Suspect in Uganda Activist’s Slaying Claims Victim Offered to Pay for Sex
The murder of Ugandan GLBT equality advocate David Kato outraged the world, coming as it did in the wake of Kato’s name, picture, and home address being published in a tabloid newspaper, along with information on 99 other alleged gays and lesbians, under a headline that called for gays to be hanged.
Kato was beaten with a hammer in his home on Jan. 26. He died of his injuries soon after. Police denied that his sexuality had any bearing on the murder, saying that Kato had been the victim of "robbers." But now police say that they have a confession from the man who worked as Kato’s gardner--a man who claims that Kato offered to pay him for sex and then failed to live up to his part of the bargain.
Police said that Enock Nsubuga, 22, had been arrested for the murder, reportd CNN on Feb. 3. Kale Kayihura, the official in charge of the Ugandan national police, told the media that Nsubuga had previously been in jail.
According to Ugandan police, Nsubuga claimed that he struck Kato with a hammer because he was angry that he hadn’t received the money that Kato promised him for sex.
Kato was part of a group called Sexual Minorities Uganda. He and two others who had been named in the taboid article took the publication to court and won their case; the court ruled that the tabloid had infringed upon their rights. The tabloid expressed no remorse and vowed to continue its persecution of the country’s GLBTs.
"Across the entire country, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Ugandans mourn the loss of David, a dear friend, colleague, teacher, family member and human rights defender," said the head of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Frank Mugisha.
Kato’s killing prompted an international outcry. GLBT equality advocates were skeptical of police claims that Kato’s murder was not linked to his sexuality or to the call to harm gays issued by the press.
Kato’s death is only the latest development in a pattern of anti-gay demonization and persecution in Uganda. Several American evangelicals visited the country in 2009 and purported to warn their audiences of the threats they said gays posed to society and to the family. The evangelicals suggested that gays intended to destroy the institutions of marriage and family and "recruited" young people who would otherwise not be gay.
"David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S evangelicals in 2009," Ugandan GLBT equality advocate Val Kalende declared, the AP reported. "The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood."
The Human Rights Campaign suggested in a Jan. 27 press release that an anti-gay religious influence from the United States bore some of the blame for the virulently anti-gay social climate in Uganda. "We mourn the loss of David Kato, a member of the international LGBT community," Sharon Groves, the deputy director of HRC’s Religion & Faith Program, said. "An atmosphere of extreme homophobia in Uganda has clearly contributed to a climate where LGBT people are unsafe.
"Fundamentalist ministers in the United States who have systematically exported homophobia to Uganda share responsibility for this tragedy and we call on them to stop exporting hatred masked as religion," added Groves.
One of the American evangelicals who addressed Ugandan crowds, Don Schmierer, called the murder "horrible," but denied any responsibility for Kato’s death. "Naturally, I don’t want anyone killed, but I don’t feel I had anything to do with that," Schmierer told the New York Times. Schmeirer added that he had also received threats for having been on of the three evangelicals who spoke in Uganda on the 2009 visit.
"I spoke to help people, and I’m getting bludgeoned from one end to the other," said Schmierer.
Shortly after the evangelicals visited Uganda, one of the nation’s lawmakers, David Bahati, sponsored a bill to put gays to death. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but Bahati’s bill went farther than imposing the death penalty for some sexual offenses, such as repeated sexual contacts between individuals of the same gender. The bill also stipulated that any heterosexuals who knew of homosexual relationships and did not report them to the police would face severe penalties.
Kayihura spoke out against media stories like that from the anti-gay tabloid, saying such articles had worsened the climate for Uganda’s gays, the CNN article said.
Kato had received numerous threats before his murder. Even his funeral was marred by extremist rhetoric, when the presiding minister seized the occasion to launch into a homophobic rant during which he told gays to repent of the "sin" of homosexuality. The angry crowd took the microphone away from the cleric, who was escorted away from the scene by police.
The investigation is ongoing.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.