We need to make it better now!

January 27, 2011

David Kato, Ugandan gay activist,  from his facebook account

David Kato, Ugandan gay activist, from his facebook account

From Baha’u’llah: The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes…

Yesterday, David Kato, a spokesperson for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) was murdered in his home in Uganda.

Three weeks ago I wrote a blog on bahairants referring to this letter from the Universal House of Justice sent the the National Assembly of the U.S.A.

“The purpose of the Faith of Baha’u’llah is the realization of the organic unity of the entire human race, and Baha’is are enjoined to eliminate from their lives all forms of prejudice and to manifest respect towards all. Therefore, to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith. Furthermore, a Baha’i is exhorted to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression”, and it would be entirely appropriate for a believer to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.

(Letter from the UHJ to an individual, 27 October 2010) Emphasis added.
The whole letter is here.

Further on in the blog I mentioned some instances of Bahais being associated with anti-homosexual organizations such as the “the Interfaith Rainbow Coalition Against Homosexuality” group in Uganda. I went into some detail there to show, that these examples were not just random nor small things and ended my blog with a plea for equality, a plea not to discriminate. In order to do that Bahais will need to change the current negative image towards a positive one of openness towards gays.

This blog is my attempt, and also a form of protest on hearing of the murder of Ugandan gay activist, David Kato.

Here is the story and please comment (anonymously or not).

From The Guardian
, 21 October 2010:

“Human rights activists have warned that the lives of gay people in Uganda are in danger, after a newspaper published a story featuring the names and in some cases photographs of 100 homosexuals under the headline “Hang Them”.

At least one woman named in the story has been forced to leave her home after neighbours pelted it with stones, while several other people have been verbally abused, according to the campaign group Sexual Minorities Uganda…

The widely read tabloid Red Pepper has already “outed” dozens of gay people under headlines such as “Top Homos in Uganda named”. But the Rolling Stone story goes further in apparently inciting violence against gay people.

…Inside, a headline reads: “Hang them; They are after our kids!!” The article lists personal details of those named, including their addresses. There are also photographs of about a dozen people listed in the story. …

Frank Mugisha, chairman of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said his organisation initially chose to ignore the Rolling Stone story, since the newspaper was not widely read. It was launched in August and has a circulation of 2,000. But after a few days he started to receive reports of harassment from some of those who were named. In the worst case, a woman who works for a gay rights organisation was unable to leave her home after it was stoned. …

“We didn’t want to give the newspaper publicity so we held off on legal action,” he said. “But now the threat against our members is real, so we are considering going to court… “

Read the full article here:

Some background:

“Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) is a non-governmental organization based in Kampala, Uganda. It pushes for the protection and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans.

In response to an article in the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone (of no relation to the American publican of the same name, which rejected the Ugandan paper and its actions as “horrific”), published a gallery of “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak” and stated “Hang Them” [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39742685/ns/world_news-africa/], three members of SMUG whose faces appeared in the magazine – David Kato Kisulle, Kasha Jacqueline and Onziema Patience – filed a petition to the High Court seeking for the ending of the paper’s circulation of the article. The petition was granted on November 2, 2010, effectively ruling for the end of the Rolling Stone publication.

However, at 1 p.m. on January 26, 2011, Kato, whose picture was among the 100 listed in the Rolling Stone article and was featured on the cover of the edition, was assaulted in his home in Mukono Town by an unknown male assailant who hit him twice in the head before fleeing on foot; Kato later died on route to the Kawolo Hospital. The murder was decried by Human Rights Watch[http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/01/27/uganda-promptly-investigate-killing-prominent-lgbt-activist], with senior Africa researcher Maria Burnett adding that “David Kato’s death is a tragic loss to the human rights community”.


Some more background:

“LGBT Ugandans have lived under a menacing atmosphere for more than a decade. The anti-gay hysteria has increased significantly since the introduction of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into parliament in 2009. That bill, which remains under review Parliamentary committee, would impose the death penalty on LGBT Ugandans under certain circumstances and criminalize all advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people. It would also criminalize even knowing someone who is gay if that person fails to report their LGBT loved one to police within 24 hours. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for February 18, and the bill is expected to be considered after Parliament returns for a lame-duck session before the new Parliament begins in May.

