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Posts for August, 2014

Kenyan Fringe Political Party Proposes “Stone the Gays” Bill

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2014
Edward Onwong’a Nyakeriga (Photo: Gerald Anderson / Daily Nation)

Edward Onwong’a Nyakeriga (Photo: Gerald Anderson/Daily Nation)

Kenya’s Daily Nation reported last Saturday that a tiny political party known as the Republican Liberty Party, has proposed a bill in that nation’s National Assembly modeled very closely after neighboring Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but with much harsher penalties.

The bill was proposed by the party’s legal secretary Edward Onwong’a Nyakeriga, a Seventh Day Adventist who says he has never met a gay person in his entire life. The Republican Liberty Party is a tiny, fringe party, holding no seats in the National Assembly, no Senate seats, no governorships or significant county representation. The bill was reportedly referred to Parliament’s Justice and Legal Affairs committee for review.

Nzioka has obtained a copy of the proposed bill and posted it on his web site. Like Uganda’s original Anti-Homosexuality Bill first introduced in 2009, the Kenyan version also calls for the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” but with a twist: it calls for death by public stoning, a particularly gruesome form of capital punishment where the victim is buried up to his neck, but with his head exposed before he is stoned to death. Much like Uganda’s bill, ordinary homosexuality would be punishable with a lifetime sentence for Kenyan citizens, but foreigners would also be put to death by public stoning. In an interview with Daily Nation, Nyakeriga expressed a particular fondness for the stoning clause:

He is emphatic that he is only the drafter of the Bill; the ideas belong to the Republican Liberty Party, a fringe political party without a single Member of Parliament, Governor or notable presence in any County Assembly. Stoning is a rare and cruel form of punishment applied only in places where extreme forms of Islam are practised such as Al-Shabaab strongholds. …[A]ccording to Mr Nyakeriga, “if Parliament is to amend anything, that clause should not be touched because it expresses our preferred extreme measure for deterrence.”

The Kenyan AHB is so closely modeled after Uganda’s that many clauses are virtually word-for-word copies, but with all penalties in the Kenyan version aside from those for “aggravated homosexuality” increased to lifetime imprisonment. Clause 11 of the Ugandan AHB would have criminalized landlords, as does Clause 11 of the Kenyan version, but with a lifetime sentence instead of Uganda’s five to seven years. Clause 13 of both bills promote “promotion” of homosexuality with very nearly identical language; the Ugandan version imposed a five to seven year sentence, Kenya’s version calls for life. Ditto for clause 14 of both bills, which required family members to report gay people to police. Uganda’s version called for three years’ imprisonment before it was eliminated in the final Anti-Homosexuality Act; Kenya’s, again, calls for life.

Prospects for the bill’s passage would seem unlikely at this time. Unlike the conditions in Uganda when its Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in 2009, Kenya has been comparatively quiet, although anti-gay violence does flare up from time to time. Last February, a group of MPs formed an anti-gay caucus, consisting MPs Irungu Kang’ata (Kiharu), Julius Ndegwa (Lamu West) John Njoroge (Kasarani), Clement Wambugu (Mathioya) Stephen Kinyanjui (Kinangop). The leader of Parliament’s anti-gay caucus expressed reservations about the bill:

Mr Irungu Kangata, the Kiharu MP and leader of Parliament’s anti-gay caucus, says that while he is “100 per cent anti-gay” the proposed penalties are out of sync with modern thinking.

He said the new ideas are to have lawbreakers counselled and rehabilitated unless they have been involved in violent crime.

“You must also ask yourself why you are punishing that person. You are punishing that person with a view of changing them and to deter. You don’t cure anything by celebrating the suffering of that person,” said Mr Kangata.

Kenyan LGBT rights activist Denis Nzioka added that “the Government in a terse response to the anti gay caucus said that the current laws are enough to deal with homosexuality and said there was no need to introduce new laws against same sex persons.” Kenya’s current laws, which were largely inherited from Britain’s colonial-era laws, imposes sentences ranging from five to fourteen years in prison, depending on how it would be prosecuted. Prosecutions are rare, but the laws’ presence has had the effect of encouraging police in their harassment of LGBT people.

Is Kenya Next?

Jim Burroway

February 19th, 2014

Uganda’s neighbor to the east has been spared some of the more excessive displays of anti-gay hatred commonly found along its western border. That may be about to change:

Five MPs have declared an onslaught on homosexuality, which includes rallying the public to arrest gay people where police fail to act.

