Ugandan Tabloids Continue Outing Campaigns
March 1st, 2014
The ink was barely dry on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act when Uganda’s notorious tabloid Red Pepper launched a massive outing campaign on Tuesday, revealing the names, addresses and places of employment for as many as two hundred LGBT Ugandans, many of whom were private citizens who had never disclosed their sexuality publicly, and some of whom, undoubtedly, may have been falsely identified. Red Pepper followed that on Wednesday with more front-page headlines promising “new pictures of gays inside” along with an alleged threat that “homos vow to shed blood over M7 law.” (“M7″ is a common shorthand for President Yoweri Museveni’s last name.). That same day, a rival tabloid, Hello, featured a front page screaming, “Defiant! Top City Homos Throw Mega Bash.”
Red Pepper‘s reign of terror has continued unabated all week, with some issues coming out as much as a full day earlier than usual, and each with more salacious stories reputedly “exposing” Uganda’s gay underground. Thursday’s Red Pepper included a cover story warning that “Homos go to court over anti-gay law.” That same day, Red Pepper rushed out its Friday edition, which twisted earlier interviews and statements from Ugandan LGBT advocates and turned them into potentially violence-inciting anti-gay propaganda. The same issue also claimed to have stories of Ugandan celebrities “spill(ing) gay secrets.”
Saturday’s edition, which was out by 2:00 p.m. Friday, included a spread featuring photos, names and addresses of LGBT Ugandans were allegedly part of a “homo cabinet.” The same issue boasted another feature titled, “How to precent your child from becoming a homo.”
Sunday’s edition of Red Pepper was rushed out Saturday afternoon, which included more outing allegations by anti-gay pastor Solomon Male. You may recall that Male, while deeply anti-gay, opposed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, charging that it was providing cover for prominent people in Uganda’s government who were supposedly “luring” children in to homosexuality. I don’t have many details of Male’s charges in this edition, except that it includes more “outing” allegations of private and public individuals. The same edition also included an extensive section alleging that foreign non-nongovernemntal organizations (NGOs), as well as allegations concerning gay students in schools.
Red Pepper is an old hat at these anti-gay vigilante campaigns. In April 2009, just one month after Scott Lively’s highly influential anti-gay conference in Kampala, Red Pepper published a list of names, photos, occupations and other identifying information — their “killer dossier,” as they put it – of more than fifty Ugandans they accused of homosexuality. Red Pepper followed in December, two months after the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into Parliament, with another so-called “exposé” of “city tycoons who bankroll Ugandan homos.”
There are currently unconfirmed reports of arrests, beatings, and hospitalizations of LGBT Ugandans and their relatives. Getting conformation about these reports is proving extremely difficult, as virtually all LGBT Ugandans are hunkered down and remaining out of sight:
“The community is very scared, very worried,” said Dickson Mujuni of the RPL AIDS Foundation during a telephone interview from Kampala, the Ugandan capital. “They’re underground.”
…This reporter initially asked Mujuni to speak with him on Skype, but he said those in the Internet café would have potentially assaulted him if they heard him talking about LGBT-specific issues.
“That’s how bad the situation is,” Mujuni told the Blade. “Even when you’re receiving a phone call, you have to talk in such a way that the person next to you does not understand exactly what you’re talking about because if you’re very open in your conversation, it’s very unpredictable. Anything can happen because here we have mob justice… if you’re Skyping and you’re talking about that, you could get beaten up.”
US Ambassador to Uganda: We Will Block Visas for Ugandans Who “Propagate Hate”
February 26th, 2014
Scott DeLisi, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, reacted to yesterday’s vigilante campaign launched by the tabloid Red Pepper. In an interview with the BBC World Service, DeLisi said that the U.S. is looking into denying visas to Ugandans who incite violence and hatred:
“We as a government … are appalled by the course that the Red Pepper has chosen,” DeLisi said. “What they do within their society I may not be able to control, but I can tell you they will not be welcome in the United States of America…. Visas can be denied for people who incite violence, people who propagate hate, who have used political violence. There are many bases on which we can deny a visa. And I can tell you that we will be examining all of these issues as we move forward.”
Meanwhile, the Red Pepper campaign continues for a second day.
Ugandan Tabloid Sparks Vigilante Campaign
February 25th, 2014
Just one day after Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, the tabloid Red Pepper has launched a massive vigilante campaign on the front page of its latest edition. Four photos appear on the front page, with additional photos on the inside pages along with names, addresses and other identifying information on 200 people that the paper says is gay.