This horrendous murder adds to the fears that LGBT Ugandans regularly face over their safety. Brenda Namigadde, a lesbian asylum seeker in the U.K. has been threatened with deportation back to Uganda. Just yesterday, she received an ominous message from M.P. David Bahati, the author of the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill, in which he said that Brenda must “repent or reform” when she returns home.. “

Read the full artile here:

So Baha’is don’t wait, do something today in your home, in your community, to make things better for “The best beloved of all things in My sight

Vote below as an act of solidarity or go to David’s page on Facebook and post a note on his wall or light a candle for him.

I will light a candle for him this evening, here in the Netherlands.



  1. Thank you for making it clear that we are not on the side of the murderers. “Lead him to the garden of happiness.”

  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/africa/28uganda.html?hp

    NY Times,
    January 27, 2011
    Ugandan Who Spoke Up for Gays Is Beaten to Death

    NAIROBI, Kenya — David Kato knew he was a marked man.

    As the most outspoken gay rights advocate in Uganda, a country where homophobia is so severe that Parliament is considering a bill to execute gay people, Mr. Kato had received a stream of death threats, his friends said. A few months ago, a Ugandan newspaper ran an antigay diatribe with Mr. Kato’s picture on the front page under a banner urging, “Hang Them.”

    On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Kato was beaten to death with a hammer in his rough-and-tumble neighborhood. Police officials were quick to chalk up the motive to robbery, but members of the small and increasingly besieged gay community in Uganda suspect otherwise.

    “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009,” Val Kalende, the chairwoman of one of Uganda’s gay rights groups, said in a statement. “The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S. evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood.”

    Ms. Kalende was referring to visits in March 2009 by a group of American evangelicals, who held rallies and workshops in Uganda discussing how to turn gay people straight, how gay men sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” intended to “defeat the marriage-based society.”

    The Americans involved said they had no intention of stoking a violent reaction. But the antigay bill was drafted shortly thereafter. Some of the Ugandan politicians and preachers who wrote it had attended those sessions and said that they had discussed the legislation with the Americans.

    After growing international pressure and threats from a few European countries to cut assistance — Uganda relies on hundreds of millions of dollars of aid — Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, indicated that the bill would be scrapped.

    But more than a year later, that has not happened, and the legislation remains a simmering issue in Parliament. Some political analysts say the bill could be passed in the coming months, after a general election in February that is expected to return Mr. Museveni, who has been in office for 25 years, to power.

    On Thursday, Don Schmierer, one of the American evangelicals who visited Uganda in 2009, said Mr. Kato’s death was “horrible.”

    “Naturally, I don’t want anyone killed, but I don’t feel I had anything to do with that,” said Mr. Schmierer, who added that in Uganda he had focused on parenting skills. He also said that he had been a target of threats himself, recently receiving more than 600 messages of hate mail related to his visit.

    “I spoke to help people,” he said, “and I’m getting bludgeoned from one end to the other.”

    Many Africans view homosexuality as an immoral Western import, and the continent is full of harsh homophobic laws. In northern Nigeria, gay men can face death by stoning. In Kenya, which is considered one of the more Westernized nations in Africa, gay people can be sentenced to years in prison.

    But Uganda seems to be on the front lines of this battle. Conservative Christian groups that espouse antigay beliefs have made great headway in this country and wield considerable influence. Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, who describes himself as a devout Christian, has said, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”

    At the same time, American groups that defend gay rights have also poured money into Uganda to help the beleaguered gay community.

    In October, a Ugandan newspaper called Rolling Stone (with a circulation of roughly 2,000 and no connection to the American magazine) published an article that included photos and the whereabouts of gay men and lesbians, including several well-known activists like Mr. Kato.

    The paper said homosexuals were raiding schools and recruiting children, a belief that is quite widespread in Uganda and has helped drive the homophobia.

