Leading Ugandan Gay Activist Murdered, Antagonistic Newspaper Clarifies “We Said [Gays] Should Be Hanged, Not Stoned.”

On January 3rd, David Kato — a leader of gay rights group “Sexual Minorities Uganda” and one of Uganda’s most visible gay activists– won his case against Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone, which had taken it upon itself to out more than 20 people its editor believed was gay in 2010. In addition to successfully suing the paper, Kato secured a high court injunction that would block all media from outing people perceived to be homosexuals.

In “More Homos’ Faces Exposed,” the Rolling Stone paper (no relation to the US music magazine) published the names and photos of 14 gay men under the headline “Hang Them.” David Kato was among those pictured.

In the middle of the day on January 26th, unknown assailants entered David Kato’s home and bludgeoned him with a hammer. Kato died on the way to the hospital.

In the Guardian UK, blogger Nsubuga remembers her friend:

Much of our identity is in our name. David’s identity was his ethnic group and clan. “Kato” means he was the second twin at birth. I do not remember ever asking him about his elder twin. Is he or she even alive?

Who was David? A small, thin man, with sparse hair and dark skin. It was always the eyes that held you: wild and staring, possessed, passionate. And the voice: high and stubborn, insistent on having his own way. David was fearless. Simply fearless. He was arrested at least twice. He became the “litigation officer” because of his speciality in negotiating the maze of the justice system.

…in Uganda, such exposure has a price. In court, David was chased by anti-gay activists. Strangers knew he was gay. Even at home in Mukono they also knew.

On Monday, I spoke to him on the phone. His email had been hacked; we needed to do something about it. Yesterday evening, we got the call that he was dead.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, in solidarity with Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, is calling for the Ugandan government to denounce David’s murder and “impartially investigate this heinous crime and ensure the safety of all LGBT Ugandans.” In a statement from the IGLHRC:

“We are shocked and saddened by the news of the murder of David Kato,” said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC Executive Director. “David was an important leader of the Ugandan and East African LGBT movement. While the circumstances of David’s death are not fully clear, I have no doubt that homophobia in its many vicious forms is responsible for his tragic death.”

Johnnie Carson, the top US diplomat for Africa, said “We are horrified and saddened by the murder of prominent human rights activist David Kato in Uganda yesterday afternoon.” He said this on twitter, the world is weird.

Meanwhile! Police in Uganda are saying that homophobia isn’t to blame! It’s probs just theft!

And! According to the UG pulse, local “moralists” are celebrating Kato’s death. Neat.

So, the police have arrested one man, Arnold Senoga, in connection with the killing, and they’re looking for Nsuburga Enrock, an activist Kato had bailed out of prison who was staying with Kato. Surprisingly enough, they’ve decided to blame Kato’s friend, the only human other than Kato who was STAYING in Kato’s home, despite the fact that every available report says the assailant was a stranger who ENTERED the home. Olivia Benson would never let that shit fly.

“His homosexuality has not come up as an issue in the preliminary investigation At the moment, we think theft is the most likely motive. Nsubuga Enock, who had been staying with Kato, was well-known for committing robberies and had almost been lynched in the area before.”

Nabakooba said items were missing from Kato’s home, including a briefcase, and that neighbours had seen Enock leave the house dressed in the activist’s clothes.

“We are now trying to establish what relationship Kato had with Enock, whether or not they were relatives and why Kato posted his bail,” Nabakooba said.

What say the editors of Rolling Stone, the newspaper which enjoyed outing gay people for sport? This:

“There has been a lot of crime, it may not be because he is gay. We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality, not for the public to attack them. We said they should be hanged, not stoned or attacked.”

A school teacher, Kato became a prominent campaigner in recent years, especially taking on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which called for the death sentence to be imposed for some homosexual acts. At the BBC, friends remember David Kato:

“David was always proactive and also very authoritative. He seemed to want to be a leader in every way.”

-Poline Kimani, Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya

“He looked like a small unassuming person but when he got up you couldn’t help but sit up and listen.”

- Rebecca McDowall, Student

“I keep hearing his laughter in my head – it breaks my heart.”

- Julian Pepe, colleague

We’ve been following the situation in Uganda for a while now and its proposed “Kill the Gays” law. If you haven’t already, you need to watch the Vanguard Documentary “Missionaries of Hate” from Current.TV — it’s an eye-opening look at how US evangelical Christians are playing a role in the Kill the Gays movement. Also worth a look is Rachel Maddow‘s reoccuring “Uganda Be Kidding Me” segment.

The proposed anti-gay bill, which Obama described as “odious,” has been put on the backburner, but it remains before parliament. Nevertheless, anti-gay sentiment is still rife. Homosexuality is illegal in 37 countries on the continent of Africa.

