Posts Tagged As: Kenya

Anti-Gay Vigilantism Unleashed In Kenya, More Mob Arrests Feared

Jim Burroway

February 18th, 2010

DnMombasaGAY1202BThis story broke out while I was away for a family funeral, and was unable to report on it. But it’s an important development reflecting widening anti-gay violence in East Africa. According to media reports, five Kenyan men were arrested last Friday for alledgedly planning a same-sex wedding. Those allegations sparked a massive protest and threats of mob violence. The five have been released by Mombasa police, saying that there has been no evidence to hold or prosecute them. But police also advised the men to leave the area for their own safety.

That is the situation according to media reports. But it now appears that perhaps one reason police released the five men is that there had been no same-sex wedding in the first place. BTB has been in contact with local LGBT advocates on the ground there, and they have a different take on what happened.

According to one Muslim 26-year-old gay man, he first heard the rumor that a gay wedding was to take place at a mosque in a sermon by a local imam. After the sermon, he went to a barber for a haircut who asked the man about the wedding. The man denied knowing anything about it, but the barber then accused the man of being one of the grooms. The barber then warned the man that February 12th would be the day in which “there was to be a hunt for the wedding people,” and warned him to take care of himself or he would be killed. The barber also warned him never to step inside his shop again.

Another account, written by LGBT advocate Denis Nzioka, has events turned the other way. According to Nzioka, the problem started when a well known gay man went into a barbershop in the Mtwapa area, and the barber noticed that the man’s haircut looked really nice and asking him where he was going. The man jokingly said he was going to get married. The barber took the joke seriously and alerted the imam at the local mosque, who then made the announcement. That sermon was then picked up by local media, according to Nzioka:

A local radio station, Kaya FM, then picked up the story and started a series of programs on gays. Kaya FM presents in Swahili and many of the Mijikenda languages – Digo etc (therefore has a real grassroots reach). The main focus of the discussion was on this impending wedding of two men in Mtwapa. Other local radio stations also picked up the story including Baraka FM, and Rahma FM and ultimately national radio stations including Kiss and Classic FM.

Bishop Lawrence Chai of Free Apostolic Churches of Kenya (left) and Sheikh Ali Hussein of Masjid Answar Sunna Mosque, Mtwapa, speak to journalists on Feb 11. (Photo: George Kikami/Daily Nation)

Bishop Lawrence Chai of Free Apostolic Churches of Kenya (left) and Sheikh Ali Hussein of Masjid Answar Sunna Mosque, Mtwapa, speak to journalists on Feb 11. (Photo: George Kikami/Daily Nation)

Whatever the sequence of events, we do know that on Thursday, February 11, religious leaders held an inflammatory news conference to condemn the suppsed wedding. According to the Daily Nation’s account of that day:

Speaking after a joint meeting on Thursday, religious leaders condemned the planned wedding. Furious clerics from the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) and the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) met at Masjid Answar Sunna Mosque, Mtwapa and cursed the couple and the organisers of the unconstitutional marriage.

The clerics claimed that a large number of youths were being recruited into gay clubs and warned that “God is about to punish the fastest growing town in Coast region”.

CIPK Kikambala region coordinator Sheikh Ali Hussein and Kilifi’s NCCK representative Bishop Lawrence Chai said they had given the government seven days to close down night clubs they accused of fuelling homosexuality in the town.

In fact, Nzioka reports that just a week earlier, a group of young men entered the Kalifornia Club, which is frequented by gay men and women, and took to the dance floor while singing, “gays have no joy and this time round they will have no joy or happiness for them.” Nzioka reports that this move was seen as a forewarning of things to come.

The clerics, during their Thursday news conference, also demanded the government shut down the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), an HIV/AIDS medical center which they accused of providing counselling services to the gay community.

On Friday, February 12, a mob gathered in front of KEMRI, and demanded that all shogas (the Swahili word for gays) to surrender. One man was pulled from the facility and arrested by police.

Meanwhile, other mobs were rampaging around town arresting other suspected gay men. One young man, a 23-year-old security guard, was beaten senseless and drenched in kerosene before police arrived. He was thrown into jail with no medical attention. Another man was taken from his home along with a friend who was visiting from abroad. That home was ransacked by a mob.

Later that morning the mob returned to KEMRI where police arrested another staff member, a transgender woman identified as Yvone. In all, five people were taken into police custody and were later released. No charges were filed.

At least one arrest was captured on tape by NTV Kenya:

The next day, the mobs continued to rampage, and another man was attacked and burned with cigarette butts. They were about to douse him with kerosene when police intervened. He was arrested and taken to Mtwapa police station. A mob tried to attack the station but was repulsed by tear gas. That man was reportedly an asthmatic who was denied medical treatment by police. Advocates tell BTB that activists from the Kenyan Human Rights commission were able to get him released and into a hospital for treatment.

