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Tragedy as Gay Activist David Kato Murdered in Kampala, Uganda – Impact on Ugandan Lesbian Seeking UK Asylum

Melanie Nathan- Jan 26- 2011 – Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), just reported that his colleague in SMUG, David Kato, has been murdered in Kampala. Kato was also one of the plaintiffs in the Rolling Stone defamation case in Uganda. The Rolling Stone promised to out 100 homosexuals, and had started doing so, when a Ugandan judge halted the tabloid, saying that such efforts violated the rights of the plaintiffs. You can find a link to the decision here. (Warren Throckmorton.)

Kato had expressed fear for his safety after the verdict, telling AlertNet:

David Kato, one of the plaintiffs, said that he had been living in terror ever since he was named by the newspaper.

“Since we got exposed by Rolling Stone, we have been living like fugitives in our own country,” he said. “We have to keep shifting houses for fear of being attacked. Some of the gays have decided to leave the city and head to rural areas in order to protect themselves.”

Human Rights Watch in a Statement said: “The government should ensure that members of Uganda’s LGBT community have adequate protection from violence and take prompt action against all threats or hate speech likely to incite violence, discrimination, or hostility toward them.”

David Kato’s death is a tragic loss to the human rights community,” said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “David had faced the increased threats to Ugandan LGBT people bravely and will be sorely missed.”

Witnesses told police that a man entered Kato’s home in Mukono at around 1 p.m. on January 26, 2011, hit him twice in the head with a hammer and departed in a vehicle. Kato died on his way to Kawolo hospital. Police told Kato’s lawyer that they had the registration number of the vehicle and were looking for it.

Kato had been a leading voice in the fight against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which has been before Uganda’s parliament since October 15, 2009. While homosexual sex is already illegal in Uganda, the proposed law would criminalize all homosexuality, making it punishable by a fine and life imprisonment. “Repeat offenders” and those who are HIV positive would be subject to the death penalty. The bill would also oblige anyone with knowledge of someone who is or might be a homosexual to report that person to the police within 24 hours

I have been working on the case of Brenda Namigadde, as a reporter and as an activist.  Brenda may be deported from the UK on this Friday. Earlier reports can be read – what follows is some background, the reports and the importance of keeping the focus on getting Brenda out of her deportation setting, out of custody detention and into a real life in the UK>


Melanie Nathan January 23, 2011 - The United Kingdom (UK) Home Office has rejected the asylum application of a Ugandan lesbian who can be sent back at any time.  The Ghana news reports that the “East African country is hostile to homos and recently proposed a bill which would make homosexual acts punishable by execution.”

The U.K. Border Agency, is now holding a Uganda born student, Brenda Namigadde, 29, who was among those took part in a demonstration outside the Uganda High commission in Trafalgar Square, Central London in 2009, when the Ugandan government introduced an Anti-Homosexuality Bill in parliament. The bill that shocked the liberal western governments suggested all Gays and Lesbians in the country should face the death penalty.

Speaking about her case from the UK Border manned Heathrow immigration detention center where she being held, Namigadde, said she fears for her life once in Uganda.

“They already know who I am, because photos were taken of me and my colleagues that day,” said a tearful Namigadde, with fear overwhelmed her face, she added: “Ugandan government has names of most of them as they have been published in several newspapers in the country.” Namigadde was referring a demonstration that took place after a public outcry from several organizations in the UK led by Gay Activists Alliance International (GAAI) with support from Gay Uganda, Sexual Minorities Uganda and Outrage organizations. Among the speakers on the day were Davies Mac-Iycllam, the co-founder of GAAT, Peter Tatchell and Skye Chirape.

Homosexual is illegal in Uganda and the country’s president previously attacked it calling it, “negative foreign culture”.

In the Ugandan parliament, there is an Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was sponsored by Ndorwa West, MP David Bahati, a legislator from President Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). It was only stayed when it received a sharp condemnation from around the world and after donor countries threatened to cut-off of aid to Uganda.

Last week I spoke directly to David Bahati in an interview which I am soon to publish in full. He informed me that the  Ugandan Parliament is going to go ahead with the anti-homosexuality Bil and it could become law in a matter of time. “All Ugandans support the Bill. We are a sovereign Country” –   He told me that Uganda “does not not consider homosexuality as a human right” and that it will do everything it can to enforce criminal sanctions against those who “practice homosexuality.”

Bahati said that homosexuality is a crime already in Uganda and the purpose of he new law will be to clarify it creating certainty in the mode of punishment.   He said that he had “proof” that “homos are recruiting children in the schools to their way of life” and that “Uganda must protect their children for the homos.”

I asked him if this was a religious ideal and based on religion. He said that it was and this clearly dates back to Scott Lively and USA Evangelical push to attack  gays and lesbians in Africa.