Two of the four front-page photos are of well-known LGBT rights activists. Sam Ganafa, executive director of Spectrum Uganda Initiatives and board chair for the Sexual Minorities Uganda coalition, had been arrested with four others by police last November and spent two weeks in jail and charged with “unnatural offenses,” which carried a potential lifetime imprisonment even without the Anti-Homosexuality act being in place. The five were finally released on bail, awaiting trial. Transgender rights activist Victor Musaka who won an important High Court case in 2008 which stemmed from his arrest and personal body examination by police seeking to determine his so-called “real” gender. The High Court issued a landmark ruling stating that police had violated his right to privacy and that the principles of equality and non-discrimination are applicable to the LGBT community.
The other two photos are of popular cultural figures in Uganda, Fr. Anthony Musaala and a hip-hop performer who goes by the stage name of Keko. Fr. Anthony Musaala is a recording artist known as “the singing priest.” In 2009, in the anti-gay hysteria stirred up by the infamous conference conducted by Scott Lively and two other American Evangelicals, Musaala was named by the Ugandan organization that sponsored Lively’s talk, and later by a lacky by a lacky of rival pastor Martin Ssempa. Musaala is a well-known figure and the Catholic church is seen as a rival to Uganda’s evangelical churches. Musaala’s name appeared in another tabloid’s outing campaign in 2010 when Sunday Onion (no relation to the satirical U.S. publication with a similar name) published his name and photo. Musaala has never publicly discussed his sexuality.
Keko experienced Red Pepper’s retaliation last week when Keko took to social media saying, “If Sevo signs the anti-homosexuality bill, we are always going to be third world. Development is tolerance.”
Red Pepper’s outing campaign this time takes up three interior pages with more names and photos of LGBT Ugandans. Some of the names and photos are well-known: Sexual Minorities Uganda executive director Frank Mugisha, transgender rights activist Pepe Julian Onziema, and Freedom and Roam Uganda executive director Jacqueline Kasha. Onziema told the Associated Press that he knew of six arrests since Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act yesterday. Police have confirmed two.
But the overwhelming number of those named by Red Pepper are private citizens and not well-known activists or celebrities. The names listed are often those of ordinary salespeople, shopkeepers, and ordinary employees of larger firms. The evidence for their alleged homosexuality is not given, and many, in fact, may not be gay or transgender.
Red Pepper’s web site is currently off-line as of this writing.
In 2011, the tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name) published a list of names and photos of LGBT Ugandans under the headline “Hang Them!” One of the photos to appear on the front page was that of LGBT rights activist David Kato, who was a spokesperson for Sexual Minorities Uganda. Kato and others sued the tabloid and won a court order barring the tabloid from publishing any more names and photos as part of an outing campaign. The tabloid’s publisher, Giles Muhame and advertising manager Cliff Abenaitwe both attended Martin Ssempa’s Makerere Community Church. Just three weeks after that court victory, Kato was found bludgeoned to death in his home.
Red Pepper has has a long history of stoking anti-gay vigilante campaigns. In April 2009, just one month after Scott Lively’s conference in Kampala, Red Pepper published a list of names, photos, occupations and other identifying information — their “killer dossier,” as they put it – of more than fifty Ugandans accused of homosexuality. Red Pepper followed in December with another so-called “exposé” of “city tycoons who bankroll Ugandan homos.”
Second Ugandan Tabloid Gets Into the “Outing” Act
November 1st, 2010
A second Ugandan tabloid, the Sunday Onion (no relation to the U.S. satirical paper by the same name) has decided to join Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. magazine by the same name — why can’t anyone come up with anything original?) in a “me, too” game of gay outing. Sunday Onion’s cover story proclaims “Fr. Tony has turned me into his sodomy boy: Boy confesses being sodomized by priest, names partners in homo sex.”
The priest named in the Sunday Onion, “Fr. Tony,” is Fr. Anthony Musaala, a popular Catholic priest and gospel singer who was accused of homosexuality more than a year ago. That so-called “outing” was the start of an intensive “pastor’s war,” in which rival pastors accused each other of homosexuality as a means of discrediting the more popular and wealthy pastors. Martin Ssempa was a key player in many of those accusations. He was eventually brought up on charges of filing false reports with the police, but it is unclear today where those charges stand.
