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Posts for February, 2014

VIDEO: Ssempa, Kyazze Celebrate Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2014
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Pastor Michael Kyazze of the Omega Healing Center, a Kampala church, celebrates President Yoweri Museveni’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law:

“A law of love, a law of order has been signed, and your future since will be better than what other perpetrators were trying to promote. There is no one who is going to kill homosexuals. No one is going to kill the homosexuals, the law doesn’t say so, but the law says the habit itself is unnatural and the habit itself, if it is promoted by anyone, that person is liable for punishment.

Pastor Martin “Eat Da Poo-Poo” Ssempa also celebrates:

“The biggest problem here is confusion. Homosexuals are boys who think they are girls, and girls who think they are boys. So the issue is they want to confuse us, but Africa said, “No confusion!”

In October of 2012, Ssempa, Kyazze, and three others were convicted by a Uganda court of conspiring to tarnish a rival pastor’s reputation by accusing him of homosexuality.

NTV also interviews other Ugandan officials and reviews reactions from retired South African Desmund TuTu and and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay.

Uganda TV Coverage of Martin “Eat Da Poo-Poo” Ssempa’s Conviction

Jim Burroway

October 4th, 2012

Uganda’s pastor Martin Ssempa yesterday was without his usual strut and bravado as he learned that he and fellow pastors Solomon Male, Robert Kayiira amd Michael Kyazze were found guilty of falsely accusing a rival pastor of having sexual relationships with male members of his congregation. The guilty verdict stems from a May 2009 incident in which Ssempa and the others engaged in a conspiracy to coerce a church member at Robert Kayanja’s Rubaga Miracle Center Cathedral to claim that he had had sex with Kayanja.

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The sentence imposed on Ssempa, Male and the others is light, but I suspect that the damage to their reputation may be significant. While Ssempa and Male may receive some support from the West, they have since 2009 seen many prominent Western pastors and organizations cut financial and other ties to them.

This is not the only case in which Ssempa is believed to be involved in launching public accusations against others. There is considerable evidence suggesting that Ssempa had close ties to the now-defunct Rolling Stone tabloid (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name), which launched an infamous 2010 “Hang Them!” vigilante campaign which featured LGBT advocate David Kato on the front cover. Kato was brutally murdered just a few months later in January 2011.

Martin Ssempa (the “Eat Da Poo-poo” Pastor), Five Others Convicted by Ugandan Court Over False Sodomy Charges

Jim Burroway

October 3rd, 2012

L-R: Pasters Solomon Male, Michael Kyazze and Martin Ssempa in court recently. (Photo via Daily Monitor)

Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male were among four Ugandan pastors, along with a business man and a musician, who were convicted by a Kampala court for conspiring to tarnish a rival pastor’s reputation by accusing him of homosexuality. According to Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper:

Pastors Solomon Male, Martin Ssempa, Michael Kyazze and Robert Kaira, together with Ms  Deborah Anita Kyomuhendo, a businesswoman and David Mukalazi, a musician, were convicted by Buganda Road Grade I magistrate, Julius Borore.

Mr Borore sentenced them to a fine of Shs1 million each and community service of 100 hours or serve six months in prison upon failure to pay the fine and performing community service.  Community service is where a convict is forced perform manual labour like digging, cleaning public facilities such as schools, collecting garbage among other chores.

The six are still being held in a holding cell at Buganda road court as they make up their minds. Meanhile Kayanja’s supporters are chanting outside court.

The magistrate said the case is sensitive in nature adding that genocides around the world have happened after the propagation of false information.

The fine of Shs1 million is equivalent to US$390.

One of the more immediate fallouts of the infamous March 2009 conference put on by Scott Lively and two other American anti-gay activists in Kampala, besides the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was a long and fearsome anti-gay vigilante campaign waged by the tabloids and on television and radio, with the full backing and participation by Ssempa and Male. During the anti-gay hysteria that swept Uganda, Ssempa and Male were among other powerful pastors who took the opportunity to launch wild accusations against rival pastors in a bid to increase their own power base and financial clout.

This particular case revolved around charges that Ssempa, Male and others made against Pastor Robert Kayanja of the Rubaga Miracle Center Cathedral of being a homosexual, along with “a group of other pastors.” Before they made their charges public in the summer of 2009, Kayanja’s personal aide, Chris Muwonge, was allegedly kidnapped and tortured by armed men and held for five days. His captors allegedly wanted him to make a video statement accusing Kayenja of molesting young boys. Kayanja accused his rival, Pastor Michael Kyazze of the Omega Healing Center of being behind the plot. The ensuring investigation ultimately connected Ssempa and Male to the conspiracy.