Through a newly formed parliamentary caucus, the lawmakers will also be rallying their colleagues in Parliament to fully enforce relevant parts of the law that prohibits gay practice.

The caucus to fight gayism in Kenya was launched on Tuesday to coordinate all plans and activities meant to fight it.

It was announced in Parliament just a day after US President Barack Obama issued a statement urging Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni not to sign into law a Bill banning gayism in the neighbouring country.

The MPs want the National Security Committee of the National Assembly to summon the Attorney-General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Registrar General of Companies to explain how gay practice continues to thrive in the country despite being prohibited in the laws of the land.

Mr Irungu Kang’ata (Kiharu), Mr Julius Ndegwa (Lamu West) Mr John Njoroge (Kasarani), Mr Clement Wambugu (Mathioya) and Mr Stephen Kinyanjui (Kinangop) said they will lobby Kenyans to maintain harsh anti-gay laws and Parliament to tighten the current law.

Kenya’s colonial-era sodomy law currently provides up to fourteen years’ imprisonment upon conviction. Daily Nation warns that the MPs are “stoking intolerance“:

It may well be that they are alarmed by some recent cases of high-profile personalities coming out of the closet and the growing visibility of gay rights campaigns.

However, one must also wonder whether the group has its priorities right. It is probable that the MPs have been inspired by the strong anti-gay laws passed in some African countries, notably neighbouring Uganda.

It is also likely that they want to make a statement aimed at American President Barack Obama, who has become a stringent critic of the Ugandan laws.

If that is the case, then it should be apparent that the MPs’ caucus is inspired more by the need to score political propaganda points rather than to safeguard sexual morality. It is true that Kenya has laws against homosexual sex, but the MPs cannot demand that people be jailed merely because they declare that they are gay.

Kenyan gay rights activist Denis Nzioka worries that pressure may be building for Ugandan- or Nigerian-style anti-gay legislation.  And as with Uganda, he sees American Evangelical influence as part of the problem:

Consider, for example, Project SEE , an American organisation, that has been campaigning against homosexuality and abortion in Kenya. They took things further in 2008/9 when they designed posters calling for the murder of the then most visible gay activist at that time, David Kuria.

…In 2011/12, I was able to detail the influence – subtle at first – of American evangelical churches in the rising anti-gay wave that is sweeping Kenyan in 2014.

The East Africa Center for Law and Justice waded into the homosexuality arena when it published several articles – from 2010 – on homosexuality. Clearly leaning towards not accepting homosexuality, the heavily US Evangelical funded, supported organsiation continued with its anti-gay literary all through to 2013 .

The East Africa Center for Law and Justice is an overseas branch of the American Center for Law and Justice, which was founded by Pat Robertson and is currently headed by Jay Sekulow. Political Research Associates’ Kapya Kaoma reported on the ACLJ and EACLJ (and another ACLJ affiliate in Zimbabwe) in 2010:

As in many other African countries, Kenya’s colonial-era penal code already criminalized gay sex; however, the constitution that the Parliament submitted to Kenyans for ratification in August 2010 was silent on homosexuality while barring discrimination of any kind. The EACLJ feared that would create a loophole for homosexuality (and the local LGBT community agreed). The proposed constitution also protected access to abortions deemed medically necessary to protect the health of the woman, which Jordan Sekulow characterized as “abortion on demand” to CBN News’ Morning program. He added that ACLJ was “trying to educate people on this [abortion on demand] because the government of Kenya is saying that this is not what it means; but we know how it plays in courts.” Despite their efforts and investing “tens of thousands” of dollars (according to Sekulow), the ACLJ and its allies were unable to change the draft or defeat the constitution at the polls in August 2010.

Yet even these minor concessions to protecting LGBT persons and women’s lives cannot stand, according to the director of the East African Center for Law and Justice.“The current constitution promotes gay rights and abortion,” Joy Mdivo, the executive director, told PRA. “We are working on going to court over those two issues. We shall also carry out further civic education to warn people of the dangers of homosexuality and abortion in Kenya.”

Kenya Is Not Uganda

Jim Burroway

September 18th, 2012

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.

Mob Storms LGBT Seminar In Kenya

Jim Burroway

February 24th, 2012

NTV Kenya reports on a HIV/AIDS educational seminar that was broken up in Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city.