Ssempa is also believed to be behind the latest anti-gay campaign being executed by Rolling Stone. That tabloid was ordered by a Ugandan court earlier today to cease publishing “identities by name or pictures or any relevant implication of the person or person perceived by the respondents to be gay, lesbian or homosexual in general.”
Sunday Onion is under no such injunction. In addition to a very florid account by a so-called “top gay activist,” Sunday Onion pubished the identities of nearly twenty LGBT Ugandans. Many of those identified were well-known LGBT advocates, but many more were ordinary private citizens. In some cases, their occupations and towns were listed as well.
Meanwhile, Red Pepper, the tabloid which practically invented the art of anti-gay vigilantism, engaged in a bit of gay-baiting itself in its most recent issue. A page 6 article, titled “Media Advisory: Serial Lesbo On the Run,” alleges that a lesbian had “surfed the yoyo” of her housekeeper and was now being sought by police.
Of course, the main intent of the story is not whether there is any factual information behind it, but to reinforce the stereotypes that run rampant in Uganda of predatory gays and lesbians. Undoubtedly, if there’s anything we’ve learned from watching Uganda’s tabloids, it’s that the easiest way to get back at someone — whether it’s a pastor or an unpopular sports figure — is to accuse that individual of homosexuality.
Ugandan Tabloid Grossly Distorts An American Paper’s Interview With Gay Asylum Seeker
September 28th, 2010
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:
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 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.
”Well, what do you think it is? And what’s the problem?”
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.”
Australia’s SBS Television Focuses on Uganda
September 8th, 2010
Australia’s SBS network, which fills a role similar to that of PBS in the United States, delved into Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill last Sunday in a segment of the documentary program Dateline by Canadian journalist Aaron Lewis. The non-embeddable video is available online at the Dateline web site, along with a full transcript.
This documentary explores similar ground covered in other documentaries on Uganda that have appeared in the U.S. and Britain. Regular readers of BTB are unlikely to learn many new facts, but this documentary does a wonderful job of re-telling the story in different contexts. As with the other documentaries, Lewis obtained interviews with M.P. David Bahati, chief sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, one of the bill’s most ardent supporters in Uganda’s Cabinet. It also features brief appearances from pastors Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male, who both have been involved with hurling accusations of homosexuality toward rival pastors during last year’s vigilante campaign.
Among the things this documentary covers that we’ve seen before is Bahati’s assertion that many American evangelical leaders privately tell him that they support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill bill:
We have friends who are evangelicals in the US and they are being supportive. Some confidentially supporting this, others, very few openly, in support of this because of the fear to be blamed back home and we truly accept that.
But where this documentary truly excels is in covering the impact the debate over the the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has had on Uganda’s LGBT community. Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said that since the bill has been introduced, life has become much more difficult:
Many Ugandans have taken the law into their own hands and started attacking homosexuals, beating them up. Landlords have thrown people out of their houses because they are saying “If this legislation is passed and I have a homosexual who is a tenant, then I become a criminal, so it is better I throw you out now before the law is passed”.
Pepe, a transgender advocate for SMUg, agrees:
Kampala is one of the places that is known for mob injustice – anything can happen. You can move on the street and someone can say “Look, the homosexual is doing something” – just that word alone is going to draw attention and something can happen so that we live in fear of all the time.
More compelling is this recounting of a case of “curative rape,” a common threat against lesbians throughout Africa.
SHEILA MUGISHA: At the age of 12 I had a friend at home – and actually these things are done by friends. I had always told him my stories, my secrets, my encounters in bed. So, he would tell me, “You know what? I want to teach you how to play with boys, not with girls.” He put his leg here, and here, and then he got into my body, into my vagina, and I screamed because I’d never had any sex, I’d never known, you know, any of those practices. “So, from now, you are going to learn how to play with boys.”
As a result of the rape, Sheila became pregnant at the age of 12. Her family took her to have the child aborted but the effects of the rape continued.
SHEILA MUGISHA: I went to a certain AIDS information centre in Mengo with a friend – I took a test – and it was positive.
Sheila has been living with HIV for almost twenty years. When the reporter told Minister for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo about Shiela, the cabinet minister who has been one of the anti-gay bill’s staunchest supporters said that the entire story is a lie:
I have never heard of that, actually. But they lie a lot. Lies. They use that as a major tool because you see that’s the only way they garner sympathy from all over the world. Now the idea that in Uganda we have plans to kill gays you know, that the bill of Honourable Bahati is intended to kill homosexuals – that is the view that the entire world has got, yet it is not the case.
