David Kato died violently on January 26 2011. Three months before, a newspaper advocating for the execution of Ugandan gays, published David’s name, address and photo beneath the words ‘Hang Them’.
Over a decade before, the schoolteacher returned from working in South Africa determined to promote LGBT rights in Uganda. However, after he came out at a press conference, police arrested him and threw him in jail for a week.
Ugandan laws criminalising homosexual activity were originally imposed by British colonists. In the early 2000s, gay Ugandans faced potential prison sentences of up to 14 years. But following anti-gay propagandising by American evangelists, local politicians agitated for the death penalty.
Queer Ugandans faced increased discrimination including a greater threat of violence. Dictator Yoweri Museveni weaponised homophobia to create a common enemy for a populace tired of his corrupt and authoritarian regime.
In October 2010, a local newspaper printed a list of 100 alleged lesbian and gay Ugandans. The paper called for their executions with the words ‘Hang Them’ prominently displayed. The article included David Kato’s name, address and photo. The following month, he and two other activists successfully sued to stop the paper publishing further lists.
At about 2 pm on January 26 2011, an unidentified man attacked David Kato in his home, bludgeoning him with a hammer. David died on the way to hospital. Police denied any connection between the murder and David Kato’s activism. They eventually arrested a local criminal and spread rumours that the man was a sex worker and that the murder resulted from a dispute over payment for sexual services.
Two days later, a busload of David’s friends arrived in his remote home village for his funeral. The Anglican minister conducting the funeral only realised David was gay while listening to their eulogies and tributes from people like US President Barack Obama.
When it came time for the minister to speak, he began berating the gays.
“You must repent! Even the animals know the difference between a male and a female.”
Activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera took the microphone from him, but the minister continued, so Kasha stood on a chair.
“We have not come here to fight. We have come to bury our friend. You are not the judge of us. As long as he’s gone to God, his creator, who are we to judge Kato?
“Enough is enough!”
As violence threatened to break out between the visitors and locals, David’s friends picked up his coffin and carried it to the graveyard themselves.
Footage of the funeral in the Rachel Maddow video below.
At the gravesite, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, previously excommunicated from the Ugandan Anglican Church over his support for gays, took over the service.
“My church was not happy with what I said. Because they want me to condemn. But God showed me no, no, no. God showed me that Christ doesn’t discriminate. I am free because I know the truth. And I will stand for that truth. So please, we pray for the soul of David Kato.”
Read more: January 25 <— On this day —> January 27
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.s