Sour Grapes: The fruit of ignorance comments on the lack of response by the ‘international community’ to speak out against the proposed Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill which they describe as the ‘genocide of the Pink community of Uganda’ and tells us why the work of David Kato, defender of human rights is so important:
“Why this article? Because after two years, South Africa is still trading with and providing economic and logistic support to the Uganda that sees people like me as trash, morally and socially inferior, and worthy of death by genocide - and because our government hasn't got the moral fiber, or quite frankly, the balls to stop licking Uganda's arse.
‘Why this article? Because David Kato, friend, colleague, teacher, family member, and human rights defender of the Pink Community in Uganda was brutally beaten to death inside his home on 26 January 2011. Across the entire country, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Ugandans mourn the loss and fear for their own lives.
‘Why this article? Because David Kato’s death comes directly after the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that people must stop inciting violence against homosexuals and must respect the right to privacy and human dignity - it was a small but significant victory - and yet he was nevertheless murdered brutally in his own home for being part of a persecuted and hated minority group.’
Gukira by Keguro Macharia has two articles on David, one on his blog and one published in the UK Sunday Observer. The one speaks of David’s vulnerability and the dangers of being ‘actively public’ in a hostile environment:
‘What we can say for sure is that David was vulnerable, that his activism made him public, a target in a way that others might not be. And I think it’s very important to underline that the kind of publicness I am discussing is distinct from the closet/non-closet paradigm–the choice was not between being “out and proud” and being “ashamed and silenced,” a binary that only works in certain geo-cultural contexts.
‘At this point, what is threatened is that publicness. And not simply in Uganda, but also in Kenya.
‘Over the past few years, Ugandan LGBTIQ activists have won significant legislative victories. Despite and given the vitriolic anti-queer rhetoric in the country, they have been more successful in grounding their claims within legal frames than have Kenyan activists. (A rights notwithstanding.) While it would be naive to presume that legal victories should provide safety, it is disheartening to imagine that they involve trading different kinds of safety–legal protection at the loss of personal safety, as strange as that sounds.
‘In his Guardian piece “Will David Kato’s murder mobilize protestors in Africa?” he questions whether like Bouazizi Mohammed whose self-immolation became “a rallying point for the Tunisian uprising, David Kato’s death could “similarly mobilize action in East Africa...
‘Doing so would require understanding sexual minority activism not as claims for special rights, but as fundamental to the cause of expanding social, cultural, and political freedoms in the region’.
THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION
Many of us have watched with growing amazement at the determination and consistency of the Egyptian protests calling for the removal of President Mubarak. For me what has been impressive and most inspiring about the Egyptian revolution is that it is everyone’s revolution, cutting across age, gender, religion and class. Those who participated and watched the battle of the Nile Bridge ‘Qash al-Nil’ won by the protestors, will live forever in our memories.
Twitter has paid a huge role in providing us with minute-by-minute reports along with Al Jazeera English and Arabic providing outstanding coverage. YouTube is also full of video footage taken by protestors.
Hossam of Arabaway posts a video of a talk he gave (in Arabic) on dissent and the spread of information:
‘In a dictatorship, independent journalism by default becomes a form of activism, and the spread of information is essentially an act of agitation.’
Egyptian Chronicles reports from Suez which is under siege for the second time in it’s history – the first was in 1973. Her last report was dated 27 January:
‘[N]ow in 2011 the Suez city is yet again under a brutal siege thanks to the Mubarak regime. There are food and medicine shortage in the city thanks to the security siege. There has not been a full list yet or a real count for the victims fallen among the civilians, officially 4 people have been killed in the past 24 hours and dozens were injured. The death toll in the city is now 7. More protesters are detained and actually what it increases the clashes is that the detainees’ families demand their release in front of the Governorate building.’
The Arabist comments on withdrawal of police and the resulting chaos which he believes was planned by the government:
‘There is a discourse of army vs. police that is emerging. I don't fully buy it — the police was pulled out to create this situation of chaos, and it's very probable that agent provocateurs are operating among the looters, although of course there is also real criminal gangs and neighborhoods toughs operating too.
‘For me, Omar Suleiman being appointed VP means that he's in charge. This means the old regime is trying to salvage the situation. Chafiq's appointment as PM also confirms a military in charge. These people are part of the way Egypt was run for decades and are responsible for the current situation. I suspect more and more people, especially among the activists, are realizing this.’
In ‘After Tunisia’, Moroccan blogger, Laila Lalami uses a quote by Tayeb Salih’s from ‘Season of Migration to the North’ to point the finger in the direction of the United States and their role in maintaining the repressive regime of Mubarak ‘an unnamed university graduate returns to his home country, Sudan, full of hope about the new era of independence in his country. But an old man from his ancestral village warns him: “Mark these words of mine, my son. Has not the country become independent? Have we not become free men in our own country? Be sure, though, that they will direct our affairs from afar. This is because they have left behind them people who think as they do.”
‘As Salih predicted, the regimes that have followed European occupation of the Arab world have consolidated power in the hands of a small elite, which was often beholden to foreign countries and bent on repressing the civil and human rights of its people.’
The question is where next for the revolution. There are protests on the streets of Jordan and Yemen and now in Northern Sudan as reported in Enduring America EAWorld View students have been protesting. How far south will the movement reach – Zimbabwe, Kenya? Will it move westwards to Cote d’Ivoire? Nigeria? Maybe not this year, but in time if things don't change, world leaders are on notice that people will do it their way.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Following David Kato's death, Pambazuka News has had a number of expressions of condolences and solidarity. Please add yours as a comment on this article.
* Sokari Ekine blogs at BlackLooks.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.