Ugandan gay rights activist murdered: a horrible inevitability

Rolling Stone newspaper, Uganda. (Photo: AP)
Rolling Stone newspaper, Uganda. (Photo: AP)

Grim news from Uganda. Some of you may remember a few months ago I wrote about an appalling story in that country, in which a newspaper called Rolling Stone (unrelated, of course, to the music mag) did a “name and shame” of Uganda’s “top 100 homos”, disgustingly reminiscent of a British newspaper’s similar piece about sex offenders in 2001.

“Hang them”, the Rolling Stone said of homosexuals, in large font.

Now, of course, David Kato, an outspoken Ugandan gay rights activist, has been found beaten to death in his home. He had been attacked with a hammer. The inevitability is sickening.

Police are saying that it was a robbery gone wrong, not a hate crime, but – understandably, given that homophobia is state-sponsored in the country – other activists are profoundly unconvinced.

Last time I wrote on this, I placed some of the blame on US evangelicals who had gone to Uganda and co-authored a bill by the government making homosexuality a criminal act, although one of them –  Reverend Scott Lively – did say they had gone too far by making it punishable by death. I slightly regretted that, as it removes culpability from the Ugandans themselves – homophobia is endemic in much of Africa, among Muslims, Christians and others, and the continent must take responsibility for its dreadful record in that area.

That said, Val Kalende, the chairperson of one of Uganda’s gay rights groups, would disagree with me on that point. “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by US evangelicals in 2009,” he said. “The Ugandan government and the so-called US evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood.” I don’t know the full extent, although I think we can agree that the evangelicals do not come out of this looking good; nonetheless, we shouldn’t use their involvement to whitewash the vicious attitudes of a lot of Africans.

We tend to think, in this country, that virulent anti-gay feeling of this kind is a thing of the past. In the main, it is, here (although sometimes, when I write on the topic and read the comments it receives, I start to doubt it) – as shown by the B&B case the other week, our legal system protects the rights of homosexuals, and bigotry is on the wane. But this is a horrible reminder that, worldwide, the battle is far from won.

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