It appears that overall at least six people were arrested and later released. None of them have been charged. They are all now in hiding. Local LGBT and human rights advocates are struggling to provide havens and medical treatment for those attacked despite meager financial resources.

Advocates tell BTB that gay people in Mombasa are in hiding, afraid to go out for their jobs or daily errands. Those who have fled to not expect to return home anytime soon. The BBC also reports that police continue to crack down on the gay community.

Worse, it appears that the trouble isn’t over. According to local LGBT advocates, there are rumors that anti-gay forces were to met on Wednesday, Feb. 17 to strategize on searching for more LGBT people, with another anti-gay demonstration set to take place on Friday, Feb 19.

Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, and is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment. Last October, the director of Kenya’s National AIDS/STI Control Program announced that the country would undertake a census of the LGBT population. That move was greeted with widespread skepticism.

American Anti-Gay Legal Org Opens Branch in Kenya

Jim Burroway

January 29th, 2010

Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice has announced that they have opened an East African branch in Nairobi, Kenya. According to their announcement:

The bigger vision is for the EACLJ (East Africa Center for Law and Justice) to also help the countries in the East African region with information and research that will enable their development.  With the strengthening and expansion of the East African Community, by the inclusion of Burundi and Rwanda in the Community, the opportunities for development are endless.

This is only the beginning.  The EACLJ will be a centre that will change the landscape of legislation for all Kenyans and eventually all of East Africa\’s citizens.

Unmentioned is Uganda, which just happens to sit between Kenya and Rwanda, with Burundi further south. The ACLJ has filed friend of the court briefs in the U.S. against just about every LGBT-related case brought to the courts. Specifically, they vigorously opposed (PDF: 212KB/28 pages) overturning American anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas. In 1995, they also opposed overturning Colorado’s Amendment 2, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down for illegally barring LGBT people from full participation in the legislative process. Since ACLJ now wants to meddle in the legal affairs of East Africa, now would be a good time for them to go on record with their position on Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Kenya To Count Gays In Census

Jim Burroway

October 29th, 2009

Kenya, a country which criminalizes homosexuality with a fourteen year prison sentence, has announced that they plan to conduct a census of its gay population. They say that they are doing this as part of their fight against HIV/AIDS.

[Nicholas Muraguri, head of Kenya’s AIDS prevention program] told the BBC’s Network Africa programme that getting a clearer idea of the number of gay people would be a huge help with targeted interventions such as provision of condoms. He said the survey would involve gay men identifying each other, and officials carrying out HIV tests and providing along with information on safe sexual practice.

“Kenyans cannot actually afford to say that the gay community are isolated somewhere in the corner – they are part of our lives,” he said. “This group must be reached with information and services so they know how to protect themselves from getting infected.”

The BBC report says that LGBT activists in Kenya see the survey as a positive development, but with Kenya’s anti-sodomy laws, getting an accurate count will be virtually impossible. Many worry what other authorities might do with the data. Frankly, given the state of transparency in Kenya, I would share that worry. If you really want to reach this subpopulation, drop the criminal penalties.


Jim Burroway

February 10th, 2008

Being gay in America carries much less of a burden than it did fifty years ago. And while we still have examples of discrimination and violent crimes against us, it is nothing like the experiences of people elsewhere. An unnamed gay Kenyan blogger who calls himself “Gay Nairobi Man” reflects on the recent ethnic and political violence that has been engulfing his country for more than a month:

This quote by George Aiken caught my eye: “If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon.”

This rings true with what we have faced in the last month or so. You have to work twice as hard to garner half of what you’ve earned in a system that’s set up to work against you. Nevertheless for those of us who refuse to play the victim, work hard, beat the odds and actually attain success and prove that we’re formidable in our respective areas, we’re still looked down upon for being the wrong race, wrong gender, wrong orientation or dare I say tribe?

When it comes to the issues of bigotry, I’m expected to smile, overlook and pretend like everything is okay. I shouldn’t have to do that. No one should. So don’t do it! Don’t allow yourself to be judged on such fickle standards.

A Gay Kenyan Caught Up In the Violence

Jim Burroway

January 19th, 2008

Gay Nairobi Man’s blog has gone silent for the past three weeks, ever since Kenya erupted into ethnic violence following the December 27 presidential elections. He has now posted about the situation of a gay friend, a college student from Eldoret, a cosmopolitan university town where he mixed freely with members of other tribes as a gay man. But all that has changed:

When the post election violence broke out, a friend of his warned him the night before that their house and business were targeted for burning. He was personally being targeted because of how he looks and behaves.

His friend also warned him that he was due to be raped by a gang of warriors to be “taught how to be man”. Apparently amongst the people to attack them were a few friends who knew about his being gay. He managed to warn his family and they moved to a nearby police station for protection. As expected, the family lost everything they owned and are one of the many displaced Kenyans camping in Nakuru.

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