    Mr. Kato and a few other activists sued the paper and won. This month, Uganda’s High Court ordered Rolling Stone to pay hundreds of dollars in damages and to cease publishing the names of people it said were gay.

    January 27, 2011, 4:22 pm
    Before His Death, Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Explained Hostile Climate

    Updated | 4:55 p.m. Before he was beaten to death with a hammer on Wednesday, David Kato was the most outspoken gay rights advocate in Uganda, where homophobia is so widespread that Parliament is considering a bill that would provide for the execution of homosexuals, as my colleague Jeffrey Gettleman reports.

    Several months ago, a Ugandan newspaper featured his photograph on its front page beside the lurid banner headline, “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak.” Another line of text said simply, “Hang Them.”

    Gay activists, including Mr. Kato, sued the paper and won damages. A court also ordered the newspaper to cease publishing the names and addresses of gay Ugandans.

    In interviews after the anti-homosexual legislation gained attention outside Uganda, Mr. Kato explained the dangers of the proposed law. In late 2009, he described the potential impact in an audio interview with The Times.

    Last year, Mr. Kato spoke about the pressures of being gay in Uganda, in an interview with the BBC.

    During a trip to Belgium last April, Mr. Kato spoke to a Belgian gay rights group, Start to Wish, explaining the possible impact of the proposed new law, which could still be passed in the next few months. Video of that interview (recorded in low light) is embedded above.

    In a post about Mr. Kato’s murder on the blog Gay Uganda, the anonymous author wrote, “Paranoia is necessary. It is basic to survival, where we are.” The blogger added, of Mr. Kato:

    He was a doer, and, in a difficult environment, he was an achiever. With scanty resources, he did what he could, and did it fairly well. Of course he was a human being. Cantankerous, devious, quarrelsome. But, he was a human being, a fighter, going to the police cells to look for those accused of being gay. Going to court to stand up for our rights….

    Today is time to celebrate the life of a human rights activist, whose life, that basic human right of all, was brutally cut short.

    But the danger remained.

    “I had to move houses,” said Stosh Mugisha, a woman who is going through a transition to become a man. “People tried to stone me. It’s so scary. And it’s getting worse.”

    On Thursday, Giles Muhame, Rolling Stone’s managing editor, said he did not think that Mr. Kato’s killing had anything to do with what his paper had published.

    “There is no need for anxiety or for hype,” he said. “We should not overblow the death of one.”

    But that one man was considered a founding father of Uganda’s nascent gay rights movement. In an interview in 2009, Mr. Kato shared his life story, how he was raised in a conservative family where “we grew up brainwashed that it was wrong to be in love with a man.”

    He was a high school teacher who had graduated from some of Uganda’s best schools, and he moved to South Africa in the mid-1990s, where he came out. A few years ago, he organized what he claimed was Uganda’s first gay rights news conference in Kampala, the capital, and said he was punched in the face and cracked in the nose by police officers soon afterward.

    Friends said that Mr. Kato had recently put an alarm system in his house and was killed by an acquaintance, someone who had been inside several times before and was seen by neighbors on Wednesday. Mr. Kato’s neighborhood on the outskirts of Kampala is known as a rough one, where several people have recently been beaten to death with iron bars.

    Judith Nabakooba, a police spokeswoman, said Mr. Kato’s death did not appear to be a hate crime, though the investigation had just started. “It looks like theft, as some things were stolen,” Ms. Nabakooba said.

    But Nikki Mawanda, a friend who was born female and lives as a man, said: “This is a clear signal. You don’t know who’s going to do it to you.”

    Mr. Kato was in his mid-40s, his friends said. He was a fast talker, fidgety, bespectacled, slightly built and constantly checking over his shoulder, even in the envelope of darkness of an empty lot near a disco, where he was interviewed in 2009.

    He said then that he wanted to be a “good human rights defender, not a dead one, but an alive one.”

    Josh Kron contributed reporting from Juba, Sudan.

  3. I just learned about this incident now. Rest in peace,Mr. Kato.

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