But what has to be the most interesting element of the documentary for me is that for the first time we get to hear from Stanley Nduala, who writes for the notorious tabloid Red Pepper. He has been in the forefront of that tabloid’s outing campaigns. Apparently, making life miserable for LGBT people pays very well in Uganda; we see Nduala driving around Kampala in a late model Mercedes. Incredibly, he claimed that he, too, would fall under the bill’s provisions against “promoting” homosexuality:
STANLEY NDUALA, JOURNALIST ‘RED PEPPER’: For them, they believe that anything you write about homosexuality is promotion. So they think that I’m working with the activists to promote homosexuality in Uganda. So it is quite strict.
Far from promoting homosexuality, ‘The Red Pepper’ goes so far as to out homosexuals in its most popular section. No-one is spared.
FRANK MUGISHA: I know very many people who were outed in that tabloid who lost their jobs, who lost their families, who lost friends. I know people who were even bashed, I know people who were beaten. I know people who were harassed because they were outed in ‘The Red Pepper’.
REPORTER: Do you feel that you are persecuting a minority?
STANLEY NDUALA: I don’t know why they believe like that. We are just being journalists – True journalists.
Stanley tells me that the reason for such interest is that no crime is as hated as homosexuality here.
STANLEY NDUALA: When you commit homosexuality, they think all these other things, like rape, what, are just minor. If you have done that one, you could do everything.
REPORTER: So here in Uganda, being a rapist is minor compared to being a homosexual?
STANLEY NDUALA: Yes, to the public eye
Lawyer Lad Rekefuzi confirms that rapists and murderers fare better in Uganda’s courts than do gay people.
Also making a brief appearance is retired Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a brave man who I had the distinct pleasure of meeting last May in Southern California. This documentary is a great addition to the body of work being done all over the world to call attention to the deplorable treatment of LGBT people in Uganda.
Group Presents Petition Against Anti-Gay Bill to Ugandan Parliament, Warns of More Pastor Wars
March 2nd, 2010
Here is NTV Uganda’s coverage from last night’s newscast:
As we reported yesterday a group representing religious leaders, AIDS service providers and health care workers presented a petition with more than 450,000 signatures to Uganda’s Parliament calling for the withdrawal or defeat of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Led by Anglican Canon Gideon Byamugisha and retired bishop Christopher Senyonjyo, the group handed the petition over to Parliament Speaker Edward Ssekandi. Speaker Ssekandi said that it was “too late” to withdraw the Anti-Homosexuality Bill from Parliament, but said that Parliament would take the group’s concerns under advisement.
Cannon Byamugisha warned of the bill’s dangers:
This would obstruct religious leaders, doctors, counselors, and other service providers in their essential role, and will facilitate political and religious witch hunts and false accusations.
Uganda has a long history of political and religious witch hunts, in which rival pastors accuse each other of sodomy in order to increase their own standing among their followers. The most recent accusation has been levied by the notorious tabloid Red Pepper, which recently accused American televangelist Benny Hinn of having an affair with a prominent Ugandan pastor. This is seen as retaliation from last June, when several Kampala pastors were denied entrance to Hinn’s “Fire Conference” revival in Kampala. Those pastors were denied entry after having falsely accused the pastor of the revival’s host church of sodomy.
Since the Ugandan pastor has been cleared of charges following a police investigation, the Red Pepper has declined to name him in these latest charges, although virtually everyone in Uganda who knows of the very popular Hinn (His program is carried twice-daily on Kampala-based Lighthouse TV) also knows the pastor whose name is hinted in the “story.”
An alert and helpful BTB reader has provided this scan of the kind of religious witch hunts which are a shamefully common practice between pentecostal pastors in Uganda. Given Uganda’s religious climate, it would seem that perhaps those who should fear the Anti-Homosexuality Bill the most would be pastors who become prominent enough to become a threat to the prestige or finances of other pastors.
Last spring, the Red Pepper launched a public vigilante campaign in an attempt to “out” LGBT people in Uganda. In December, the tabloid published what it claimed were “city tycoons who bankroll Ugandan homos.” Pastors Martin Ssempa and others are believed to be behind many of these campaigns.
Ugandan Pastor Wars Reignite, Benny Hinn Accused of Sodomy
February 25th, 2010
The 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.