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In February 2010, mob violence broke out in Mombasa over rumors of a same-sex wedding. But compared with its neighbor Uganda, Kenya is a relative safe haven for LGBT people. In October 2010, a Kenyan Cabinet minister called on the government to address the wider concerns of the country’s gay community if it is to make headway in its fight against HIV/AIDS, and in September 2011, Kenya’s Chief Justice denounced the marginalization of the gay community saying “gay rights are human rights.” Nevertheless, homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, punishable by up to fourteen years’ imprisonment.

Kenya’s Chief Justice: “Gay Rights Are Human Rights”

Jim Burroway

February 1st, 2012

A video appeared on YouTube yesterday showing Kenya’s Chief Justice Willy Mutunga declaring that “gay rights are human rights.” The remarks were delivered on September 8, 2011 at a groundbreaking ceremony for FIDA Uganda, a Ugandan organization of Women Lawyers. FIDA Uganda was among the organizations which denounced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The Chief Justice’s speech in Uganda is interesting for three reasons. First, his call for recognizing that “gay rights are human rights” actually pre-dates an identical declaration from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by two full months. Secondly, the woman wearing lavender you see seating herself at the beginning of the video is Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, who played an important role in reviving the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in October. And finally, Uganda and Kenya close neighbors, sharing a common history as part of Britian’s East African colonies, and they maintain extensive political and economic ties. Much of Uganda’s imports and exports flow through the Kenyan port of Mombasa, and the two countries are part of a larger emerging common market, the East African Community. The situation for LGBT people in Kenya is generally much better than in Uganda, although there have been instances of mob violence against suspected gay people in recent years.

Mutunga has an interesting history. In the early 1980s as a student, he was politically active against Kenyan president/dictator Daniel Arap Moi, which led to his detention and exile to Canada. When Kenya turned to multi-party elections in 1991, he returned home and became part of Kenya’s “Young Turks, advocating for human rights in the country. He continued to work in human rights positions throughout most of the next two decades. After Kenya reorganized under a new constitution following the disputed 2007 which broke down into nationwide violence, Mutunga was named to the country’s new High Court in 2011.

Here is the video and transcript of a portion of Justice Mutunga’s remarks:

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We have fought and succeeded in demanding our rights of movement and association  although we can’t take them for granted. We should see less of the workshopping in hotels, less of the flipcharts and the [?], as we now move to the countrysides and make sure our people own and protect the human rights and social justice messages.

The other frontier of marginalization is the gay rights movement. Gay rights are human rights. Here I’m simply confining my statement to the context of human rights and social justice paradigm, and avoiding the controversy that exists in our constitutions and various legislation. As far as I know, human rights principles that we work on, do not allow us to implement human rights selectively. We need clarity on this issue within the human rights movement in East Africa, if we are to face the challenges that are spearheaded by powerful political and religious forces in our midst. I find the arguments made by some of our human rights activists, the so-called “moral arguments” simply rationalizations for using human rights principles opportunistically and selectively. We need to bring together the opposing viewpoints in the movement of this issue for final and conclusive debate.

I thank the FIDA movement, membership, leadership, and its national, regional and global network for the honor bestowed on me. I’m very proud of this honor and I will never take it for granted.

Press Coverage of Obama’s LGBT Human Rights Policy Was Muted

Jim Burroway

December 7th, 2011

ThinkProgress found that yesterday’s announcements by the Obama Administration that American international agencies would use their resources to promote human rights for LGBT people worldwide was barely mentioned on American television. It’s getting a bit more play in the newspapers, but since fewer people are getting their news from newspapers, I wonder whether this is something that has, so far, slipped right past most Americans as they go about their days.

In Africa as well, yesterday’s announcement has been met mostly with silence  so far, although it generally takes a day or two before stories like this percolate through the press. Neither Uganda’s independent Daily Monitor nor the pro-government New Vision mentioned the story, although Daily Monitor does cover a talk by U.S. Ambassador Jerry Lanier urging Uganda to stand on its own economically, citing hard economic times in the U.S. which may result in lower levels of aid. Kenya’s Daily Nation, which is owned by the same media company as Uganda’s Daily Monitor, also didn’t cover the story. Neither did The Standard.