Ssempa at one time had been a darling of American Evangelicals, boasting of ties to Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren; Peter E. Waldron, a Christian Reconstructionist and close advisor to Rep. Michele Bachman; Las Vegas megachurch Canyon Ridge Community Church; Willow Creek Church; among several others. Most (though not all) American Evangelicals have broken their ties with Ssempa since 2009. When Warren denounced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Ssempa issued a sharp video rebuke against his former friend.

As part of Ssempa’s public campaign to push the Anti-Homosexuality Bill through Parliament, he resorted to showing graphic gay porn in his church and at new conferences. When one of those news conferences was filmed for CurrentTV’s documentary “Missionaries of Hate,” the clips of Ssempa alleging that gay people “eat da poo-poo” became an internet sensation.

Ugandan Pastors Face Gay Libel Charges

Jim Burroway

December 15th, 2011

One of the more immediate fallouts of the infamous March 2009 conference put on by three American anti-gay activists in Kampala, besides the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was a long and fearsome anti-gay vigilante campaign waged by the tabloids and on television and radio. During the anti-gay hysteria that swept Uganda, several powerful pastors took the opportunity to launch wild accusations against rival pastors in a bid to increase their own power base and financial clout. Three preeminent Ugandan pastors, Martin Seempa, Solomon Male and Bob Kyazze, were charged with conspiracy to falsely defame a rival pastor by accusing him of sodomy.

Today, the African news blog Behind the Mask reports that a Ugandan magistrate has ruled that Ssempa, Male and Kyazze have “case to answer.” In other words, the magistrate ruled that there is ample evidence that a crime may have taken place and that it is now up to the defendants to put on a defense:

Magistrate John Patrick Wekesa ruled this morning in Kampala that the three Christian preachers, Martin Sempa, Solomon Male and Bob Kyazze should start defending themselves against charges of involvement in conspiracy to damage (Pastor Robert) Kayanja’s name by way of a homophobic smear campaign.

The court has set December 19, as the date for the pastors to defend themselves.

The accused pastors, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with David Mukalazi and Deborah Kyomuhendo (agents of the accused) face charges of conspiring to injure Pastor Kayanja’s reputation. The two lawyers were included for allegedly commissioning false affidavits.

The defendants face up to five years imprisonment if convicted. Twenty-one prosecution witnesses have testified in court so far this year. The for earlier sodomy charges that had been filed against Kayanja by the three pastors and their lawyers have been closed for lack of evidence.

Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male have been outspoken supporters of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a wide-ranging piece of legislation which would have imposed the death penalty against gay people under certain circumstances, lifetime imprisonment for the rest, and harsh criminal penalties for virtually anyone else who knew them or provided services to them. Ssempa had enjoyed support from several American Evangelical pastors, churches and organizations, including Saddleback pastor Rick Warren and Las Vegas-based Canyon Ridge Christian Church. Warren finally denounced Ssempa and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009 after weeks of pressure, and Canyon Ridge reluctantly cut ties with Ssempa after defending him for several months.

UPDATE: Daily Monitor is out with its article, naming four pastors being tried:

The quartet, Solomon Male of Arising for Christ, Martin Sempa of Makerere Christian Centre, Robert Kayiira and Michael Kyazze of Omega Healing Ministries are jointly charged with Ms Dorothy Kyomuhendo, former State House aide, and artiste David Mukalazi.

Martin Ssempa, 3 Others Plead Not Guilty To Conspiracy Charges

Jim Burroway

January 4th, 2011

The Ugandan pro-government newspaper New Vision reports that anti-gay pentecostal pastors Martin Ssempa, Solomon Male, Michael David Kyazze, and Robert Kayiira have entered not guilty pleas before Buganda Road Court Grade One Magistrate John Wekesa. According to New Vision, they are being charged with “conspiring to injure the reputation of Pastor Robert Kayanja of Rubaga Miracle Centre.

The four pastors are charged with falsely accusing Kayanja of sodomy. The charges stem from a retaliation campaign the four pastors waged against their rival last year. Such retaliation campaigns are commonplace in Uganda where pastors vie for attention, influence and power. Top megachurch leaders routinely find themselves accused of various crimes by rival pastors in the fierce competition for church members.

