On January 26, 2011 the world received the shocking news of the murder of one of Uganda’s brave LGBTI warriors, a hero then and still a hero now.
By Melanie Nathan, January 25, 2013.
David Kato was born to the Kisule clan in its ancestral village of Nakawala, Namataba, Mukono District, in Uganda. The younger of twins, he was educated at King’s College Budo and Kyambogo University and taught at various schools including the Nile Vocational Institute in Njeru, where he became aware of his sexual orientation and was subsequently dismissed without any benefits in 1991.
Later, He came out to his family members and then left to teach for a few years in Johannesburg, South Africa, during its transition from apartheid to multiracial democracy, becoming influenced by the end of the apartheid-era ban on sodomy and the growth of equal rights for LGBTI South Africans.
He returned to Uganda in 1998 and decided to come out in public through a press conference; he was arrested and held in police custody for a week. He continued to maintain contact with pro-LGBT activists outside Uganda, and served as one of the catalysts for the movement of LGBTI pride that developed in Uganda.
Kato was among the 100 people whose names and photographs were published in October 2010 by Giles Muhame in the Ugandan tabloid newspaper Rolling Stone in an article which not only outed him and the others, but also alluded to their execution through an the caption “HANG THEM,” which appeared next to a picture of a noose. Together with others outed LGBTI Ugandans such as Kasha Jaqueline Nabagesera and Pepe Julian Onziema (SMUG), Kato successfully sued the newspaper to force it to stop publishing the names and pictures. of people it believed to be gay or lesbian. The court ordered the newspaper to pay Kato and the other two plaintiffs US$600 .
David Kato’s story as an activist is elucidated in the must watch documentary film, “Call Me Kuchu,” and if you never had the opportunity to know or meet David, after watching the film, you will feel as if he is your brother too. The film received acclaim around the world and played to an historic 6 minute standing ovation in the Castro, San Francisco. In the midst of making the film, David Kato was murdered, sending friends, his dear family and dedicated comrades around the world into deep shock and grief.
Kato had spoken of an increase in threats and harassment since the court victory against Muhame, and it is clear that his sexual orientation and his activism were the motive for his murder. Kato’s murderer was caught and tried and is now serving a 30 year prison sentence. Even though the local Ugandan media and prosecution tried to spin the motive as if to seem David had made advances on his attacker, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary and it is highly likely that the murderer was set up to commit what was indeed an assassination of a great leader, who barely had time to realize his full potential.
David Kato advocated for the freedom of LGBTI Ugandans and for their right to their natural born sexual orientation in a heightened climate of hostility and homophobia, occasioned by extreme misunderstanding through the violent and harsh delivery of hyperbole and rhetoric, on Ugandan soil, by extremist American Christian Evangelicals, such as Scott Lively and Lou Engle, exporting hate in the name of their version of Christianity.
Today on this second anniversary of the death of David Kato, his friends, comrades, human rights defenders, and LGBTI people around the world are expressing their love, comforting each other and extolling the virtues of this great hero, with comments, memories and prayer for the peace of his dearly departed soul.
I asked Kasha Jacqueline, David’s dear friend and herself an accomplished and award winning LGBTI human rights defender for a comment in memory of David:-
“Today we remember a fallen comrade who did everything in his power to stand for the truth. As we mourn his passing we also celebrate a true human rights defender, strong at heart and a great example to many young LGBTI persons. He used to say “Until it knocks on your door”; now that his passing knocked on our doors,we know that this fight is more than ever not going to be easy, but it keeps us going strong knowing that many are willing to die for it.”
And this from another heroic comrade and beloved friend of David, Viktor Mukasa:
“David was a glue for activists for effective activism. He acknowledged the role of every individual in the struggle, which is a rare thing in our struggles today. He went to great lengths to save his community. He cared about people so much that he used his personal resources to save others. He is irreplaceable.”
Frank Mugishu of SMUG noted in a statement remembering David Kato:
“Today we remember a chilling day for all LGBTI people in Uganda and around the world. The evening that followed was one of fear, apprehension, utter disbelief, horror, and uncertainty. The manner in which David was killed speaks of the sheer hate that can exist in human beings who have not opened up their hearts to love and reason, the martyrdom and the blood that David shed planted the seed of love that we all need to share, LGBTI to straight, straight to LGBTI, one to another.”
This year the coalition group of Ugandan human rights defenders (SMUG) is suing American Evangelical Pastor Scott Lively in the U.S.A. under the Alien Tort Act, for the acts and deeds in Uganda that sparked the wave of persecution against the Ugandan LGBTI community, noting his complicity in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also known as The Kill the Gays Bill. Through this extraordinary fight and act of bravery by SMUG and its individual members, it is clear that the spirit of David Kato is alive and well and breathing victory into the hearts and souls of his comrades.
There will be a memorial service in Uganda for David Kato and for security reasons I am not publishing it here. However anyone is welcome to contact me for information at email@example.com or to look to suual Social media outlets.
The David Kato Vision & Voice Award was established in his memory. The 2012 recipient, Jamaican LGBT rights activist Maurice Tomlinson. Participant organizations include Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), GIZ – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, Herbert Smith LLP, and ILGA-Europe.
Photo top left: Taken by Pepe Julian Onziemo, of David with Comrades Viktor Mukasa, Val Kalende, Naome, Kasha Jaqueline.
By Melanie Nathan
UPDATED 1/26/2013 with the official memorial statement by SMUG:
REMEMBERING DAVID KATO KISULE
It has been exactly two years since Sexual Minorities Uganda – SMUG’s Advocacy and Litigation Officer David Kato Kisule was brutally murdered at his home in Mukono. It has been a time of reflection for all of us on the utter disregard of precious life that one human being could have for another. David’s death taught all of us not to any thing for granted, that any words that encourage hate have the potential to culminate into a gruesome act like the one that took away David’s life. No one, for whatever reason, has the right to take away another person’s life.
Today we remember a chilling day for all LGBTI people in Uganda and around the world. The evening that followed was one of fear, apprehension, utter disbelief, horror, and uncertainty. The manner in which David was killed speaks of the sheer hate that can exist in human beings who have not opened up their hearts to love and reason, the martyrdom and the blood that David shed planted the seed of love that we all need to share, LGBTI to straight, straight to LGBTI, one to another.
At SMUG, we promise, that we shall continue the fight that David relinquished through his death and that his death shall not be in vain. That we shall struggle peacefully, for the liberation of all Ugandans from the shackles of hate and prejudice, for the enlightenment of all to the fact that we are all born equal and that we need to respect and tolerate one another in all our diversities.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the organization through which David Kato selflessly served the LGBTI community, would like to reiterate the need for all of us Ugandans and the world at large to end discrimination and persecution of people perceived to be different (gay or straight), to respect the rights of all humankind, and to share the African spirit of love for all (Ubuntu). We also should not forget that the struggle is far from over. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is still alive in Parliament and could potentially be discussed when Parliament resumes on February 4th.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)
The Castro Gives ‘Call Me Kuchu’ Historic Standing Ovation
By Melanie Nathan. June 20, 2012.
Never in the history of a Frameline Film Festival has there been a solid five minute standing ovation following the screening of a film. Such was the resounding applause from the Castro community for the brilliant “Call Me Kuchu,” as its filmmakers Malika Zouhali-Worral, Katherine Fairfax Wright, together with attending activists who participated in the film, took to the stage.
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