In Nigeria, where the country’s Senate recently passed a bill which would impose prison sentences for gay relationships and LGBT advocacy, a quick look at the Nigerian Tribune, Daily Sun, Vanguard, and Guardian revealed no mention of the story. The Nation carried a brief mention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech in Geneva. That story was pretty straightforward and was limited to quotes from Clinton’s speech. Punch, which I suspect may be a tabloid, although it’s articles are much more “newsy” than a typical tabloid, carried more thorough coverage of the Obama Administration’s policy, which Punch said “signposted the likelihood of a diplomatic showdown between Nigeria and the US, against the backdrop of last week’s passage of an anti-LGBT bill by the Senate.”  Punch asked Bola Akinterinwa of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs how the new initiative might affect diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Nigeria. Here’s Punch’s description of that exchange:

He described the bill as part of the country’s ‘municipal law’ which he said was different from international law.

According him, the municipal laws of a country are meant to be obeyed by all agencies and persons residing in the country where such laws are in operation. He said anybody, including foreign envoys, who contravenes the municipal laws can be convicted.

He said, “There is no problem there at all. First of all America has laws, Nigeria has laws. Those laws constitute what they call municipal laws. Municipal laws are quite different from international laws. International laws are also referred to as law of nations. The International law is the one governing all the nations of the world, whereas the municiapal laws govern the affairs of each country.

“If Obama is asking US agencies to promote gay rights or lesbian rights, they can do so. There is no problem as long as they will not infringe on the municipal law of their host countries. If they do, they will be tried based on the municipal law and they will be guilty.”

Senate leader Victor Ndoma-Egba also declared, “Nigeria is an independent nation; we are a sovereign state. We have our own values. We are not going to tie our indigenous values with the values to other nations.” He added, “How many states in the US have legalised same sex marriage? Why can’t they start from inside their own country before going out to other countries?”

In Malawi, which gained international attention when they convicted and later pardoned a same-sex couple for undergoing a traditional engagement ceremony, The Nyasa Times covered the story with a provocative photo of a “lesbian kiss.” Malawi has already suffered a cut in British aid last summer over a diplomatic row when the British ambassador criticized Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika for his increasingly autocratic actions. The Nyasa Times said that the Malawi President “defends Malawi laws for the criminalisation of sexual orientation when he adopted Zimbabwean President  Robert Mugabe’s lingo, describing gays as worse than dogs.”

The Times in Johannesburg carried a very comprehensive story in its paper this morning, including quotes from Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen and other U.S. LGBT advocates.

Fly to Kenya Before Lunch

Jim Burroway

November 17th, 2011

Tired of the same old thing in The Advocate or Out? I got an email blast this morning from Kenyan LGBT activist Denis Nzioka, communication officer of Gay Kenya, who has announced the second issue of Identity (“gay, straight or on the rocks”). This issue is an impressive 35-pager that you can see online here. Thumbing through it is a real eye-opener on the gay experience in the East African nation. Articles that I found particularly interesting include the cover story about gay nightlife in Nairobi from the 1980s to the present. Another one that caught my interest was an article about Nicholas Otieno’s two-day ordeal in dealing with Ugandan police as he tried to cross the border with pamphlets and CDs that he had brought for an LGBT advocacy meeting in Kampala. He was held and interrogated for carrying “suspicious materials.” Other articles deal with what it means to be trans and African, gay and African, and more particularly, gay/trans and Christian — there’s a lot of material on that, reflecting the importance of religion in Kenyan culture. The range of issues explored here and the style of writing reminds me of the assertive, determined, yet optimistic feel one gets when one reads an old copy of ONE Magazine from the 1950s. But this is no throwback; the topics and presentation in Identity are very much rooted in the 21st century. The entire issue is available online here.

Kenyan Prime Minister Disavows Call To Arrest Gays

Jim Burroway

December 2nd, 2010

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga today has denied that he ordered the arrest of Kenya’s gay community, saying that his remarks at a rally last Sunday, which were not in English, were misquoted. Capital FM Kenya reports that Odinga says he didn’t intend to demonize the gay community, saying, “I understand there are gay rights.”

Odinga says that he was highlighting some of the misinformation and half-truths that opponents to Kenya’s new constitution were spreading about recently approved charter’s wide-ranging anti-discrimination clause:

It was said that I ordered the arrest of gay people but nothing could be further from the truth. I did not say that. I was just explaining the propaganda used by people who were campaigning against the new constitution,” he argued.

