david kato, a progressive ugandan gay rights activist, was beaten to death & found in his home wednesday. police have confirmed his murder & one suspect has been arrested. kato courageously sued rolling stone, a local tabloid newspaper which outed him as a homosexual & published the photographs of several people they said were gay, including mr. kato, with the headline, 'hang them'.
u.s. president barack obama was "deeply saddened" to learn of kato's death. obama said, "in uganda, david showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate...he was a powerful advocate for fairness & freedom...the united states mourns his murder & we recommit ourselves to david's work." obama continued, "at home & around the world, lgbt persons continue to be subject to unconscionable bullying, discrimination & hate...lgbt rights are not special rights they are human rights."
u.s. secretary of state hilary clinton has urged authorities to investigate & prosecute the killers. the bbc's joshua mmali, in kampala, says its unclear whether the death is linked to the rolling stone campaign but police have said there is no connection between kato's activism & his death. the police say the main suspect - who lived with kato - remains on the run.
homosexual acts are illegal in uganda, with punishments of 14 years in prison. an mp recently tried to increase the penalties to include the death sentence in some cases. there has been a recent spate of "iron-bar killings" in mukono, where kato lived, in which people have been assaulted with metal. witnesses told the bbc a man entered kato's home near kampala & bludgeoned him to death before leaving.
his sexual minorities uganda (smug) group said kato had been receiving death threats since his name, photographs & address were published by rolling stone last year. frank mugisha, the group's executive director, told the bbc's network africa programme he was "devastated" on hearing the tragic news from new york. mugisha said, "he was killed by someone who came in his house with a hammer, meaning anyone else could be the next target." he said kato was concerned about recent death threats.
human rights watch (hrw) has called for a swift investigation into kato's death. hrw's maria burnett said, "david kato's death is a tragic loss to the human right community...he was a fearless voice for the protection of the lgbt community." kato diligently campaigned against the anti-homosexuality bill, which appears to have been quietly dropped after provoking a storm of international criticism when it was mooted in 2009.
clinton said she was "profoundly saddened" by kato's death, stating, "this crime is a reminder of the heroic generosity of the people who advocate for & defend human rights on behalf of the rest of us & the sacrifices they make...as we reflect on his life, it is also an occasion to reaffirm that human rights apply to everyone, no exceptions, & that the human rights of lgbt individuals cannot be separated from the human rights of all persons."
following a complaint by kato & three others, a judge last november ordered rolling stone to stop publishing the photographs it said were homosexual, saying it contravened their right to privacy. several activists said they had been attacked after their photographs were published. mugisha called on the ugandan government to step up security for gay people, stating, "we're strongly asking every gay & lesbian & bisexual & transgender person in uganda to watch our for their security...they should take extra caution."
rolling stone editor giles muhame told reuters news agency he condemned the murder & that the paper had not wanted gays to be attacked. muhame said, "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." in the 1970's when former leader idi amin was in power, "iron-bar killings" were fairly common in uganda.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.