by Rex Wockner
Even in death, there was no peace for David Kato, the prominent Ugandan activist bashed to death with a hammer in his home Jan. 26 after a tabloid newspaper published his picture and the pictures of other gay people with the caption “Kill Them” — and just 23 days after he won a lawsuit against the newspaper over the article.
At Kato’s funeral, the Anglican official conducting the service, Thomas Musoke, started bashing gays, saying that “admiring a fellow man” is “ungodly,” that even animals can distinguish male from female, and that “gays … should repent.”
Kato’s gay friends rushed the pulpit and seized the microphone.
Then people at the funeral who apparently agreed with the celebrant got into physical skirmishes with the gay people. After that, the residents who would have carried the casket to the cemetery refused to do so, and Kato’s friends had to do it.
On Feb. 2, police told local media that a “thief” Kato had bailed out of prison, Nsubuga Enock, confessed to killing Kato because Kato failed to give him a car, house and money that Kato purportedly dangled to coerce him into sodomy.
Numerous gay activists in Uganda and the U.S. said they do not believe the killing was about withheld gifts and are worried that the homophobic government intends to cover up the true motive for the crime to protect itself from foreign criticism and safeguard foreign aid.
Kato was the advocacy officer for the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and had been a leading voice in the fight against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which has been before Uganda’s Parliament since October 2009.
The legislation would imprison for life anyone convicted of “the offense of homosexuality,” punish “aggravated homosexuality” (repeat offenses, or having gay sex while being HIV-positive) with the death penalty, forbid “promotion of homosexuality” and incarcerate gay-rights defenders, and jail individuals in positions of authority for up to three years if they fail to report within 24 hours the existence of all LGBT people or sympathizers known to them.
Some U.S. and Ugandan activists and reporters have blamed U.S. evangelical visitors to Uganda for inspiring the bill, which, they believe, led to the newspaper article, which, they suspect, led to the murder.
“A March 2009 conference in Kampala … featured notorious American anti-gay campaigners, who promoted the idea of a sinister global homosexual conspiracy to corrupt Uganda,” said Political Research Associates, a nonprofit that studies the U.S. political right. “Conference speakers advocated parliamentary action to thwart this ‘international gay agenda’ (and) met with Ugandan lawmakers and government officials, some of whom drafted Parliament’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill.”
Val Kalenda, board chair of Freedom and Roam Uganda, said the visitors “planted hatred in Uganda (and) must take responsibility for David’s blood.”
Scott Long, who headed Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Division for several years said, “The foreign Christian leaders who have supported the spread of murderous homophobia in Uganda … should search their consciences today and beg forgiveness.”
SMUG said that Kato had “been receiving death threats since his face was put on the front page of Rolling Stone magazine, which called for his death and the death of all homosexuals.” (The publication is unrelated to the U.S. magazine.)
The newspaper article said, in part: “The mighty Rolling Stone is glad to reveal some of the most horrible secrets in gay community, which is bent on recruiting at least one million members by 2012. Dishearteningly, gays are after young kids, who are easily brainwashed towards bisexual orientation. … The leaked pictures of Uganda’s top homosexuals and lesbians have renewed calls for the strengthening of the war against the rampage that threatens the future of our generation by hanging gays. ‘Unless government takes a bold step by hanging dozens of homosexuals, the vice will continue eating up the moral fiber and culture of our great nation,’ … said a radical church leader who preferred anonymity.”
On Feb. 3 in New York City, more than 100 people walked from Dag Hammarskjoeld Plaza near the United Nations to Uganda House demanding a proper investigation of Kato’s murder and that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill be withdrawn from Parliament. A similarly sized action took place in San Francisco’s Harvey Milk Plaza.