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Religion blamed in gay activist's death

Uganda

UGANDA'S LEADING GAY-RIGHTS GROUP is now pointing an accusing finger at the Ugandan government and American evangelicals for the death last month of one of their colleagues David Kato.

The Chairman of Freedom and Roam Uganda Valentine Kalende says, Kato’s murder was instigated by the hatred planted by American evangelicals who toured Uganda in 2009 and preached about the need to cure homosexuality.

The group is also laying blame on a bill introduced in the Ugandan parliament in the same year by lawmaker David Bahati that, initially called for the death penalty against anyone caught practicing homosexuality.

The late Kato, 46 vocal and an open defender of homosexuality, came under intense scrutiny after Uganda’s little known tabloid Rolling Stone in October 2010, published 29 photographs with names and, in some cases, addresses of self-proclaimed homosexuals. It was not until a Ugandan High Court ordered the paper to stop exposing details of the homosexuals on grounds of privacy that the paper's coverage moderated.

The first article in the paper, featured Kato, under a banner headline, "100 pictures of Uganda's top homos leak" and "Hang Them".

David KatoWhen contacted, Giles Muhame, the paper's 22-year-old editor, said that he condemned the murder and that the paper had not wanted gays to be attacked. The parliamentary bill and the Rolling Stone articles highlight the strong anti-gay sentiments that exist in Uganda and Africa in general. Many of the Bahati bill's most emphatic supporters are linked to U.S. evangelicals who visited Uganda in 2009 for a Christian mission.

It is said the evangelists spoke of homosexuality as a disease that needed spiritual healing. However, the Americans have since distanced themselves from the allegations and the proposed law, and Bahati has denied that he sponsored the bill. 

Shortly after Kato's killing last week, the Ugandan police announced that they had arrested one suspect, the man who was Kato’s driver. And police are looking for a house servant who has gone underground since the murder.

Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, Uganda's inspector general of police blamed Kato’s killing on an ordinary robbery. He said the circumstances surrounding the incident had pointers regarding Kato's campaign against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill pending before Parliament.

Homosexuality is one of the most shunned and stigmatized practices in African and especially in East African country. The practice in illegal in this region and those suspected of the practice are sometimes violently attacked, especially in rural areas. Homosexual acts are prohibited under Ugandan law, and punishments included 14 years in prison.

In January 2010, unconfirmed reports circulated in Kenya’s coastal tourist town of Kilifi that there was a planned gay wedding. This sparked protests from Muslims leaders who told their congregation in Friday prayers to help expose the gays for public punishment.

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