Kato’s lawyer, John Francis Onyango, said: “Kato was much more conscious of his security these days. He was conscious that something could happen.”

Kato’s twin brother, John Malumba Wasswa, feels “lonely” without his brother. “When my brother wanted to do something then no one could stop him,” Wasswa said. “He was very brave.”

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Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1734 articles for us.

27 Comments

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    I just watched a documentary about SMUG a little while ago, and I am pretty certain that I remember seeing him in it. And now he’s dead. I don’t really know what else to say. But SMUG and the people involved in it are so incredibly brave; they run a gay rights organization in a country where homosexuality is illegal… that’s just.. hm. I’m not good with words today, or after reading this.

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    There are no words for this. Not only because it is truly heartbreaking that people are capable of such indifference, hatred and violence, but also because Uganda just lost one of its precious few LGBT activists.
    Sometimes it is terrifying fighting for your rights in a western capitalist society, I can’t even begin to imagine the struggle and hardship he must have endured. David was brave. I hate to think that such a person died in vain, so I will make an effort to be braver, too.

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    He deserves peace now, after the courageous and open life he lived. We need more leaders like him. This is horrific news… There’s nothing really that can be said except that I hope with all my heart no one else has to die the way he did for the way that they were born.

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    “In the middle of the day on January 26th, unknown assailants entered David Kato’s home and bludgeoned him with a hammer.”

    I wish that David Kato and other non-police/non-military/non-VIP Ugandans could own guns. I wish that, instead of being murdered with a hammer, David took out a .45 when the attack began, and shot his assailant(s) in the chest. I wish David was alive and his attacker was dead. It would be nice if nobody was dead, but that’s not the world we live in.

    All these vigils and hate crimes laws might do something for somebody after the fact, but people need something they can actually DO to physically defend themselves.

    Self-defense is a complex subject with mental, emotional, social, and physical aspects. A weapon may be one specific manifestation of it, but there’s a lot more to it than that, and I urge anyone to seriously consider this topic, learn about it, and actually do something about it. Google away for groups/services/knowledgeable people in your area.

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      I wish David was alive and his attacker was dead.

      I echo that sentiment. Is it so bad to feel this way? I posted a Daily Kos diary where I mentioned that I felt that Kato isn’t the one who deserves to/should be dead and 10 people rushed in to tell me to edit it out.

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        Screw them. I wish the situation could have been diffused peacefully, but the attacker took that option off the table by swinging a hammer at David’s head. As I said, I wish nobody was dead, but we don’t live in fairytale world.

        Our world is the one where this attacker goes around murdering people with a hammer, especially people that are members of a group that is actively targeted for death by the government and others.

        If David had defended himself, as he has a right to do, he would likely had to have taken extreme measures to stop a person who was bent on killing him, and who knew they could do so with impunity. If his defensive actions resulted in the attacker’s death, then it would be the attacker’s fault completely. I wish that’s what took place, instead of this tragedy.

        Killing is wrong. Duh. I’m completely opposed to the death penalty, war, etc. And everyone with common sense also knows that if you are being attacked, and you are totally out of options, you have every right to do what you need to in order to survive. I think the sentiment you’re talking about comes from a natural recognition of this fact, and of the fact that people have every right to live peacefully, and that people who do evil should be stopped.

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      I find it incredibly depressing that in an article that points out exclusively how senseless violence is, people are basically advocating additional or replacement violence.

      There are so many problems with this being framed in the context of “see, this is why guns for self-defense are necessary”. You clearly didn’t read up on Ugandan gun laws before writing your comment–just assumed that he couldn’t own a gun and, having seen your comments on the Arizona shooting, framed your reasoning in USA-based pro-gun rhetoric. Guess what–David Kato could have owned a gun! By arguing that he SHOULD have owned a gun, you are essentially placing blame on him for having been beaten to death with a hammer.

      A second problem with this entire argument is that somehow, according to the proponents of “guns for self-defense”, they are only ever purchased by nice, good citizens who would in fact only use them when being threatened with their lives. As someone who works in regulatory law, this idea is a complete joke. Gun licensing anywhere has proven to not be sophisticated enough to separate people with no criminal or mental health records who are buying a gun “just in case” from people with no criminal or mental health records who are severely homophobic and would like to go out and shoot people like David Kato.

      Lastly, in a country where there is no real LGBT sympathy to begin with, David Kato shooting someone who had come to his house with a hammer would have made David Kato anything but a potential victim acting in self-defence–rather, he would look like the aggressive gay perpetrator of a hate crime against good Ugandan citizens.

      It just really blows my mind that a tragedy like this is being latched upon to bolster pro-gun sentiment, without any sort of acknowledgement of the specific cultural or national context that this happened in! David Kato could have owned a gun. A better question to ask is why he didn’t own a gun, despite knowing he was obviously at risk.