…He said leaders who were propagating rumours of same sex marriages in Kenya during campaigns for the new Constitution had failed miserably because Kenyans did not buy their propaganda.

”Those were lies from leaders who wanted to confuse Kenyans to reject the new law; the Constitution is very clear on that matter. It does not state anywhere that same sex marriage is legal in Kenya,” he added.

Odinga’s comments came as a shock to Kenya’s LGBT advocates. Despite mob violence that broke out last February against the gay community in Mombasa, anti-gay rhetoric has not been a common feature of ruling political leaders. Nevertheless, homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, and is punishable with up to fourteen years’ imprisonment.

Kenyan Prime Minister Calls For Mass Arrests Of Gays

Jim Burroway

December 1st, 2010
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Prime Minister Raila Odinga, speaking at a political rally on Sunday, said that all gays in Kenya should be rounded up and charged with violating the nation’s anti-sodomy laws. According to the Kenyan independent newspaper Daily Nation:

Addressing a rally at Kamukunji grounds in his Langata Constituency, the PM said their behaviour was unnatural. “If found the homosexuals should be arrested and taken to relevant authorities,” Mr Odinga said.

The PM thrilled the crowd when he asserted that the recent census showed there were more women than men and there was no need for same sex relationships. He said it was madness for a man to fall in love with another man while there were plenty of women and added that there was no need for women to engage in lesbianism yet they can bear children.

Anti-gay rhetoric has been noticeably absent under President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga until now, which is why LGBT advocates describe the Prime Minister’s remarks as “out of left field”:

A board member of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, Nguru Karugu, said the comments could potentially drive Kenya’s gay and lesbian communities underground.

“The community will now fear and go back in,” said Karugu. “Fear to go to testing, fear to go to health clinics, fear to get services, fear to go to the police, for fear of being arrested or being harassed. It was a major blow for some pretty good work that has been going on the last few years.”

LGBT advocates say that they have already received phone calls from people who are HIV-positive who are afraid to go to their clinics to receive refills on their anti-retroviral medication.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister’s office is reportedly backing away from his comments, claiming they were taken out of context and that there is no change in government policy. Kenya’s new constitution contains a bill of rights which prohibits discrimination on any grounds, but LGBT activists fear that Odinga’s remarks will provide official sanction for anti-gay pogroms.

Those fears aren’t without foundation. Last February, anti-gay mobs went on the rampage in Mombasa following rumors of a same-sex wedding in a nearby resort town. At least a few American anti-gay extremists sought to promote violence against LGBT Kenyans by posting “Wanted” posters on the Internet. Some of those posters were printed and posted on the streets in several parts of Kenya.

Last year, Kenya announced that they would count gays in the national census as part of an important effort to gather information for guiding the country’s HIV prevention programs. AIDS activists hailed the move, but many LGBT activists were cautious. Kenya’s colonial-era anti-sodomy law provides for imprisonment for up to fourteen years upon conviction. Odinga’s remarks last Sunday would only heighten those fears.

But despite those problems, there had been grounds for optimism that the climate in Kenya was improving significantly for LGBT people. Last October, Kenya’s Special Programs Minister Esther Murugi told participants at a national symposium on HIV/AIDS in Mombasa that addressing the problem of homophobia was critical to the country’s fight against HIV. “We need to learn to live with men who have sex with other men… we are in the 21st century and things have changed,” she told the audience. Those remarks generated a huge public outcry, but Murugi has remained at her post.

Growing Backlash Against Kenyan Gov’t Minister Who Called for Gay Acceptance

Jim Burroway

October 4th, 2010
Kenya's Special Programs Minister Esther Murugi

Kenya's Special Programs Minister Esther Murugi at an HIB/AIDS conference in Mombasa

A growing backlash appears to be brewing in Kenya following remarks by Special Programs Minister Esther Murugi at an HIV/AIDS conference last week in Mombasa, in which she told those in attendance that acceptance of LGBT people, particularly gay men, will be critical in the fight against AIDS. That drew a swift condemnation from Muslim leaders in Kenya, followed by demands from a coalition of 74 Evangelical Christian churches that Murugi be fired:

The churches, under the aegis of the Federation of Evangelical Indigenous Christian Churches of Kenya (FEICCK) warned of street demonstrations against the Ms Murugi, the Special Programmes minister.

