Ugandan Government Follows “Rolling Stone” Script for Gay Panic Defense in David Kato’s Murder
February 9th, 2011
Uganda’s Media Centre, which acts as the official press office of the Ugandan government, has issued an official statement on its “investigation” of the motives behind LGBT Advocate David Kato’s murder. The details from the statement match very closely a conspiracy theory posted by the managing editor of a Ugandan tabloid which conducted a “Hang Them!” campaign last October featuring Kato’s picture on the front cover.
According to the official statement, Enock Nsubuga purportedly confessed to murdering Kato because Kato refused to pay Nsubuga for sex. The Police Inspector General, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura says their “investigation” presents “no indications that the deceased’ campaign against Homosexuality Bill, that is before Parliament was a contributing factor to his death. The police has not received any information pointing to a hate crime apart from speculation from the public.” He also warned against public vigilante campaigns in Ugandan media and denounced the recent “Hang them!” campaign waged by the tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name) that was waged last fall. He also cautioned against inflammatory statements by clergy.
Kayihura’s statement indicates that Nsubuga was arrested on February 2, which is nearly a full week after Rolling Stone managing editor Giles Muhame posted a nearly identical conspiracy theory surrounding Kato’s death on Facebook. Muhame named “Eden” Nsubuga as the “DESPERATE prisoner whom (Kato) attempted to force into a cruel sex bang.” Muhame also alledged that “the embassies have been giving Kato dollars which he has been flashing around to seduce young boys” and that “it’s estimated he sodomized about 300 boys in his regime as ;king of sodomy honchos’ in the country.”
Ugandan officials came up with their similar explanation for Kato’s murder — which just happens to match Muhame’s outrageous theories — before they even brought Nsubuga in for questioning, which raises several red flags as to the integrity of the police investigation. Corruption runs rampant in Uganda, and the police are generally reviled both for their corruption and incompetence. In 2010, Uganda was ranked at number 127 out of 178 countries by Transparency International, a ranking that placed Uganda below Egypt, Kazakhstan and Mexico.
Last October, Kato’s face was emblazoned on the front page of the Ugandan Tabloid Rolling Stone. The story on the inside pages featured the headline, “Hang them: They Are After Our Kids!” David Kato, who was a spokesperson for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was one of the plaintiffs (or applicants) in the successful lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against the Rolling Stone, preventing the further revelations of names, employers and residences of private LGBT people in Uganda.
It is unclear who provided the funds for Rolling Stone to publish. The 24-page publication contained almost no advertising. In the November 1, edition, Managing editor Giles Muhame taunted in an editorial, “I wish you knew who is behind us!! You would stop barking.” There are several indications that anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa is, at the very least, behind several of the stories published in the paper. Muhame and advertising manager Cliff Abenaitwe both attend Ssempa’s Makerere Community Church.
Official endorsement of Muhame’s conspiracy theory neatly solves several problems for the Ugandan government. First, it gives them an explanation that allows them to defend the country against charges of endorsing violent homophobia against its LGBT citizens. It is also an explanation that allows Nsubuga to walk free whether he is innocent or guilty. If Nsubuga really is guilty, then the police have pre-manufactured a defense for him which, in Uganda’s courts, is not only a virtual guarantee that he will walk away free, but he will be deemed a hero. And worse, if Nsubuga is actually innocent, his role as scapegoat for Kato’s murder will leave him relatively unscathed: he will still walk free and so will the real killer. Everybody’s off the hook, and everyone wins. Except justice.