New Internationalist

David Kato: Rest in peace my friend

On Wednesday 26 January 2011 David Kato, Ugandan gay man, activist, human rights defender, man of courage, the real McCoy – as they say, was beaten to death in his home near Kampala. He lived without trimmings, literally and metaphorically. David lived his life on the edge with no protection from the sickening homophobia unleashed by political and religious leaders in Uganda and their supporters in the US.

So today I am writing about David. I met him exactly one year ago. He was in York on a human rights defence course, I was in London. He wanted to organize a tour to speak on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill (the hate bill) – and that’s how we came together.


David Kato.

He stayed with me a couple of times and we travelled to Canterbury, London and Manchester speaking about the bill and LGBTIQ struggles on the African continent. David was always cracking jokes, even when speaking about the bill. David was intense and stubborn; he was not given to idle chat whether in person, on the phone or by email. I would get intense abrupt emails informing me of the latest hate in Uganda, requesting information or discussing strategy, or simply asking: what the fuck is this? What’s wrong with these people?!  

A couple of weeks ago he asked me to find out about a suspected World Social Forum money scam. I tried, but didn’t go back to him in time so I know I haven’t tried hard enough.  

David had been beaten up many times. He was constantly harassed and his home was broken into, so he asked for donations to make it secure. A few people sent money but it wasn’t enough. This is no blame time – people do what they can and when they can. It’s just a fact.  

David was vulnerable. He walked around with a dislocated shoulder, in constant pain from a particularly severe beating. He tried to get it fixed in York but the UK’s National Health Service couldn’t or wouldn’t provide him with the treatment he needed.  

Recently, David, together with Kasha Jacqueline and Pepe Onziema, won a landmark case against the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone which had published the names and photos of what it called ‘Ugandan top 100 homos’ in October 2010. That ugly piece also included the headline ‘Hang Them’. Some of the photos were ones used by activists on their Facebook profiles, including David’s.   

The High Court ruled that Rolling Stone had ‘violated their constitutional rights to privacy and safety’ and warned them and other news media not to repeat the outings. Now we see the direct consequences of Rolling Stone’s actions.

The blood of David Kato is on their hands and on the hands of those politicians and religious leaders both in Uganda and in the US who have led the campaign of hate against LGBTIQ people: David Baharti, Red Pepper (Uganda’s tabloid newspaper); Martin Ssempa, Ugandan Minister of Ethics; Nsaba Buturu, Archbishop of Rwanda; Onesphore Rwaje; Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda; Bishops of the All African Bishops Conference; Prime Minister of Uganda Apolo Nsibambi; Rev Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi; Archbishops Akinola and Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria; Peter Karamaga; the National Anti-Homosexual Task-force Uganda; Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and his wife Janet Museveni; Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe; Pastor Mulinde of Trumpet Church Uganda; Lou Engle; Rick Warren; Scott Lively and Dan Schmierer of the ‘ex-gay’ group Exodus International; Jon Qwelane; Bishop Lawrence Chai of Free Apostolic Churches of Kenya; Sheikh Ali Hussein of Masjid Answar Sunna Mosque; the African Union’s African Commission on People and Human Rights who denied Coalition of African Lesbians observer status; and all those who voted at the UN General Assembly Human Rights Committee to delete the reference to killings due to sexual orientation condemning unjustified executions.

The lives of all Ugandan Kuchus (LBGT people) are now at risk as a direct consequence of your words and actions. How will Ugandan Kuchus be protected? Who will protect them? How will there be justice for David? 

One way is to ensure that there is a proper investigation into his murder, including the role played by the homophobic MPs and religious leaders, and what must be done to protect others. Another is to speak about this as widely and as much as possible.

Condolences to David's family, his brothers and sisters at SMUG (his organization Sexual Minorities Uganda) and to all those who knew and loved David.

Rest in peace David. We remember you for your courage, honesty and unwavering commitment to the struggle for the right and dignity for all of us to be who we are. We remember you David for the beautiful human being you were. You will always live in our hearts.

‘Determined to struggle till a yard done to the journey of liberating the LGBTI community from the discrimination and oppressional laws in the name of sodomy!’ David Kato

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