Secretary of State Hillary Clinton immediately issued a statement within 24 hours of the brutal murder of LGBT activist David Kato in Uganda last week. Clinton did not rely on under or assistant secretaries to condemn the bludgeoning of Kato, who was affiliated with the human rights organization Sexual Minorities Uganda. He was found alive with multiple crushing and blunt force wounds to his head--blows which were inflicted by a hammer. Kato died en route to a Kampala hospital. For the past year a proposed bill that advocates the death penalty has targeted lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals in Uganda. Most troubling, Kato's death comes after a Ugandan tabloid, The Rolling Stone, published his picture, along with those of other homosexual men, with the headline "Hang Them." Recently Kato sued and won a case against the tabloid.
Clinton was direct in her statement that praised Kato's life and work. While diplomacy requires skirting the issue of accountability, Clinton made it very clear that the United States expects solidarity from the international community in a universal condemnation of Kato's murder.
David Kato tirelessly devoted himself to improving the lives of others. As an advocate for the group Sexual Minorities Uganda, he worked to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. His efforts resulted in groundbreaking recognition for Uganda's LGBT community, including the Uganda Human Rights Commission's October 2010 statement on the unconstitutionality of Uganda's draft "anti-homosexuality bill" and the Ugandan High Court's January 3 ruling safeguarding all Ugandans' right to privacy and the preservation of human dignity. His tragic death underscores how critical it is that both the government and the people of Uganda, along with the international community, speak out against the discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of Uganda's LGBT community, and work together to ensure that all individuals are accorded the same rights and dignity to which each and every person is entitled.
Mainstream media has pretty much ignored this important story and statement from SOS Clinton in a news cycle dominated by conflict in the mid-east. However, Clinton's every syllable is parsed and dissected as she makes the rounds of morning news shows to comment on events in Cairo.
The facts surrounding Kato's murder are straightforward, but there are devious machinations by so-called American "Christian groups" that have led to this inevitable tragedy, and it is imperative that the influence of evangelicals in Africa result in accountability.
For those who have been following the story, last June Christopher Senyonjo, a Ugandan Anglican bishop, fled to the United States while blaming death threats he received on U.S. Christian evangelical groups.
The most well known of the anti-gay missionaries is Scott Lively, head of Abiding Truth Ministries. Lively gave a series of talks in Uganda in 2009 in which he castigated what he terms the "evils" of homosexuality, saying he "knows more about the subject than anyone in the world." In a good summary, The San Francisco Chronicle reported, "Shortly after Lively's trip, Ugandan legislator David Bahati introduced his 'Anti-Homosexuality Bill,' which in addition to punishing gays and HIV victims would also target groups 'promoting homosexuality,' effectively banning HIV/AIDS prevention groups."
In an article for the Huffington Post last year, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that the bill was "draconian" and would bring Uganda into a "direct collision" with established international human rights standards aimed at preventing discrimination. I just took a look at it. 15 shares and 26 comments. Not much for such an important statement. This article should have been much more widely received.
We only have ourselves to blame for our disengagement.
Scott Lively has condemned the Southern Poverty Law Center for calling his group a hate group, but two days after Kato's murder a Boston Globe op-ed quoted Ugandan gay rights activists who "have connected Kato's murder to the anti-gay climate fostered by a trip there by Lively and other American preachers in 2009. "David's death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009,' said Val Kalende, the chairwoman of one of Uganda's gay rights groups."
Here is a taste of Lively in his own words. Hate speech? Make the call.
In a statement on his website, Lively has distanced himself from responsibility saying "no has been arrested for the crime so the motive at this time is purely a matter of conjecture."
This blatant persecution of gays and lesbians in Africa has been in the news for years, but Uganda seems so far away, and so many of us have chosen not to speak out about this procession of persecution. Sometimes, it seems as if there are too many atrocities, too many obscenities-- and it is difficult to decide when to speak out and when efforts are better used elsewhere. Now, this writer feels culpable for being silent about evil in a part of the world she knows well. The Great Lakes Region of Africa is not that far from my experience; nor is the pain, suffering and mental anguish endured by the LGBT community and many of my friends here in the States.
It is relatively easy to call out the hate speech of people like Lively by using his own words, conveniently provided in a YouTube presentation.