In a blog post on December 30, 2010, Ssempa denied that he was involved with a conspiracy to injure Kayanja’s reputation. That same day on the same blog, Ssempa posted an attack on Kayanja, accusing him of sodomy. Which means that on his very own blog, Ssempa commits the very offense that he denies being guilty of.

Ssempa, Other Ugandan Pastors Charged With Conspiracy

Jim Burroway

December 23rd, 2010

Pastor Male being arrested by Central Investigations Department (CID) officer yesterday

Christmas has come early for the LGBT community in Uganda. The Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, reports that two people are in custody and six others are being sought for conspiracy charges over last year’s pastor wars.

The two in custody include anti-gay pastor Solomon Male, along with lawyer Henry Ddungu. They are being charged in connection with a “conspiracy to injure the reputation of Pastor Robert Kayanja of Rubaga Miracle Centre Cathedral, Kampala,” according to Daily Monitor. Also charged are pastors Bob Robert Kayiira, Michael Kyazze and Martin Sempa, lawyer David Kaggwa, Deborah Kyomuhendo and David Mukalazi.

The eight are being charged with filing false accusations against Kayanja, in a bizarre conspiracy to accuse Kayanja of sodomy. As we reported last year, the conspiracy unfolded this way:

Other pastors are jumping onto the “outing” bandwagon to settle scores as well, and the rivalries are so complex that it takes some diagramming to keep it all straight. Here goes: Pastor Solomon Male of Arise for Christ Ministry accused Pastor Robert Kayanja of the Rubaga Miracle Center Cathedral of being a homosexual, along with “a group of other pastors.” Kayanja’s Rubaga Miracle Center is a very large and prosperous megachurch in Kampala. (Controversial American faith healer Benny Hinn will present a “Fire Conference” at that church on June 5th and 6th.) But an apparent friend of Kayanjka, Pastor Joseph Serwadda of the Victory Christian Centre, another megachurch in the Ndeeba section of Kampala which operates two FM stations, accused Male of of being an impostor, saying that he doesn’t even have a church.

Kayanja’s personal aide, Chris Muwonge, was allegedly kidnapped and tortured by armed men and held for five days. His captors allegedly wanted him to make a video statement accusing Kayenja of molesting young boys. Kayanja accused his rival, Pastor Michael Kyazze of the Omega Healing Center of being behind the plot. Kyazze’s assistant, Pastor Robert Kayiira was arrested earlier for trying to sneak a laptop computer into Kayanja’s Miracle Center. His close friend? Pastor Solomon Male. Kayanja reportedly believes that Martin Ssempa is involved in the allegations against him as well.

Today, Daily Monitor provides more details into Ssempa’s role:

Meanwhile, Pastor Sempa is accused of hiring Robson Matovu to blackmail Pastor Kayanja. Court heard that Pastor Male reportedly gave Mr Matovu a signed and stamped affidavit implicating Pastor Kayanja while Samson Mukisa was reportedly promised necessities on condition that he would speak publicly on how Pastor Kayanja had sodomised him.

A police report indicates that complaints of sodomy against Pastor Kayanja did not reveal any evidence the offences. “In retracting their statements, the complainants said they had been mobilised to make false accusations against Pastor Kayanja in order to tarnish his name,” reads a report.

Male and Ddungu were taken into police custody, but were later released on bond. They were were slated to appear before Buganda Road Magistrate Court to enter a plea today.

Interestingly, the government-owned New Vision is also prominently reporting the arrests as well:

In a letter to the director of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), principal state attorney Margaret Nakigudde said pastors Male, Martin Ssempa, Bob Kayira, Michael Kyazze, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with David Mukalazi and Deborah Kyomuhendo face charges of conspiring to injure Pastor Kayanja’s reputation.

The two lawyers were included for allegedly commissioning false affidavits.

…Unconfirmed reports indicated that Police had earlier in the day been hunting for Pastor Ssempa, but he reportedly eluded them.

SIU head Grace Akullo said Male was arrested because he had failed to honour several Police summons.

Public charges of sodomy are a common way to settle political and other scores in Uganda. Should the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill become law with its death penalty and other heightened penalties for advocacy on behalf of LGBT people or failure to report gay people to police, such conspiracies will increase and carry far greater dangers. The bill will mean that no one will be safe, including straight people.

