Are these Martin Ssempa’s Fingerprints on the Latest Anti-Gay Campaign?
October 5th, 2010
I broached that question this morning after reading Warren Throckmorton’s blog. Throckmorton had obtained more complete scans of the article that appeared in Uganda’s tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name) with the screaming headline, “Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids!!” In the larger scan, we have the following quote attributed to Martin Ssempa:
We shall fight on until we rescue our country from the hands of evil. A lot of money from gay organizations is filtering in to destroy the morals of our kids. The was has just started,” said Sempa in an exclusive interview at his office in Kampala last night.
Given the wholesale myth-making that made up the rest of the article, Throckmorton asked whether Ssempa actually was interviewed by Rolling Stone, saying “If Ssempa did not give this interview, then he should immediately offer a public statement that he no longer believes in these tactics and fulfill his word to his supporting church, Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas.”
Since that post this morning, a helpful reader in Uganda sent more scans from the same edition of Rolling Stone. Of particular interest is another article that appears on page six, immediately following the pictorial spread on pages 4 and 5 of LGBT Ugandans. That article by Giles Muhame, who is also identified elsewhere in the paper as Rolling Stone’s managing editor, is fully devoted to Ssempa’s demand that an audit of Uganda’s AIDS commission be made public.
I have no quarrel with Ssempa’s demand, as I haven’t been following this particular issue. In general, transparency is always critical to good governance and an important guard against corruption, and I hope HIV/AIDS NGO’s and doners are paying attention. But what is particularly interesting is that some five-sixths of this article consists of what is described as a “secret email” that Ssempa sent to Uganda’s Inspector General of Government and the Health Ministry. Rolling Stone reprints the entire email verbatim, including the email addresses.
There are only four email addresses listed in the reprinted email. The three “To” addresses are to the Ugandan government, which, according to Rolling Stone, is sitting on a “damning” audit report. The fourth email address, the “From” address is Ssempa’s gmail address, which happens to be the very same email account he used when he commented on BTB last March.
Given the circumstances of the controversy and the framing of it in Rolling Stone, there are only four sources where this email could have come from, and three of those sources would not benefit from its publication. Only one possible source benefits, and that is Martin Ssempa. On that basis, it appears almost certain that Ssempa fed Rolling Stone virtually the entire contents of the full-page article.
And if this is indicative of a close working relationship between Rolling Stone’s managing editor and Ssempa, then that helps to explain something else that is puzzling about the anti-gay vigilante expose published on page 2.
Our helpful reader sent a full-page scan of the article titled “Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids!!” It’s a more complete scan than I was provided yesterday. Again, I have obscured names and places, as well as the photo. Except I left one name unobscured, that of an American journalist by the name of Katherine Roubos. Her “outing” is located at the top of the leftmost column:
KATHERINE RUOBOS [sic]: She used to work for Daily Monitor. She was deported on Pastor Ssempa’s influence. He reportedly contacted government officials who pressured the newspaper to take action. Katherine used to ask only gay-related questions at press conferences. At one time, she asked FDC boss Col. Kizza Besigye whether he would give gays powers to recruit more kids in their groups.
Katherine Roubos is an American citizen and resident. In 2007 she was journalism intern assigned to Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest and most reputable independent newspaper. Her byline appeared on a handful of stories covering a range of topics, but the story that caught Ssempa’s ire was one she published on August 16, covering first ever press conference held by an LGBT advocacy group in Uganda. (The Monitor’s story is no longer online, but a copy is available here.)
The press conference was groundbreaking. Conducted by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), many of the leaders and attendees famously wore masks in order to hide their identities. The message of the conference was simple: “Let us live in peace,” as they discussed HIV/AIDS, discrimination, and police brutality.
This came as a dual shock to anti-gay activists in Uganda. Not only was the press conference itself an unprecedented act of boldness, but Roubos’ coverage of it was wholly balanced and completely devoid of the typical stereotypes and sneering attitudes commonly expressed toward gay people in the popular press.
Coverage in the government-owned New Vision was, surprisingly, similarly balanced. But for whatever reason (Roubos’ nationality maybe?) it was Roubos’ article that attracted Ssempa’s attention. Just a few days later, he organized a mass rally at a rugby field in Kampala to denounce the press conference and demand Roubos’ deportation. Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo also spoke at that rally. As far as I am able to determine, Roubos has never been deported. (My attempts to contact her have been unsuccessful.) She stuck around at least long enough to finish another article co-written by LGBT advocate Val Kalende for Daily Monitor in late September, which documented a famous case of police misconduct and brutality — another landmark story in its own right.
That was more than three years ago. As far as I have been able to determine, she left the country when her three-month internship was up. I have no idea whether she’s been back or not. At any event, Ms. Roubos’ time in the Ugandan limelight is ancient history. But whoever contributed Roubos’ name to Rolling Stone certainly hasn’t forgotten her, and wants to make sure readers don’t forget that Ssempa was responsible for her “deportation.”
It’s very puzzling to see her name in these pages, considering that she is neither a Ugandan citizen nor resident, nor even relevant to Ugandans generally. Except, perhaps, for someone who still holds a grudge and never forgets a name. Even if he did spell her name wrong.