I cannot fathom how the UK Home Office can reject this case for asylum – it defies all sense of humanity.  I am calling on the US State Department to contact the Home Office and to effect a responsibility especially that our American Evangelicals have steeped themselves in the atrocious preamble to all this.

Paul Canning form LGBT Asylum based in the UK told me that before Lively went in to Uganda with his antigay propaganda, gays and lesbians had been left alone.  However now they are being harassed to the point where even a local Newspaper has been placing photos on its cover – of alleged gays- and calling for their capture.

The 29 year Ugandan lesbian, was due to be deported on Thursday the 20th of January, but only missed out after a mix-up with someone else name being submitted to the airline.

After speaking to Activists who know the lay of the land and after speaking to Bahati myself for over an hour. Brenda’s life is in certain danger. The UK Home Office must retract its decision immediately. It defies all logic that a Country such as the United Kingdom would deport a person back to a Country where even its members of parliament, such as David Bahati, announce publicly that they have no intention of adhering to the Declaration of Human Rights and that they plan on legislating in direct contradiction to its terms.

Brenda is presently detained at Yarlswood Immigrtaion Removal Centre. She has another removal date set for 28th January 2011 to Entebbe Uganda in Flight VS671 & KQ412 via Nairobi, Kenya at 21.20 hrs.

But the story gets more sinister – and even more scary than Brenda knows at this time. Yesterday I wrote a piece for Lezgetreal reporting Brenda’s story – and in the piece I referenced my recent  interview with David Bahati which I had not previously  reported on.

Today when I was working with Joseph Huff-Hannon of and Paul Canning  Editor of LGBT ASYLUM News, on Skype regarding a Petition we were drafting to support Brenda’s urgent bid for asylum,  a call came through on my regular phone. It was David Bahati.  He had read my previous article where I reported that Brenda’s asylum case had been rejected and that her deportation to Uganda was imminent.

Bahati said he read the piece about Brenda  Namigadde where I quoted him and that he was calling to tell me to give Brenda a message. The author of the anti-gay legislation said that the legislation will be presented to the Ugandan Parliament in the next few weeks. Homosexuality Including men and women is considered a crime in Uganda as being against the order of nature. The new Bill by Bahati seeks to affirm its criminalization and also calls for the death penalty in certain circumstances.

He told me that Brenda should stop bad mouthing Uganda; that she would be welcome back to Uganda if she renounced her homosexuality and if she “repented.”   I asked him if he based this ideal upon religious beliefs and he said “yes” that he did. I asked what if Brenda did not have the same belief as he did?  I asked what if she did not believe that she could repent?  He affirmed then she would be tried as a criminal.

After speaking to Mr. Bahati, I realize that he believes that Ms. Namigadde is indeed a lesbian. This serves only to enhance the danger she is in and flies in the face of the UK assertion that she may not have proved that she is a lesbian. She is indeed in danger.

It was astounding to me that David Bahati would call to comment on this case and the very fact that he did is indicative of the danger that Brenda faces.

He seemed to be very concerned about Uganda’s image and that she should not portray “her country as bad.”  I believe that this adds to her danger.

Bahati said that Uganda is not harassing Brenda but rather it would be enforcing the law. I questioned him about the law itself and mentioned that the western world did not agree that homosexuality was not a human right as he had told me previously. I told him that the UK and the USA would expect Uganda to adhere to the terms of the Declaration of Human Rights and that if he could not see it that way that there would be every reason to grant her asylum abroad.

He did not agree.

Paul Canning Of LGBT Asylum News told  me  “This is outrageous hypocrisy by the British Government to one the one hand to criticize and be concerned about Uganda’s treatment of lesbians (homosexuals) and on the other to send people like Brenda  back to certain danger.   It is my hope that the UK Coalition government will live up to the agreement it made after the election – which included a statement that they would not send LGBT people back to danger. Obviously that promise was made after many, many were sent back. Activists should not be a in a situation where they have to keep having to campaign individually for people like Brenda.”

Here in the USA we can only wonder at how many have not come to our attention and slipped through the cracks.

Karen McVeigh of the UK Guardian called me saying she had heard about the story with Bahati calling me.  She called me what had happened. I gave her my story.  She asked if I thought Bahati would speak to her.  I told her that he would probably love to speak to her and gave her the special number to reach him directly. She called Bahati and provided her own  report as follows, which I do not think takes cognizance of the important nuances of this case, and may even be detrimental to Brenda’s well being.

Karen McVeigh’s UK Guardian report  (, Wednesday 26 January 2011 18.26 GMT) “A lesbian woman due to be deported from Britain to Uganda has been told by a Ugandan MP that she must “repent or reform” when she returns home.