Ugandan Pastor Wars Reignite, Benny Hinn Accused of Sodomy

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2010

Red Pepper's article on Benny HinnThe headline in the online edition of Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper screams, “Pastors Name Benny Hinn Sodomy Bonkmate.” That headline appears to be in reaction to the news that American pentecostal prosperity evangelist and faith healer Benny Hinn is unable to heal his own marriage and is seeking a divorce.

Schadenfreudesters should be cautious however. The Red Pepper is notorious for publishing false accusations, especially when those accusations stoke the fires of homophobia. Last year, the tabloid conducted a virulently anti-gay campaign of public outings. The tabloild was also in the very thick of a wide-ranging “pastor wars,” in which several prominent pastors including pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa, an ardent supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, accused rival pastors of sodomy in order to try to boost their own standing. Sports figures have also gotten into the act.

In this latest flare-up, the Red Pepper published a banner headline accusing Benny Hinn of sodomizing a well-known pastor. The pastor, however, appears not to have been named in the Red Pepper piece, but that didn’t prevent Solomon Male and Simon Kyazze from naming their accused rival which appears to be Robert Kayanja. Pastor Benny Hinn held a large “Fire Conference” revivial at Kayanja’s Rubaga Miracle Centre last June. Kayanja was accused last May of homosexuality by several rival pastors, including Solomon Male and Martin Ssempa. Kayanja retaliated by barring Ssempa, Male and others from Hinn’s revival. BTB readers in Uganda tell us that Hinn is wildly popular there (his program is on Lighthouse TV every weekday evening at 9:00), which makes the snub all the more pointed.

Kayanja was cleared of all accusations by police, and they have charged Ssempa and Male for filing a false report. This may explain the Red Pepper’s reticence in naming the accused pastor in this round. But Ssempa is suspected of being behind the Red Pepper’s numerous anti-gay vigilante campaigns over the past several years. These latest allegations can be seen as just another battle in the ongoing war among Ugandan pastors for supremacy.

If the Anti-Homosexuality Bill should be come law, you can expect such campaigns to increase in frequency and consequence. One provision of the proposed law would significantly lower the bar for conviction. Current law requires evidence of penetration. The new law would expand the definition of homosexual activity to”touch(ing) another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” Touching itself is defined as “touching—(a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything; and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ, anus or mouth.”

The phrase “with any body part” leaves a loophole big enough to drive a truck through.  Or a rival pastor.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO #2: Ugandan Minister Considers Forced Counseling to “Rehabilitate” Gays

Jim Burroway

December 23rd, 2009

Thanks to an anonymous reader in Uganda, BTB has been able to obtain cell-phone video of a Ugandan news broadcast showing Tuesday’s anti-gay demonstration in Kampala by pastors Martin Ssempa, Solomon Male and Michael Kyazza.

This clip of a NTV News broadcast by the independent NBS television on Dec 22 begins with a short description of “aggravated homosexuality,” as “when one subjects a minor to gay acts or deliberately infects them with HIV.” This repeats the persistent mischaracterization of the actual text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Parliament. The bill would actually include anyone who is HIV-positive (whether they “deliberately infect” someone or not), and it also includes anyone who is a “serial offender,” which could conceivably ensnare anyone who has had more than one lover, or who had sex with the same lover more than once. In recent days, MP David Bahati, the prime sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, has mischaracterized the true of the bill numerous times, as has Pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa. These lies are now being repeated in Uganda’s media.

RallyNTVThe clip shows scenes of an anti-gay rally organized by Ssempa, Male and Kyazza. I don’t know if this is the same rally shown in the Platinum News clip uploaded earlier today. It then cuts to a video of Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo defending the bill, while raising the possibility of adding a forced conversion clause to the measure. This forced conversion idea was first brought up during an anti-gay conference put on last March by three American anti-gay activists.

Deputy SpeakerFrom there, the report shows a “pressure group” (one of whom is Pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa) meeting with the Deputy Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to urge swift passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The reporter observes that Kadaga “appears to back the bill,” but the Deputy Speaker then read a passage from the existing law against homosexuality which already provides for a life sentence.

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Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Click here to read a transcript of the NTV Tonight Broadcast.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO #1: Ugandan News Broadcast of Anti-Gay Rally

Jim Burroway

December 23rd, 2009

Thanks to an anonymous reader in Uganda, BTB has been able to obtain cell-phone video of a Ugandan news broadcast showing Tuesday’s anti-gay demonstration in Kampala by pastors Solomon Male and Michael Kyazza.

