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Posts for September, 2010

Ugandan Tabloid Grossly Distorts An American Paper’s Interview With Gay Asylum Seeker

Jim Burroway

September 28th, 2010
Red Pepper, Sept 24, 2010

The Sept 24, 2010 edition of Uganda's notorious tabloid Red Pepper featuring asylum seeker Moses Mworeko on the front cover (Click to enlarge)

Uganda’s notorious tabloid Red Pepper has engaged in some of the most deplorable gay-baiting and gay-bashing “journalism” to be found anywhere in the world, but nothing can prepare one for the latest outrage. Last Friday, the tabloid published a front-page article alleging that Kushaba Moses Mworeko, a 31-year-old Ugandan who has requested asylum in the United States, had “raped boys in school.” The paper also republished an interview with Mworeko that first appeared in Washington, D.C.’s Metro Weekly last July while grossly distorting that same interview in its write-up.

An anonymous reader forwarded these scans from the pages of Red Pepper to BTB on Friday.

Mworeko first became known to Americans when he appeared at the American Prayer Hour last February. The American Prayer Hour was organized by Truth Wins Out as a counter presence to the National Prayer Breakfast, organized by the secretive Evangelical group known as The Fellowship or The Family. The point of the American Prayer Hour was to protest the ties that exist between members of The Family and supporters of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that had been introduced into Uganda’s Parliament the previous October. Mworeko spoke at a news conference identified only as Moses, his middle name. He also appeared with a bag over his head to conceal his identity because he was in fear for his life.

Five months later, Moses revealed his full identity when he spoke with Metro Weekly’s Will O’Bryan to talk about his asylum request. In that interview, Moses explained that he was in the United States to attend an HIV/AIDS conference at the same time that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was being introduced in Parliament. Moses had already considered moving to the U.S., but given the deteriorating situation in Uganda, he decided to overstay his visa in November and seek political asylum. His original application for asylum was denied, and his case is now on appeal.

In the wide-ranging Metro Weekly interview in July, Moses described the precarious situation LGBT Ugandans face on a daily basis, which includes official intimidation by police and the constant fear of being discovered. He describes his early childhood, the death of both of his parents from AIDS, and his early experiences in school which included dealing with his own emerging understanding of his sexuality. From the Metro Weekly interview:

Moses' interview appeared in the July 28 edition of Washington, D.C.'s Metro Weekly

Moses' interview appeared in the July 28 edition of Washington, D.C.'s Metro Weekly

MW: Was this also the time you began to think you might be gay?

MWOREKO: Actually, even before my parents died, they knew I was gay. It was known at my elementary school.

At first, people could tell because of my behavior. Then, at school, with the boys I used to live with in the dormitory, there was a guy. We came from the same village, we went to the same school, we were studying in the same class and sitting at the same table. There was attraction between us. We started having sex, and that spread in the boys’ dormitory.

MW: News that you were having sex spread?

MWOREKO: No, the kids started having sex. We were young. It was experimental. Of course, I definitely had those feelings. All that spread through the dormitory of like 40 people.

What happened, I think, is that one of the boys did not like it and was forced to do it. There was a conflict between him and the one who was imposing it on him. They fought, and that’s when the news came out and the teachers found out. They said, ”Okay, who has done it?” We were all rounded together and beaten, punished. Because it started with me and my friend, it all came to us. They had to send for our parents and it was nasty.

My dad was furious. Of course, he had to punch me before the teachers. Then when I went home for the holidays, they had to beat me. I mean, the firstborn – ”You are shaming us. This can’t happen to us, to our family.”

After my parents passed, during high school, I was free. Although, in my high school I was being helped by my guardian, an Anglican priest, who decided to help me with my education. I remained in the closet because of that.

Red Pepper, Sept 24, 2010, page 14

Red Pepper's version of Moses' interview with Metro Weekly (Click to enlarge)

Red Peeper, however, twisted that narrative beyond all recognition. Next to the headline “This gay monster raped boys in school but failed to bonk his wife,” Red Pepper included a wholly invented quote next to Moses’ photo which reads, “I sodomized this one boy and soon all boys in school were having sex.” And this is how the Red Pepper further “interpreted” the interview in its writeup:

Today we expose Moses Kushaba Mworeko a gay monster who has confessed to viciously raping kids in primary school and setting off a sex craze that swept throughout the school like wildfire. … He made his disgusting confession in The Metro Weekly a Newspaper in the US.

In his sordid interview Mworeko, 31, brags how he started bonking his primary school boyfriend and how his act of bonking a fellow boy was copied by all the boys in his dormitory.

