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Uganda’s Daily Monitor’s Most Remarkable Editorial

A commentary.

Jim Burroway

January 28th, 2011

David Kato

An editorial posted online for this morning’s edition of Kampala-based Daily Monitor addresses the brutal murder of LGBT advocate David Kato. While noting that police have not officially determined the motive for his killing, Daily Monitor editors say this murder “reminds us of the homophobia that is widespread in our country and society – and the deadly consequences of not dealing with it.” The editorial goes on to touch briefly on several salient points: the deterioration of the overall atmosphere following the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the role that “foreign actors” play in the debate, and the “extreme positions of moral self-righteousness.”

But the editorial makes the mistake of presenting both sides as though there were an equivalency between the two. The editors ignore the overwhelming disparity of power and influence between the two sides, with one side wielding the power of state, culture, faith and media; and the other side scrounging for whatever scraps of safety and dignity they can muster. Instead, they pretend that there is some sort of equivalency or parity between the two side. We’ve seen this before, not only in Africa but here in the U.S. and in Europe. This editorial is not particularly remarkable in the way it tries to take a sort of a “pox on both houses” position. These notions of false equivalence intended to reinforce the fiction of two opposing and equally valid arguments do very little to shed much light on the debate.

After having set up that false equivalency, the editorial also draws this unremarkable conclusion.

People like David Kato and others who might be gay are Ugandans and enjoy the same rights and protections of the law as heterosexuals. We cannot send them into exile neither, lock them away, or hang them.

We need to have an honest discussion about how to ensure that their rights are upheld without violating the rights of other Ugandans.

Peaceful and stable societies only emerge when we understand and try to accommodate those who are different from us, or who disagree with us – not by ostracising or killing them.

And yet, this editorial is among the most remarkable editorials I’ve read in years. What makes this editorial remarkable is that it is being printed in Uganda’s largest and most influential independent newspaper, and it expresses the need to ensure the rights of LGBT people are upheld in a nation whose leadership refuses to recognize gay people as humans beings deserving of human rights. That’s remarkable, and a most welcome addition to the debate.

Update: GayUganda also sees this editorial as “a real big deal.”

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