RallyNBSThis clip of a Platinum News broadcast by the independent NBS television on Dec 22 begins with an update on a veritable circular firing squad among rival Pentecostal pastors we first reported in May. In this update, Male and Kyazza are shown outside a court house discussing a case in which the two pastors accused another rival pastor, Robert Kayanja, of homosexuality. Male and Kyazza, in turn, were accused of plotting to trespass Kayanja’s Omega Healing Center and being behind the alleged kidnapping and beating Kayanja’s personal aide in an attempt at extracting an accusation against Kayanja.

The court house appears to have served as the location for an anti-gay rally, which set the stage for a quick report on the current status of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, who had earlier promised to remain silent for the remainder of the debate, went back on his vow and strongly defended the bill while hinting that the death penalty might be dropped. In denouncing the international pressure against the bill’s passage, Buturo said:

ButuroNBSI’ve lived in those countries, and I know how important that issue of aid is. They give, most people there, give in the belief they are helping the poor. Now, you dont help the poor by teaching them about homosexuality, do you?

Buturo was also irritated at the government-owned New Vision, among other media outlets. New Vision had recently published an op-ed by a senior adviser to President Museveni calling on Parliament to drop the bill.

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We will have more video clips posted through throughout the day.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Click here to read a transcript of the NBS News Broadcast.

Anglican Communion’s Tangled Connections To Uganda’s Anti-Gay Pogrom

Jim Burroway

November 14th, 2009

There has been considerable consternation over the worldwide Anglican Communion’s silence on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Uganda’s Parliament. That bill would reaffirm a penalty of life imprisonment for anyone convicted of being gay and impose the death penalty under certain circumstances. It would also criminalize all advocacy on behalf of LGBT citizens, and impose criminal penalties on family, friends, teachers, counselors and ministers who fail to report LGBT persons to the police.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu, the number two man in the Anglican Communion.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu, the number two man in the Anglican Communion.

The Anglican Church is the second largest Christian denomination in Uganda, making its voice an exceptionally important one as the bill is debated. One would think that with the draconian nature of this proposed legislation, a denunciation would be easy. But so far it hasn’t been forthcoming, save for some reservations about the death penalty. Other than that, the Anglican Church’s official spokesperson in Uganda has been largely supportive of the bill, while the worldwide Anglican Communion has remained silent. This despite public calls for a statement against the bill directed toward Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Union, as well as the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who is the number two man in the Anglican Communion. Sentamu, who was born and raised in Uganda, has already vowed to remain silent on the Ugandan proposals now before Parliament.

Why stay silent in the face of such obvious evil? Good question, and it turns out the answer looks like a tale that one would only expect to find in the most outrageous soap operas.

Uganda megachurch pastor Robert Kayanja, younger brother of the Archbishop of York.

Uganda megachurch pastor Robert Kayanja, younger brother of the Archbishop of York.

It turns out that Archbishop Semtamu is the older brother of a megachurch pastor by the name of Robert Kayanja. If that name rings a bell, it may be because we reported last May that Kayanja, a wealthy and powerful pastor of the Rubaga Miracle Center in Kampala, was accused of being gay by rival pastors led Solomon Male. Kayanja’s personal aide was allegedly kidnapped and tortured by armed men and held for five days, as his captors demanded that he make a video accusing Kayanja of sodomy. Kayanja accused another rival, Pastor Michael Kyazze of the Omega Healing Center of being behind the plot.

Pastor Martin Ssempa, who has been the recipient of US HIV/AIDS prevention funding and has past ties to American megachurch pastor Rick Warren, also played a prominent role in the accusations against Kayanja, as well as other well-known pastors in Uganda.

Police investigated Kayanja and found the charges baseless, although its unclear what role his donations for refurbishing police barracks or his close ties with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni may have played in the investigation. But at any rate, it appears that Kayanja is now officially in the clear, while Ssempa, Male and others were investigated for providing false accusations to police. A police report released last August called for Ssempa and the other false accusers to be brought up on criminal charges.

So does Kayanja’s brush with deadly-serious accusations of homosexuality explain the silence of the Archbishop of York, Kayanja’s brother, on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill? Or is it merely the same blatant hatred of LGBT people that infects much of Uganda’s religious community that is holding Archbishop Semantu’s tongue? And how does the silence of the Communion’s second in command affect the Archbishop of Canterbury’s refusal to address these life-and-death developments in one of the Church’s most active countries?