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        “I find it incredibly depressing that in an article that points out exclusively how senseless violence is, people are basically advocating additional or replacement violence.”

        You know I’m advocating for justified self-defense, and not senseless violence.

        “You clearly didn’t read up on Ugandan gun laws before writing your comment–just assumed that he couldn’t own a gun and, having seen your comments on the Arizona shooting, framed your reasoning in USA-based pro-gun rhetoric. Guess what–David Kato could have owned a gun! By arguing that he SHOULD have owned a gun, you are essentially placing blame on him for having been beaten to death with a hammer.”

        I first read up on Ugandan gun laws 1.5 years ago when I read an interesting report and then watched a video of a lecture, both of these things pointing out that most genocides in the 20th century were preceded by civilian disarmament. I became interested in gun laws in countries like Germany, Russia, and Uganda, where genocide or mass killing of the population had taken place. Heavy restrictions on gun ownership were implemented just prior people like Hitler, Stalin, and Amin carrying out their insane plans.

        Jews in Germany were initially required to register their guns and ammo, and were ultimately banned from owning guns altogether. Russia and Uganda, same story. The first gun laws in the United States were laws that prevented enslaved people from owning guns. Guess why. Disarm, then enslave/kill. Rinse and repeat.

        I’m going to assume you read my comment, googled, and came across Uganda’s Firearms Act of 1970, and I’m also going to assume you have never owned a gun or sought a gun license. Correct me if I’m wrong. The average person in Uganda cannot own a gun, despite what the law says, and let me explain why this is.

        The text of the law says that a person can apply for a firearms certificate from the Ugandan version of a police chief, and that the chief can issue or not issue the certificate. If the chief doesn’t issue one, he’s not required to give any reason for the denial. Here is how this works in practice: virtually everyone is denied a certificate, except a select few people that are henchmen or cogs in the wheels of the current corrupt regime. David Kato absolutely would not have been given a firearms certificate, because he would not have been considered a “suitable person.”

        Martin Luther King, Jr. was denied a concealed carry permit when he applied in Alabama. The same was true of Malcom X’s father – denied a permit, was then harrassed by the police for possessing a gun illegally, had his gun taken away, and then the family was targeted for violence by the Klan.

        I’ve said it before here, and I’ll say it again: self-defense is the most important human right there is. I couldn’t care less if I was the only person on Earth who felt this way. I feel completely sure about this, and looking back, I can’t believe it took me so long to see what is so plainly obvious. It is such common sense.

        Becoming a gun owner was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have never regretted it. I’m happy that I’ve since taught a number of people to shoot and handle guns safely, and that the people I’ve taught are now taking their own safety more seriously and getting guns.

        “A second problem with this entire argument is that somehow, according to the proponents of “guns for self-defense”, they are only ever purchased by nice, good citizens who would in fact only use them when being threatened with their lives.”

        Gun owners don’t say that only good people buy guns for good purposes. We say the opposite: that criminals get guns whenever they please, so the only people gun laws restrict from getting guns are law-abiding people.

        Consider places like New York City or Los Angeles, where there are heavy restrictions on gun ownership. Criminals there have guns. As such, those people have a right (and the means) to defend themselves. Lawful people who are prevented from getting guns, other hand, have that right, but are denied the means. These are places where the licensing process involves a police chief sitting there and deciding if you’re “suitable.”

        “As someone who works in regulatory law, this idea is a complete joke.”

        Guns and gun ownership are subjects you cannot learn about by being completely removed from them, and instead sitting in an office somewhere, dealing with abstractions. I apologize about being crass here, and I don’t mean to insult your job, but I’m saying this because the entire process of getting a gun license and purchasing my first gun was a jaw-dropping experience. I learned things I couldn’t have known if I didn’t live it first hand. I never really was anti-gun, but what little positive sentiment I had towards restrictions on gun ownership were absolutely blown to smithereens when I experienced how things actually work.

        To a limited degree, you could learn more about this topic by interacting with gun owners (like you are doing now), but in order to dispel your misconceptions, you would actually have to do things like go to a gun range or a class and learn to handle a gun safely, and actually go through the process of getting a license and purchasing a gun. Only experience would enable you to learn these things that can’t be captured by words. You would see how those laws you work at actually function, and let me tell you, it is something else. Don’t worry, I know you won’t do this. But I’m still going to put that point across, because there really isn’t any other way to have your eyes opened with respect to this stuff.

        “Gun licensing anywhere has proven to not be sophisticated enough to separate people with no criminal or mental health records who are buying a gun “just in case” from people with no criminal or mental health records who are severely homophobic and would like to go out and shoot people like David Kato.”