The politician, David Bahati, intervened in the case of Brenda Namigadde, due to be deported on Friday, saying he would drop a clause making homosexuality punishable by death in a bill he introduced to the Ugandan parliament.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender campaigners were sceptical of his pledge to drop the death penalty, and said that Bahatia’s intervention meant Namigadde was in “desperate trouble” if deported.

Gay sex is a criminal offense in Uganda punishable by a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Bahati told the Guardian: “Brenda is welcome in Uganda if she will abandon or repent her behaviour. Here in Uganda, homosexuality is not a human right. It is behavior that is learned and it can be unlearned. We wouldn’t want Brenda to be painting a wrong picture of Uganda, that we are harassing homosexuals.”

Asked what would happen if she did not “repent” he said: “If she is caught in illegal practices she will be punished. If she comes to promote homosexuality, if she is caught in the act, if she is caught in illegal acts, she will be punished. I would be surprised, if she was promoting homosexuality, if she were not arrested.”

His bill, currently in committee stage, would impose life imprisonment for consenting adults who have gay sex, and the death penalty for people with HIV, “serial” homosexuals and those who have sex with under-18s, if it became law.

Bahati said he was “willing to drop the death penalty” because of international concerns, but “key clauses”, including life imprisonment for gay people or gay marriage, imprisonment for the “promotion” of homosexuality and for those who fail to report an offence under the act, would remain. He was “confident” the bill would be passed following elections in the country next month, he said.

Speaking from Yarl’s Wood detention centre, Namigadde, 29, who fled Uganda in 2003 after being threatened and her house destroyed over her relationship with her Canadian partner, said: “I’ll be tortured or killed if I’m sent back to Uganda. They’ve put people like me to death there. Most of my friends in Uganda have disappeared.”

Her initial asylum claim was rejected in part on the basis that there was not sufficient evidence that she is a lesbian.

Namigadde’s lawyer, Alex Oringa, from Cardinal Solicitors, who submitted a fresh asylum claim on Monday, said he was “very worried” for her safety. “The moment she arrives at Entebbe airport she will be arrested. They will detain her and you never know what happens in detention. They think she has humiliated the Ugandan government.”

Gay rights groups, including AllOut, a US-based gay right group and LGBT Asylum news, have petitioned Theresa May, the home secretary, to grant Namigadde asylum.

The UK Border Agency, said: “Ms Namigadde’s case has been carefully considered by both the UK Border Agency and the courts and she has been found not to have a right to remain here. She has submitted further representations and these will be reviewed by the UK Border Agency prior to any removal.”

I must comment on the serious misjudgment in Karen McVeigh’s UK Guardian report  (, Wednesday 26 January 2011 18.26 GMT)

The idea that Bahati will remove the death sentence clause is nothing new  and a statement to this effect in mainstream press does little more than to harm Brenda’s case.  The tome of the article reflects objective reporting indeed – or at least on its surface. However when we report in BLOGS, with “blogger’s”  license, not only are we reporting the facts, but also we are coming at them from an activists viewpoint.

In this instance. we worked 48 hours straight, behind the scenes to bring the story as well as to effect the activism behind the story, such as interviews, collaboration, strategical plans etc. all with her asylum and safety at the forefront.  I truly regret giving Ms. McVeigh Bahati’s phone number because she may  have caused harm than good, by not knowing or understanding the background to the Uganda “Kill the Gays Bill.”

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had already advocated to the Ugandan President against the death Bill and had previously made the US position known on it.  From my hours of discussions with Bahati – I already knew the death portion was going to be changed and what Bahati did not tell McVeigh is that it would be included in certain circumstances.

So the Guardian Article fuzzes the issue.  The issue is that people are dying just because they are gay or lesbian already, but virtue of the existing antagonism and climate and if Brenda gets sent back, her fate will be the same as KATO’s as above reported to day.

When I interviewed the  Rolling Stone Managing Editor he informed me they would defy the Court Order and continue to publish faces of gays like the did of KATO, now murder victim.

The bottom line is if Brenda Namigadde is returned to Uganda the chances are high that ROLLING STONE Magazine will publish her face as they did of KATO and that she will be harmed.   The UK must not send her back and the UK Press should not bog itself down with believing that eradicating the Death Penalty portion of the case will make any difference at all.

Kato is dead and there is no death Penalty at this time!


By Melanie Nathan
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One Response to Tragedy as Gay Activist David Kato Murdered in Kampala, Uganda – Impact on Ugandan Lesbian Seeking UK Asylum

  1. paul canning

    January 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Thank you Melanie for your incredible work of behalf of Brenda.

    As I note in my update the UK Foreign Office is now taking an interest because of the Bahati connection – something which would not have happened without you.