…“This [her firing] should happen in the shortest time possible; failure to which we shall not be left with any other option other than to ask those who care about righteousness and morality to demonstrate against her, “said FEICCK chairman Bishop Dr Joseph.

Dr Methu stressed unless intended to invite God’ wrath, Kenyans should not dare to allow homosexuality and lesbianism to thrive in the country.

“God will punish all forms of immorality despite who is promoting it and are at whatever level. We have observed Hon Murugi Transforming herself to becoming a trouble shooter and one who makes statements focused on demeaning and antagonizing the faith community in Kenya , “he further state in his statement to the Nation.

Kenyan rally: Gay people need health care too.

Kenyan rally: "Gay people need health care too."

Murugi first stirred the controversy last week when she told an HIV/AIDS conference in Mumbassa, ““We need to learn to live with men who have sex with other men… we are in the 21st century and things have changed.”

While the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa has been a predominately heterosexual epidemic, health care professionals say that gay men make up an important, growing, and under-served subset of the epidemic. Male homosexuality is a felony in Kenya, punishable with up to fourteen years’ imprisonment. Female homosexuality is not prohibited by law.

Kenya’s LGBT advocates are rallying to Murugi’s defense. Denis Nzioka of Gay Kenya writes:

All Kenyans, under the new Constitution have a right to health care regardless. Esther Murugi was simply echoing this by asking Kenyans to be accepting and open to the more than 2.4 million LGBTI Kenyans present in Kenya.

We support Esther Murugi and assure her of our complete support and encouragement in her endeavours. We wish to ask that religious leaders back down from their persistent calls for action to be taken against the Minister who was simply doing her work. Their calls are unwelcome, ignorant and miss the point. We, as Gay Kenya, support and echo those same sentiments of Esther Murugi, if not to advocate for gays to be accepted and respected, but at least to ensure access to health for all but especially those most at risk of infection – women, children, the physically challenged included.

In related news, a Catholic priest in the coastal town of Malindi issued a rather unconventional homily, in which he blamed the marriage of two Kenyan gay men in London, which made banner headlines across Kenya, on the failure of women:

“Today as we celebrate this Holy Mass, I am a very, very disappointed man,” said Fr Muli when he begun his sermon drawn from the book of Mark.

The packed cathedral was immediately sent into dead silence with the congregation wondering what the priest was up to, or what had disappointed him.

Fr Muli continued: “This so-called marriage between the two Kenyan men in London last week, why do you think it happened? What went wrong? What is the matter?”

This drew murmurs from the congregation culminating with loud “No, no, no” from the women when the priest said: “This was because the women are no longer marriageable”.

Fr Muli said men were resorting to marrying one another probably because the women had failed to provide what they should in marriage.

“Women, from the way I see it, have become too complicated and unattractive in marriage. You don’t provide what God intended you to give in marriage. You have frustrated the men so much leading them to trying among themselves whether they will get the joy that comes with marriage”.

Update: This notice went out from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GLKCK)

There is a  debate question on page 14 of today’s Daily Nation where we are asked
‘SHOULD HOMOSEXUALITY BE LEGALIZED IN KENYA AS MINISTER MURUNGI PROPOSES?’

Please send your comments to mailbox@ke.nationmedia.com

I urge all members of GALCK and others to respond and send your comments. Let’s support the minister.

Given the debate over the supposedly “un-African” values of equality for LGBT people, coupled with the long-running African versus Colonial lens through which such debate take place, having a bunch of North American, European or Australasian commenters would be very counterproductive. But Kenyan and East African readers are strongly urged to send your comments to the Daily Nation.

Kenya Gov’t Minister Urges Gay Acceptance

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2010
Kenya's Special Programs Minister Esther Murugi

Kenya's Special Programs Minister Esther Murugi at an HIV/AIDS conference in Mombasa

A Kenyan Cabinet minister suggested that the government should address the wider concerns of the country’s gay community if it is to make headway in its fight against HIV/AIDS. Special Programs Minister Esther Murugi told participants at a national symposium on HIV/AIDS in Mombasa:

“We need to learn to live with men who have sex with other men… we are in the 21st century and things have changed,” she told the gathering on Thursday.