Uganda’s Public Vigilante Campaign Continues To Claim Victims
January 10th, 2010
Uganda’s latest anti-gay public vigilante campaign, which was re-ignited following an anti-gay conference put on by three American anti-gay extremists, continues to claim victims. The notorious tabloid Red Pepper has one story in this morning’s edition of one lesbian couple who barely escaped a lynch mob. According to the tabloid though, they are still in hiding from the police:
The naughty girls, hitherto residents of Kawaala in Rubaga Division, a Kampala suburb, sneaked out of cops’ hands after being rescued from the angry residents who nearly forced them into an instant meeting with their creator.
This, according to police sources, followed Mikki’s courageous manner when she called-in on one of the several city radio stations and demanded for her ‘rights’ as a gay, hence attracting the residents concern who reasoned she had tarnished their village’s reputation.Police then intervened and rescued the girls from the looming mob.
Earlier this morning, BTB’s Timothy Kincaid noted an article in the New Zealand Herald of an HIV/AIDS physician who was named by the Red Pepper as being a “gay tycoon” with a Rwandan lover. The Herald lays blame for the latest public vigilantism squarely on the March 3-5 conference that we first reported on last February:
The anti-gay push in Uganda followed a three-day visit by a trio of controversial Americans whose teachings on homosexuals have been widely discredited in the US. The evangelical Christians are: Caleb Lee Brundidge, who describes himself as a former gay man and offers “healing” sessions; Scott Lively, a missionary who writes on protecting children from gay recruiters; and Don Schmierer, who works with Exodus International, an anti-gay church group.
Participants at the Kampala talks describe hearing about the “hidden gay agenda” in which homosexual men convert boys by sodomising them and how gays can be made straight. The appearance of the anti-homosexuality bill so soon after has been blamed on the evangelicals, especially as the bill’s sponsor, David Bahati, claims to have friends in America’s religious right.
Ugandan Tabloid Invites More Anti-Gay Vigilantism
December 30th, 2009
The notorious Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper today published a full-page spread purporting to out “city tycoons who bankroll Ugandan homos.” As with an earlier public vigilante campaign waged by the same tabloid last April, this sensationalistic hit piece reveals names, residences, places of employment, and other clues of where people can be found who purportedly finance Uganda’s beleaguered LGBT community.
This article promotes the same allegations repeated by several other political and religious leaders that Uganda’s LGBT community is financed by millions from foreign sources. This article alleges that Ugandan “coordinators” receive a monthly salary of 1.5 million Ugandan Shillings (about US$780), which is ten to twelve times the average Ugandan’s monthly income.
The article cites as its source “the estranged Gay Uganda spokesperson” (we’ve obscured the name pending further information). We do not know whether this is intended to refer to the anonymous blogger GayUganda or not. We know that the anonymous blogger is an individual and not an organization, and therefore would have no need for a “spokesperson.” Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo recently targeted the blogger, claiming that he is one of three “organizations” sharing in US$20 million in foreign money. The so-called Gay Uganda spokesperson in this piece claimed that the Red Pepper’s “list of gay sponsors was just a tip of the iceberg.” The article hints are more follow-up stories.
[Update: The "spokesman" is Paul Kagaba, who GayUganda identifies as an "ex-gay". GayUganda confirms that Kagaba has nothing to do with him. We have re-posted the newspaper scans with the obscuring of Kagaba's name removed.]
Last April, the Red Pepper published a “killer dossier” of more than fifty purportedly gay Ugandans, and included such personal identifying features as first names, places of residences and employment, the kinds of cars they drove, and other identifying features as part of a national vigilante campaign.
This article appears to be the handiwork of Pastor Martin Ssempa, who is an ardent supporter of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Parliament. Ssempa has recently called for a nationwide rally for January 19, 2010 to press for the bill’s passage. This appears to be an attempt to intimidate those who might oppose the bill in the days leading up to that rally. According to the Red Pepper:
Ssempa further said that the main reason Ndorwa West Member of Parliament David Bahati’s Bill is feared is that the mentioned people and organizations will be culprits. He revealed that investigations were underway to ascertain allegations that several politicians and senior citizens were under lobby to frustrate the Bahati Bill.
Among the many provisions of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill is one that would criminalize all advocacy and support by and on behalf of LGBT people in Uganda. The criminal penalties include five to seven year’s imprisonment, with finds of up to US$50,000.
