Of course Kenyans and Ugandans know that, as do most everybody else in the world. The headline is for the benefit of Americans, who on average possess an abysmal geographic literacy. But when you think of it, there’s not a lot of reasons why Kenya and Uganda should be all that different from each other. They lie right next to each other, they are both members of the East African Community, they are both former British colonies, they share a similar religious makeup, and they both have histories of dictatorships and human rights abuses since independence, which occurred for each country within five years of each other. And both countries criminalize homosexual behavior: Uganda with prison terms of from 20 years to life, Kenya with a prison term of fourteen years.
I know that when I started writing about Uganda in 2009, I don’t think I could have picked it out on an unmarked map of Africa, and I don’t think I would have been able to find Kenya either. But if you had told me these similarities, and pointed them out on the map where I could see them side by side, I would have then assumed that there were other similarities as well. Like, in their attitudes towards LGBT people. And I would have been wrong:
The first openly gay man to run for office is drawing attention to Kiambu County by running for the senate seat. Mr David Kuria recognises that his sexual orientation may be an extra challenge in the already competitive political sphere.
…Going against the advice of many to marry, he hopes that voters will interpret his openness about his sexual orientation as honesty. Mr Kuria hopes that the discrimination he has faced will allow him to better represent others in the society who are marginalised.
Uganda is still sitting on a proposal to execute gay people and criminalize anyone who would aid, defend, or even know them. Kenya’s anti-sodomy law, on the other hand, is treated as a curious artifact of Colonial rule. Kenya has had its share of anti-gay violence, but it has also had politicians and its Chief Justice standing up for gay rights. And now we have David Kuria running a very visible campaign for Senate, while David Cecil is threatened with two years’ imprisonment in Uganda for staging a pro-gay play. Kenya and Uganda may be side by side on the map, but they are light-years from each other in their recognition of human rights.