We can expect more false accusations and score settling should the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act become law, with its requirement that anyone who knows someone is gay report that individual to local police. We can also expect the Act to fuel further public vigilante campaigns against private Ugandan citizens similar to the one waged by the tabloid Red Pepper last April.

L-R: Unidentified woman, American holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, International Healing Foundation's Caleb Brundidge, Exodus International boardmember Don Schmierer, Family Life Network (Uganda)'s Stephen Langa, at the time of the March 2009 anti-gay conference in Uganda.

L-R: Unidentified woman, American holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, International Healing Foundation's Caleb Brundidge, Exodus International boardmember Don Schmierer, Family Life Network (Uganda)'s Stephen Langa, at the time of the March 2009 anti-gay conference in Uganda.

Meanwhile, the largest components of worldwide Christianity remain silent, while others actively stoke the hatred and antagonisms fueling this year’s anti-gay pogrom. Active American participants in this current campaign have included Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, Holocaust Revisionist Scott Lively, and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge, who kicked off the latest spasm with a three-day anti-gay conference held in Kampala last March. The College of Prayer’s Fred Hartly has direct ties to the two Members of Parliament who are cosponsoring the proposed bill. And the U.S based shadow Christian group known as “The Family” or “The Fellowship” has identified Uganda President Museveni as “their man in Uganda.” I’m not one for wild conspiracy theories, but watching all of this unfold is simply breathtaking. And with the Anglican Communion’s continued silence on the issue, they are becoming complicit in this bloody web as well.

[Hat tip: GayUganda]

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Uganda’s Anti-Gay Campaign Snares LGBT People and Rival Pastors, Tabloid Promises More “Outings”

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2009

The situation in Uganda continues to deteriorate, with the latest anti-gay campaign now descending into what appears to be a circular firing squad among rival Pentecostal pastors. But while that civil war is going on, LGBT Ugandans continue to be caught up in the crossfire. The anonymous blogger Gay Uganda reproduced a statement from Sexual Minorities Uganda about the arrest of two gay men in Mbale:

Sexual Minorities Uganda – SMUG, visited Mbale and learnt that Fred Wasukira who is commonly known as Namboozo Margrete is business man in Mbale town who owns a bar and several houses in Mbale. On the night of 7th April 2009, the two were witnessed in a romantic mood at a bar in Namakweki Mbale district and according to the Police officer we talked to, the two were calling each other by names “darling , sweetheart” , we were told that from the bar Fred and Brian proceeded to their house where they were followed by residents, who alerted area local councils and the Police. They were caught kissing and cuddling at their house. Police and area local councils picked them up and took them to Mbale Police station, where they were held until the 17th April. 2008. At Maluke Prison we were not allowed to visit the prisoners saying it was not a visiting day, however we confirmed that they are on remand at Maluke Prison in Mbale.

That was in early April. On April 30, Gay Uganda reported that the two were still being held by police. He also reports of a seventeen year old male in Mukono who has been sentenced to life imprisonment, and another case in Entebbe. Gay Uganda continues:

Suddenly, prison is becoming something that anyone suspected of being gay gets rail roaded to. Doesn’t matter that you may not be gay. Or you may not be guilty. Fact is, us seasoned gay people are kind of too suspicious to be caught in the act. But damn!

L-R: Don Schmierer, Scott Lively, Lee Caleb Brundidge

L-R: Don Schmierer, Scott Lively, Lee Caleb Brundidge

This latest campaign began nearly two and a half months ago when three American anti-gay activists spoke at a conference in Kampala organized by Pastor Stephen Langa’s Family Life Network. That conference featured Exodus board president Don Schmierer, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, and purported raiser-of-the-dead and Richard Cohen protegé Caleb Lee Brundidge.

The March 3-5 conference called for Uganda’s laws against homosexuality — which currently call for a life sentence — to be “strengthened” with an option to force those convicted into ex-gay therapy. Exodus International “applauded” Schmierer’s role at the conference, but Exodus President Alan Chambers later tried to wash his hands of responsibility for it as the repercussions of the conference unfolded.

April 19, 2009 edition of Uganda’s Red Pepper (Scans via GayUganda. Names and faces obscured by Box Turtle Bulletin. Click to enlarge).