According to the Daily Nation, one of Kenya’s principal independent newspapers, religious leaders expressed outrage over Minister Murugi’s remarks. Sheik Mohammad Khalifa of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya denounced her remarks as “satanic and contrary to African culture.” The Kenyan National Muslim Advisory Council demanded that Murugi resign or be fired.

Muslims make up only about 10% of Kenya’s population overall, but the North Eastern Province is predominantly Muslim, and the Coast Province has a very large Muslim population. Mombasa is the Coast Province’s capital city, and was the scene of Muslim-led anti-gay vigilantism last February.

Homosexual behavior between men is criminalized in Kenya, with a penalty of up to fourteen years’ imprisonment. Lesbian relationships are not prohibited.

On Wednesday, Malawi’s Vice President Joyce Banda urged a gathering of religious leaders in the commercial capital of Blantyre to address the needs of LGBT people in that nation’s fight against HIV/AIDS.

African Newspaper Roundup: Homosexuality Not A Western Import, and Other “Horrors and Revulsions”

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2010

When straight African writers offer opinions that homosexuality should not be harshly condemned, they are often constrained to politely concede the widespread condemnation of LGBT people throughout Africa. And part of the typical formula is to register their own personal disgust over the idea of gay sex. Janet Otieno, writing for the online Africa Review out of Kenya avoids the latter part of the formula and counters the oft-told argument that homosexuality is an un-African western import. Not true, she says:

Further evidence for the existence of homosexuality is that pre-colonial African ethnic groups ascribed tribal classifications to gay people.

Certain tribes in pre-colonial Burkina Faso and South Africa regarded lesbians as astrologers and traditional healers, while a number of tribal groups in Cameroon and Gabon believed homosexuality had a medicinal effect.

In pre-colonial Benin, homosexuality was viewed as a boyhood phase that males passed through and eventually grew out of according to Zimbabwean Standard newspaper.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and his lover Smenkhkare were also documented as male couple in history. Their homosexuality does not seem to have bothered Akhenaten’s contemporaries, but his challenge to the clergy brought his downfall.

She then goes briefly goes into the nature-nurture debate, and in her discussion of the importance of sex education in the home, it’s hard to know where she stands on that issue — or for homosexuality in general, although the calm tone of the article carefully hints at her tacit support for LGBT people. That tacit support becomes overt in her penultimate paragraph:

Such individual formation within the family means that sex education is indistinguishable from religious and moral development in other virtues such as temperance, fortitude, and prudence.

Africans should therefore not afford themselves the luxury of being hateful and intolerant to this particular group.

Whether Africa will face up the reality and accept homosexuals, or uphold its traditional values, remains to be seen as the debate rages on.

This piece contrasts very sharply from another op-ed that ran in Kenya’s Daily Nation today with the title, “Homosexuality is an abomination in the sight of God and man.” Three guesses on which side of the fence Dorothy Kweyu sits on. But what makes this piece interesting is that Kweyu reveals that as the Daily Nation’s Revise Editor, she contributed to a relatively positive article by Emeka-Mayaka Gekara which ran last week about LGBT Christians in Kenya who worship privately at a Nairobi branch of the Metropolitan Community Church.

I guess that article left both of them exposed to suspicions that they both endorsed LGBT equality, even though Kweyu’s name is not mentioned in the article. But to settle any confusion the mere presence of the report may have raised, Kweyu saw a burning need to set the record straight:

It occurred to me that as a mother and a Christian, I would be failing in my responsibilities, albeit as a layperson, if I did not express the utter horror and revulsion that was mine at reading such brazen affirmation of an evil. I can, therefore, confirm that my revision task was as “unenviable” as was the writer’s — something you do because you have no option; it’s all in a day’s work.

Tell GoDaddy To Remove Web Site Advocating Murder of LGBT Kenyans

Jim Burroway

March 12th, 2010

dkuria004We reported earlier that GoDaddy is hosting charged domestic terrorist Neil Horsley’s ProjectSEE web site, which is posting identifying information about LGBT Kenyans along with an exhortation to carry out the Levitical call to murder. That web site is also the source for several posters which are appearing in parts of Kenya with photos and other information about LGBT individuals there. Horsley has already been arrested for threatening Elton John in front of his condo in Atlanta.

After the New York office of the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) contacted Joe.My.God, who referred them to me for more information, amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost faxed the following letter to Bob Parson, CEO and founder of GoDaddy. We encourage you to contact GoDaddy yourself and demand that this web site be taken down.

