January 27th, 2011
That’s one thing I learned in a facebook message this morning, and it forms a part of GayUganda’s reaction today to the news that Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato was brutally murdered in his home yesterday. He writes:
We need to celebrate his life. Maybe that will take our minds off the desperate vulnerability of ours…. how quickly, how easily we can lose all, in the name of nothing, or something.But, it is a matter of fact that he lived his life. And, was happy. A gay man in Uganda.
…Maybe for the days when he was still alive to pester us with his demands, his beliefs in what he wanted to have done. 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.
Kato David Kisule. RIP. Wonder where his twin is.
The worldwide LGBT community is reeling over the loss of a fearless leader.
David Kato was a spokesperson as well as the Advocacy and Litigation Officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). He was one of the plaintiffs (or applicants) in the successful lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication of the same name). Kato was one of three applicants who had been named by the tabloid under a headline tagged “Hang Them!” His photo appeared on the tabloid’s front cover.
Uganda’s independent Daily Monitor reports that David was attacked in his home yesterday afternoon and beaten in the head with a hammer. Residents told police that they saw a man entering David’s house, and then they saw him leave dressed in David’s shoes and a jacket that covered part of his face. Later, the neighbors became suspicious and went to check on David but found the door locked. After they forced their way in, they found him and rushed him to Mulago Hospital, but he died on the way.
It is not known right now whether his appearance in the tabloid or subsequent court action was related to his murder. The police spokesperson says police are investigating robbery as a motive, saying that items were missing in the home.The BBC reports that there had been several “iron bar” murders in the neighborhood, and that police have arrested several suspects.
But LGBT advocates who worked with him disagree. They note that he, along with several other LGBT Ugandans, had been the target of several death threats in the past few days, particularly in the aftermath of their court victory.
In a press release from Sexual Minorities Uganda, they “call on religious leaders, political leaders and media houses to stop demonizing sexual minorities in Uganda since doing so creates a climate of violence against gay persons. Val Kalende, the Chair of the Board at Freedom and Roam Uganda stated that “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S Evangelicals in 2009. The Ugandan Government and the so-called U.S Evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood!”
LGBT Activists in Uganda point to a virulently anti-gay March 2009 conference put on by three American Evangelical activists for inciting the latest round of violence and intimidation against the local LGBT community. Among the three were Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Lee Brundidge, who is a protege of ex-gay advocate Richard Cohen. Lively, who blamed gay men for the rise of Nazism and the Rwandan genocide, proudly declared his talk as being a “nuclear bomb” against LGBT advocacy in Africa. (You can read about all of the events of 2009 and early 2010 here.)
Later that same year, M.P. David Bahati introduced the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill in that nation’s Parliament. 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 voted on after Parliament returns for a lame-duck session before the new Parliament begins in May. Bahati has admitted that it is his goal “to kill every last gay person.”
The following is a press release from Sexual Minorities Uganda.
Press Release by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Brutal Murder of Gay Ugandan Human Rights Defender, David Kato
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and the entire Ugandan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Community stands together to condemn the killing of David Kato and call for the Ugandan Government, Civil Society, and Local Communities to protect sexual minorities across Uganda.
David was brutally beaten to death in his home today, 26 January 2011, around 2pm. Across the entire country, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Ugandans mourn the loss of David, a dear friend, colleague, teacher, family member, and human rights defender.
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.
Sexual Minorities Uganda and the Ugandan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Community call on the Police and the Government of Uganda to seriously investigate the circumstances surrounding David’s death. We also call on religious leaders, political leaders and media houses to stop demonizing sexual minorities in Uganda since doing so creates a climate of violence against gay persons. Val Kalende, the Chair of the Board at Freedom and Roam Uganda stated that “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S Evangelicals in 2009. The Ugandan Government and the so-called U.S Evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood!”
As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently declared, “I understand that sexual orientation and gender identity raise sensitive cultural issues. But cultural practices cannot justify any violation of human rights. . . . When our fellow humans are persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we must speak out. . . . States bear the primary responsibility to protect human rights advocates. I call on all States to ensure the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly that make their work possible. When the lives of human rights advocates are endangered, we are all less secure. When the voices of human rights advocates are silenced, justice itself is drowned out.”
David’s life was cut short in a brutal manner. David will be deeply missed by his family and friends, his students, and Human Rights organizations throughout Uganda and around the world. Speaking about what the death of David means in the struggle for equality, Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda said, “No form of intimidation will stop our cause. The death of David will only be honored when the struggle for justice and equality is won. David is gone and many of us will follow, but the struggle will be won. David wanted to see a Uganda where all people will be treated equally despite their sexual orientation.”
Burial arrangements are underway for Friday 28, 2011 at 2PM at his ancestral home in Namataba, Mukono District.
Frank Mugisha: +1 646 436 1858
Val Kalende: +1 857-247-1184
Pepe Julian: +256 772 370 674
[Note: This piece originally appeared under the title “‘Kato’ Means the Eldest of Twins.” Aside from being grammatically incorrect, I’ve also learned that it was also linguistically incorrect. My original (American) source was mistaken on its meaning.]
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