April 19, 2009 edition of Uganda’s Red Pepper (Scans via GayUganda. Names and faces obscured by Box Turtle Bulletin. Click to enlarge).

Those repercussions include a public outing campaign which named more than sixty people in the pages of the tabloid newspaper The Red Pepper. In an interview posted Monday on the South African web site Beyond the Mask, the News Editor for The Red Pepper, Ben Byarabaha, promised to continue the outing campaign. Byarabaha said, “We are just exposing the vice, the immorality from colonialists that is eluding African culture. As long as the practice is still illegal, we shall continue the campaign.”

LGBT people aren’t the only ones in danger of being caught up in this latest anti-gay vigilante campaign. Uganda’s anti-gay religious leaders are taking advantage of the opportunity to accuse rival pastors of homosexuality.

George Oundo

George Oundo

The first round in this pastor-against-pastor conflict was fired soon after George Oundo claimed to have been saved and became an immediate “ex-gay” in Pastor Martin Ssempa’s Makerere Community Church in Kampala. Oundo’s “salvation” occurred sometime after he went sought money from Uganda’s fledgling LGBT rights organzation, Sexual Minorities Uganda. Apparently snubbed by the LGBT community, Oundo found a savior in Ssempa and Pastor Stephen Langa, director of Kampala-based Family Life Network.

Ssempa had led several anti-gay campaigns in the past, but this time he appears to be taking a back seat to Langa, who organized a news conference featuring Oundo. It was at that news conference where Oundo named a popular Catholic priest, Fr. Anthony Musaala, as a homosexual. Musaala, whose Charismatic Renewal Movement has a huge youth following, just happens to be a longtime rival of Ssempa.

Other pastors are jumping onto the “outing” bandwagon to settle scores as well, and the rivalries are so complex that it takes some diagramming to keep it all straight. Here goes: Pastor Solomon Male of Arise for Christ Ministry accused Pastor Robert Kayanja of the Rubaga Miracle Center Cathedral of being a homosexual, along with “a group of other pastors.” Kayanja’s Rubaga Miracle Center is a very large and prosperous megachurch in Kampala. (Controversial American faith healer Benny Hinn will present a “Fire Conference” at that church on June 5th and 6th.) But an apparent friend of Kayanjka, Pastor Joseph Serwadda of the Victory Christian Centre, another megachurch in the Ndeeba section of Kampala which operates two FM stations, accused Male of of being an impostor, saying that he doesn’t even have a church.

L-R: Pastor Robert Kayanja, Pastor Michael Kyazze, alleged kidnap victim Chris Muwonge (New Vision)

L-R: Pastor Robert Kayanja, Pastor Michael Kyazze, alleged kidnap victim Chris Muwonge (New Vision)

Kayanja’s personal aide, Chris Muwonge, was allegedly kidnapped and tortured by armed men and held for five days. His captors allegedly wanted him to make a video statement accusing Kayenja of molesting young boys. Kayanja accused his rival, Pastor Michael Kyazze of the Omega Healing Center of being behind the plot. Kyazze’s assistant, Pastor Robert Kayiira was arrested earlier for trying to sneak a laptop computer into Kayanja’s Miracle Center. His close friend? Pastor Solomon Male. Kayanja reportedly believes that Martin Ssempa is involved in the allegations against him as well.

Medics carry Tumukunde to an ambulance as Kayanja and others look on (Red Pepper)

Medics carrying Tumukunde to an ambulance. (Red Pepper)

Solomon decries the kidnapping as “a desperate but tactical attempt to divert attention from the broader anti-homo and cult awareness campaign.” That’s right. He also accuses his rivals of fraud, “miracle faking,” and human sacrifices. And now there is a report that another Kayanja aide, Herbert Tumukunde, was kidnapped and tortured. He was reportedly rescued just as he was drenched in kerosene and was about to be set on fire.

Meanwhile, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of the Church of Uganda was fending off insinuations that he was gay. The Rt. Rev. Senyonjo believes those insinuations came from the Church of Uganda’s Archbishop Luke Orombi. Senyonjo is the retired bishop of West Buganda Diocese. He has written and spoken out in support of Uganda’s beleaguered LGBT community. Senyonjo isn’t gay, but merely speaking up in support of LGBT people can draw dangerous accusations in the current climate.

That, or being a rival pastor.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.