Meanwhile, the Gay Activists Alliance International (GAAI) has reportedly contacted PayPal about Horsley’s fundraising account through their web site. I’m told but cannot confirm that PayPal has promised to investigate.

Click here to read the letter from amfAR to GoDaddy

Georgia Man Arrested for Threatening Elton John, Runs Web Site Calling for Death to Gay Kenyans

Jim Burroway

March 12th, 2010

Neil HorsleyA Georgia man who was arrested for making terroristic threats against Elton John this week is also behind a web site inciting violence and murder of gay Kenyans.

The Associated Press is reporting that Neal Horsley, 65, was arrested early Wednesday in Carrollton, Georgia for making a terroristic threat. Atlanta Police Sgt. Curtis Davenport would not say who Horsley is accused of threatening, but it is believed that the charges are in connection with a February 28 YouTube video in which Horsley held up a sign reading “Elton John Must Die” in front of a building where he said John has a condo. In the video, Horsley is heard saying, “We’re here today to remind Elton John that he has to die.”

dkuria004Horsley is not only calling for Elton John’s death, but we have learned that he is also the operator of a Kenyan site known as ProjectSEE. That web site is responsible for placing posters written in Swahili in parts of Kenya containing photos and identifying information for LGBT people, and encouraging Kenyans to follow the Levitical law calling for their death.

The anonymous blogger GayUganda received an email from an American in Kenya saying that ProjectSEE is placing posters in the Rift Valley area of Kenya:

First, it explicitly encourages the broad public posting of images of individuals, with a Swahili translation that basically advocates their harm through a Swahili Leviticus ‘quote’ that says death is in order. Encouraging these postings in a place like Kenya presents a very real and potentially harmful threat to their targets.

Secondly, they have put individual faces and in some cases contact information on the posters, placing some people at potentially immediate risk.

Third, this campaign and website appears to be organized and financed by U.S. citizens based on U.S. soil.

According to the ProjectSEE web site:

The Project SEE coalition exists to expose the “who, what, where, when, why, how, & to what extent” of the satanic efforts to legalize abortion, legalize homosexuality and otherwise contaminate Kenya with tolerance for the rebellious abominations that have corrupted the USA and Europe, and caused unbelievers to blaspheme the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The section inside the quotation marks includes a hyperlink to another page seeking and providing personally identifiable information on the web site’s targets. BTB is not providing direct hyperlinks to ProjectSEE in order to discourage increasing the site’s Google PageRank.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has an extensive profile on Horsley’s anti-abortion terrorism activities:

It was Horsley who Clayton Waagner, a self-described anti-abortion “terrorist” on the Ten Most Wanted List, chose to drop in on shortly before being arrested last November. It was Horsley who propelled his notorious website — featuring home addresses and other detailed information about hundreds of abortion providers — into the national limelight after a physician was murdered by a sniper in 1998.

It was Horsley who managed to make himself a central focus of a Home Box Office documentary on the extremist fringe of the anti-abortion movement. Horsley has become so well known that the Southern Party — a neo-Confederate group with strong secessionist elements — had him give a keynote speech last August.

According to a “whois” lookup for ProjectSee, the web site is registered through GoDaddy, and the domain servers hosting the web site are also operated by GoDaddy. (Disclosure: BTB uses GoDaddy for domain name registration.) GoDaddy’s Terms of Service prohibits the following activities:

  • activities designed to defame, embarrass, harm, abuse, threaten, slander or harass third parties;
  • activities prohibited by the laws of the United States and/or foreign territories in which You conduct business;
  • activities designed to encourage unlawful behavior by others, such as hate crimes, terrorism and child pornography;
  • activities that are tortuous, vulgar, obscene, invasive of the privacy of a third party, racially, ethnically, or otherwise objectionable…

I have not yet been able to determine specific contact information for lodging a complaint against ProjectSEE. GoDaddy’s Technical and Billing Support phone numbers are provided here.

Are Muslims Preparing an Anti-Gay Pogrom In Kenya?

Jim Burroway

March 8th, 2010

GayUganda received a disturbing email. A threat has reportedly been broadcast over Baraka FM against the same HIV/AIDS research center in Mombasa that was attacked last month. Five Kenyan men were arrested and released. Baraka FM was implicating in stirring up that mob violence as well. Friday March 12 will be the day to watch

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