        There is no way to separate “good people” from “bad people.” Who gets to decide who is good and who is bad? According to what standards? It really is all just a farce, and no amount of restrictions or “sophistication” is going to change that. You can monitor people, do background checks, make people fill out forms, interview them, put wait periods, fees, and all manner of hoop jumping in their way . . . and a criminal is still going to sidestep that whole rigamarole and buy a gun on the black market. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a good person. David Kato would not have been a good person. And the dude I know whose father is a local influential figure? Guess what – good person. Guess whether or not the licensing process was the same for me and my gay friends as it was for him.

        “Lastly, in a country where there is no real LGBT sympathy to begin with, David Kato shooting someone who had come to his house with a hammer would have made David Kato anything but a potential victim acting in self-defence–rather, he would look like the aggressive gay perpetrator of a hate crime against good Ugandan citizens.”

        David died anyway! Ugh. If he took out the crazed murderer who was trying to kill him on his way out, that would have been a good thing. Better than what we have now – David dead and this nut still on the loose. Trust, more gays will die in Uganda. And as far as your comment about me blaming him, well, I disproved that by pointing out that he wouldn’t have been able to have a gun anyway, but christ. That was nutty.

        “It just really blows my mind that a tragedy like this is being latched upon to bolster pro-gun sentiment, without any sort of acknowledgement of the specific cultural or national context that this happened in! David Kato could have owned a gun. A better question to ask is why he didn’t own a gun, despite knowing he was obviously at risk.”

        I bolster pro-gun sentiment no matter what’s going on, mostly by simply living my life. I own guns, shoot guns, buy guns, trade guns, teach people about guns, etc. This is an ethical issue, and my ethics do not change according to what’s on the news. You could have talked to me about this before this tragedy took place, and you would have received a similar response.

        It blows my mind that when a person is brutally attacked and murdered, you still cannot understand how crucially important it is that people be able to access guns for self-defense.

        The national context in Uganda is that gays can’t defend themselves with guns, and I am criticizing that. Again, no, David could not have owned a gun.

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          I completely understand why you have that opinion on gun ownership, but I can say as someone who lives in Johannesburg, South Africa- a place widely known as having serious problems with violent and malicius crime. I personally know more people than I can count who have had guns held to their heads, but I also know that quite a few people who I know personally who had guns ended up in a worse predicament- having had their guns taken away from them and used against them. In a place where people wouldnt think twice to kill you for your cellphone or for no reason at all, attempting to use a firearm even to defend yourself is considered one of the worst things to do. I know this may be going off the topic but I cant accept the use of guns even to defend myself. Even the police here can at times lose track of the power a fire arm has- after a comment made by the police commissioner advocating a “shoot to kill” policy, inocent people died for no reason at all. G

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      Of course, there might be a bit of a problem with this solution. With the Government being so excessively anti-gay, David would have likely ended up dead, anyway – on the wrong side of the death penalty.

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        He would have. But as I say above, if he took the guy out who was trying to kill him, why would that be a bad thing? Perhaps in some situations if it was known that a particular person who was being targeted had a gun, this information would be a deterrent. The, you know, anti-murder laws don’t seem to be.

        Hey, wait a minute! Murdering is against the law in Uganda! But people still murder! They should make more strict anti-murdering laws! If they had done that before, David could have quickly pulled out his pocket copy of Ugandan Law, and pointed to the section where it says murder is illegal. Then his assailant would have beat feet outta there!

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    This breaks my heart in so many ways. Reading this made me watch “Missionaries of Hate” (Thanks, Riese!!!) and oh my gosh…Long Johns. I heart him. He’s like so many gay guys I’ve known. :]

    While I watch the antics, hearing the incendiary words of so called “moral people”, I can’t help but also be disturbed by the comments of many people on the video. Using their “Sound judgment” to say, “What they’re doing is wrong but….being gay is still awful awful awfulllll” Reading that, I don’t view them any different. It’s sickening.

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    How I got here is a long story… but I am currently living (closeted) in the Central African Republic, doing economic development work at an evangelical institution – one that, on occasion, eerily echos the sentiments of the evangelical leaders in Uganda. Luckily, my job has nothing to do with that filth. But the ignorant, anti-gay rhetoric that gets thrown around on a daily basis can be suffocating, depressing, completely isolating. And if I ever decided to say something back, out myself – I’d be on a plane back to the States within a 24 hours.

    Just two days ago, one of my African co-workers commented on how homosexuality had “already hit Uganda,” calling it the West’s “most toxic export.”

    There is such a need for education and understanding in Africa as a whole… yet its such a dangerous subject that no one gay dares broach it. The lack of open dialogue is a precursor to larger issues of blind ignorance – as evidenced by the asinine legislation in Uganda. But who breaks the silence? The great thing about Kato was he was a Ugandan transforming Uganda. That’s how it has to be. What a loss! I can only hope prior experience holds true – for every martyr there are a dozen more recruits. Maybe one of them will be in the Central African Republic.

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