Hundreds Rally for Slain Ugandan Gay Leader

BY ANDY HUMM | David Kato, the leader of the Ugandan LGBT movement brutally murdered in his home in Bukusa on January 26, was mourned on February 3 by hundreds who gathered in New York’s Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza near the United Nations and then marched on the nearby Ugandan Mission to demand a thorough investigation into the killing.

But the Reverend Kapya Kaoma, the Zambian Anglican priest who worked with Kato and was key to exposing the US fundamentalist cabal that baited Ugandan leaders into filing the infamous “kill-the-gays” bill there, said Kato did not get the support he needed in life from those decrying his death over the previous week.

Ally, at NYC gathering, charges David Kato did not get international support he needed in life

The 4 p.m. vigil was organized by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Kaoma’s Political Research Associates, and was endorsed by 39 organizations from the AIDS activist group ACT UP to Wapinduzi Productions, which creates documentary films focused on social justice and community-building issues.

The action came on the very day that a source in the Ugandan police claimed to have a suspect in custody who confessed to the murder.

“He told us that he killed Kato after he failed to give him a car, a house, and money he promised as rewards for having sex with him,” the source told the Daily Monitor.

That account was roundly condemned by speakers at the vigil.

“This is what they do,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the LGBT program at HRW. “Right after they found the body, they said it was a robbery. Now this. We need a thorough investigation. And we want the government to stop the climate of homophobia” that most see as the real cause of Kato’s murder.

Indeed, one newspaper, Rolling Stone, had published Kato’s photo on the cover last year in a story on Ugandan gay people that urged readers to “Hang Them.” Just weeks ago, Kato prevailed in a lawsuit against Rolling Stone.

The Reverend Pat Bumgardner, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of New York, told the crowd that Kato was “murdered by people taught by religious leaders and sanctioned by the state to believe that they were doing the reign of God a service by ridding the world of one more ‘faggot,’ as the bishop of Peru recently said.”

Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of IGLHRC, said he had 150 e-mails from Kato — which he will not erase — asking “what were we doing about evangelicals going to Uganda to spread hate and why was there no money for salaries” for staff at Kato’s group, Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG).

“I didn’t always have satisfactory answers for him,” Johnson said. “David could be furious and frustrated, but he always came back in friendship.”

But Kato is gone now.

“He needed support,” said Reverend Kaoma, who credits Kato with saving his life by urging him to get out of Uganda after he exposed the network of evangelicals abetting the anti-gay political movement there. “He didn’t have enough resources. He couldn’t afford to live in a safer neighborhood.”

Val Kalende, board chair of Freedom and Roam Uganda, the other major Ugandan LGBT group, who herself is based in the US now, met Kato in 2004 and said he was “everyone’s friend and to most he is our father. He called me ‘daughter.’ We are not here to grieve his death, but to celebrate his life.”

Kalende added, “We cannot leave his work undone.”

New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm, an out gay Queens Democrat, decried the “lies” that police often tell in the wake of the murder of a gay person, including cases he has worked on like that of Julio Rivera in Jackson Heights in 1990.

“We need the movement in Uganda to move forward with our support,” Dromm said. “We will use every power available to us to see to it that David is not forgotten.”

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian Chelsea Democrat, who is the former executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, called Kato’s murder “a premeditated attack on a gay man because he is a gay man.”

She also condemned the story the Ugandan police are trying to put out about his demise.

“Governments are the last to tell the truth,” she said. “Truth gets ripped out of them because we demand it. Governments believe we will forget.”

Kaoma told the crowd, “People ask me why I am standing up for the rights of LGBT people. My answer is that I don’t defend ‘LGBT persons,’ I defend human beings who are entitled to all the rights that I am.”

Kaoma had words for American evangelicals who set fire to the anti-gay movement in Uganda.

“I call on Rick Warren to go back to Uganda and tell the people of Uganda that gay people have rights and are to be defended,” he said.

And for Americans who want to help Sexual Minorities Uganda now, the group’s website is