Moses told Metro Weekly of an incident surrounding one boy who “did not like it and was forced to do it,” in reference to a coerced sexual encounter with another boy. Red Pepper however deliberately distorted the incident in its writeup to say that Moses “narrates the story as a badge of honour.” The unnamed Red Pepper writer continues, “He seems unmindful that many reading his interview will feel disgusted at his early perversion.”

In the Metro Weekly interview, Moses talked about his continual efforts at keeping himself hidden from those around him, including his time as a student and then as a teacher at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, about fifteen miles east of Kampala. It was there that Moses’ secret was found out. Shortly after, he decided to get married. Here is Red Pepper’s version of Moses’ interview:

In the interview, a groveling appeal designed by Mworeko to influence the decision of immigrations officers who had rejected his application for asylum, he reveals how he continued his gay ways until he was caught watching gay porn by the secretary of his guardian at UCU and forced to get married as part of his rehabilitation.

But the Metro Weekly interview is very different. It says nothing about porn. And while Moses revealed that his wedding was a sham wedding that he entered into because of the need to remain hidden, it was not “as part of his rehabilitation.” Here is the actual Metro Weekly interview:

MW: It was an e-mail with one of those friends that put you in jeopardy?

MWOREKO: Yes. That was when I was already working. After I graduated, I was given a job at that very university. I was teaching. And my guardian’s office was in that university. He was the director of a church program: Theological Education by Extension.

That’s the time I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. I lived in my own house. I was free. I felt like I could do whatever I wanted to do.

MW: Did you have any reason to think your guardian might have suspected you of being gay?

MWOREKO: No. People would comment on my behavior, my lifestyle, and it would just stop at that.

But this one day, I was in his office accessing the Internet. I was communicating with my boyfriend. My guardian called for me abruptly while I was in his secretary’s office. I knew I was coming right back, but as soon as I went to his office, the secretary came in. She read my mail. When I came back, she said, ”Moses, were you the one on my computer?” I said yes.

”What’s this?” she asked.

”What?”

”What’s this?”

”Well, what do you think it is? And what’s the problem?”

Red Pepper, Sept 24, 2010, page 15.

A portion of the Metro Weekly interview as published in Red Pepper. Notice that the photo was swiped from the Metro Weekly and published in mirror image. (Click to enlarge)

And about the marriage:

MW: Were you hoping that the marriage would make all your problems disappear?

MWOREKO: No. I absolutely did not have that in mind. Actually, my boyfriend told me, ”Moses, you cannot get married.”

I said, ”Well, I am going to get married because of these reasons: I want my job, I want to continue studying, this pressure from my family, my students no longer respect me. I can’t keep on like this. I don’t want to die now. I need to have a stable mind. I need to do this.” So I went ahead and got married.

Red Pepper then went on to republish about half of the Metro Weekly interview verbatim, but Red Pepper’s version of it ends right at the point in which Moses discusses the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, including critical background information which serves as the basis for understanding how the bill came into being. It also cuts off Moses’ discussion of the asylum process, his own strongly held religious faith, and the generous support he is receiving from Bishop Rainey Cheeks. (Bishop Cheeks, who runs Inner Light Ministries, is  very fascinating LGBT advocate in his own right.) None of that important contextual information is available to Red Pepper readers.

Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen responded to the Red Pepper cover yesterday:

In all my years of activism, this has got to be the most disgusting, immoral, vile, smear campaign that I have ever witnessed. The Red Pepper should be immediately shut down for its libelous reporting and slimy journalism. This hit piece shows that we must redouble our efforts to stop the hate campaign that has infected Uganda and other nations in Africa. We must ensure that U.S. evangelicals stop spreading their special brand of murderous love on this continent

Clearly, Moses’ life is in grave danger. The United States government should put Moses on the fast-track to citizenship to keep him from being slaughtered.

Red Pepper has a long history of character assassinations, gay-bating, and forcible outing of private LGBT citizens. In April 2009, Red Pepper published the names, places of employment, residences and other identifying information of more than fifty private Ugandan citizens and accused them of homosexuality, which is a criminal offense that can carry a sentence of up to life in prison. That was just a month after Red Pepper, feeding on the frenzy following the anti-gay conference put on by three American evangelical activists, published a sensational “confession” by a reputed “ex-gay” individual who claimed to have been paid by foreigners to recruit schoolchildren. In December, Red Pepper published another full page spread purporting to out “City tycoons who bankroll Ugandan Homos.”