Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for October, 2012

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.

YouTube Preview Image

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.

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.

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.