The “investigations” that SSempa refers to may be of recent allegations by supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill who claim to have received death threats. Uganda’s largest independent newspaper The Monitor carried an unverified story claiming that MP Bahati’s cousin had been kidnapped. (Bahati made no mention of that alleged kidnapping during his recent television interview on Uganda’s state-owned UBC.) These allegations sound eerily similar to earlier accusations raised during last spring’s so-called “pastor wars,” in which Ssempa and others accused rival pastors of homosexuality. Those charges also included accusations of kidnappings and beatings, allegedly to coerce more false accusations. Ssempa and pastor Solomon Male are currently charged with filing false reports with the police. Nevertheless, there are fears that these latest allegations may lead to attempts to frame LGBT people and supporters with false accusations of death threats and kidnappings.
It is widely believed in Uganda that the Red Pepper sometimes runs stories at the behest of Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni, particularly the more salacious stories which would appear too unseemly for Uganda’s official state-run newspaper New Vision.
The Red Pepper’s web site is currently suspended by its internet host provider.
Uganda’s Anti-Gay Campaign Snares LGBT People and Rival Pastors, Tabloid Promises More “Outings”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Uganda’s Anti-Gay Vigilante Campaign Is Now In Full Swing
April 19th, 2009
This is what Exodus International helped spark. It is today’s issue of the Ugandan tabloid, The Red Pepper, which featured this “killer dossier.” Yes, those are the Red Pepper’s own words:
This is a killer dossier, a heat-pounding and sensational masterpiece that largely exposes Uganda’s shameless men and unabashed women that have deliberately exported the western evils to our dear and sacred society. …
This is what we have long feared: names, identifying features, places of employment, residences, boyfriends and girlfriends, and other unfounded charges and illicit gossip intended to destroy their reputations and worse. It is a repeat of the 2007 vigilante campaign which was also trumpeted by — you guessed it — the Red Pepper.
In fact, this latest article is a retread of the Red Pepper’s infamous 2007 “Homo Terror” article, which was a centerpiece of that year’s campaign. And like before, the Red Pepper doesn’t intend to stop with just this article. Today’s Red Pepper promises to publish “more shocking things you don’t know about Homos” in next Sunday’s edition. Interestingly, this “killer dossier” does not appear in the Red Pepper’s website.
For the latest round, LGBT Ugandans are bracing for the worst while drawing strength from one another:
It is Saturday evening. I debated whether or not to show my face in public. My lover convinced me it was no big deal. Just go, and show my mug. And anyone have a problem, well, to hell with them.
So, I went to my favourite pub. And, found that most other kuchus [gays] had also gravitated there. Showing there [sic] faces.
…But nothing could hide the anger, and the sense of community. We were together to take strength from one another. We have been exposed to the merciless gaze of hate of a homophobic society. We were, and are, hurting. There is little that we can do, but we can brave it out, and give strength to one another. We don’t know what the actual fall out will be, individually, on a person to person basis. Or, to the community. There were some photos, this time, too. As if the need was that it was necessary to sheer up the believability of the red rug. Just a few photos. But enough.
This is the fruit of Exodus International board member Don Schmierer’s participation alongside Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively in an anti-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda during the first weekend of March. The conference, in which Schmierer was intended to serve as the “ex-gay expert,” announced a policy proposal to change Uganda’s draconian laws against homosexuality to force those convicted into unproven and unregulated “therapies.”
Because Schmierer and Exodus have decided to remain silent about their roles in this fiasco, Ugandan anti-gay organizer Stephen Langa has used Schmierer’s and Lively’s talks to lend legitimacy to a series of meetings which followed the original conference. Those meetings then culminated in a press conference carried live on national television featuring George Oundo, who claimed to be “ex-gay.” Oundo has since been fueling a public outing campaign on radio and in the newspapers, culminating in this long-feared feature in the Red Pepper.
This latest development is very worrisome because the Red Pepper was the major cheerleader in past public anti-gay vigilante campaigns. Those campaigns resulted in innocent people being arrested, tortured, fired, and driven into hiding and exile.
Exodus President Alan Chambers’ only response to Schmierer’s associations is to “applaud” Schmierer’s role. Neither he nor Schmierer have spoken out in any meaningful way, either to forcefully condemn the aftermath of that conference, or to own up in Exodus’ role in facilitating the actions stemming from it. For some inexplicable reason, Exodus remains silent as their handiwork in Uganda continues to exact harsh consequences to innocent people.
For the love of all that is decent and holy, when will Chambers do the right thing? What is he waiting for? What will it take for him to finally man-up and do the right thing? Is he really waiting for bloodshed, as it seems right now? Is that what it will take?