David Kato's recent assassination in Uganda has stunned people around the globe and moved world leaders to speak out against this outrage. President Obama sang his praises as did countless others. David's close lesbian friend Val Kalende wrote a personal tribute of their friendship and struggle for freedom in Uganda. In this piece you will find David Kato as a human being and as a leader for freedom. We can only hope and pray for Val Kalende's safety as she continues the struggle.
Please take time to read her powerful and moving words:
"Good-bye Son Of Africa"
Sorrow, loss, and grief engulf Uganda's LGBT community as we lay to rest our friend, brother, and colleague, David Kato Kisule. As we mourn the loss of Africa's brave human rights defender, we celebrate him for the leader and visionary that he was.
David lived his life for his friends, even defending those he hardly knew. His energy and quick response to security matters within the LGBT community was why we named him "security." David was always concerned for the safety of others. Many times, he put himself out of the way for the sake of others. He fed, dressed, comforted, and housed many members of the community who were homeless.
As an activist who has worked closely with David since 2004, i have always been surrounded by the same fears David had. The feeling of being watched all the time. David had actually expressed concern that "people were following him" and that "he feared for his life." Last year, i had an email exchange in which he was telling me about his fears and that he needed to install a security alarm system in his house. He managed to install it. It didn't save him. The cost of his freedom cost much more than installing an expensive alarm system in his house.
David lived his life in fear. He talked about it and sometimes even joked about it. I guess we took many things for granted but he said it over and over again that "he would be the last one to leave the country." Fighting from your country is not the same as fighting for freedom while in exile but it is all clear to me now that we cannot afford to lose another life. Fighting away from home does not mean quitting the fight. David wanted to be "a better activist alive than dead." I believe that even if he is gone, David will always remain an active participant in our struggle for liberation.
I had just arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida yesterday when i got the news via my cellphone. I had been invited by Sunshine Cathedral, the Metropolitan community church in Fort Lauderdale to share the stories of LGBT people in Uganda.
"David Kato has been murdered," the voice at the end of the line broke the news.
Trembling on the phone, I felt sorrow and anger in equal proportions. My strength was drained. But then i remembered that David was not the kind who gave up even in situations in which he should have surrendered. In his lifetime, he visited all of the prisons and police stations where a member (s) of the LGBT community had been arrested or detained. On many occasions, he dug out of his pocket for the safety of others. David was the eye of the LGBT movement in Uganda. Always looking out for his brothers and sisters. His cellphone was our hotline.
I vividly remember the day I first met David. Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) had just been initiated by Ugandan LGBT activist, Victor Mukasa. We were about five young activists who used to meet at Kaival, a restaurant which doubled as an internet surfing lounge along one of Kampala's streets. Inside that restaurant, i was introduced to David by my colleagues Victor Mukasa and Kasha Jacqueline, now Executive Director, Freedom and Roam Uganda. He told me about his teaching profession and his visit to South Africa where his love for activism had been inspired by his experiences with LGBT activists he had met. From then on, we met daily at Kaival which had now become "our work station." We didn't have an office. Under the leadership of Victor Mukasa, founder of SMUG, i was privileged to serve on the Board of SMUG together with David.
It was David who inspired the idea of having a security strategy for Ugandan LGBT organizations. He was good at handling security matters in the community. For this, we elected him security team leader. But David's activism and commitment could not be measured in terms of positions like "security team leader." He juggled almost every responsibility within the movement. David hated "slow work" and red tape and in most cases he came off as a leader in his own category. His major concern was always the security of people within the LGBT community. It is unfortunate that we could not prevent the death of a man who saved many of us from danger on many occasions.
Some people found him impatient and sometimes rude but that was his way of getting things done. At the same time, he was a man who didn't mince his words. He told it as it was. His selfless leadership is what endeared many of us to him. It didn't matter who you were, he reached out to help you.
As investigations into the murder of David proceed, many will point to different places and indicators in search for answers. As someone who has lived and worked with David, i know that his death is unfortunate but it should not surprise us too much. For those who still doubt the impact of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the murder of David should make us think again. David's death warrant was signed and stamped the day the Family Life Network of Uganda hosted American revisionist Scott Lively and his entourage of self-confessed gay men. Lively's time bomb has finally exploded and it's David's body on the alter of hate. Lively's four-hour behind-closed-doors meeting with Ugandan Members of Parliament has finally culminated in Uganda's worst hate crime against LGBT people. The series of hate crime since the Lively hate-spitting delegation left Uganda are undeniable. Some of David's interviews indicate that he anticipated that the worst was going to happen. It was only a matter of time.
According to one of the three LGBT activists in the recently successful court case against the Rolling Stone, they were to meet this week to talk about their security. One of the plaintiffs posted this message on her facebook page on Tuesday, the day before David was murdered:
Ok, someone has just put sense in my head... there could be an underground attack on the 3 plantiffs, Pepe was evicted immediately, My house was attacked one Sunday en then Monday Daivd's email is hacked into...the thieves didn't even touch my neighbour's BMW packed in the compound but tried to enter my house, breaking windows. eish.
It is sickening that some people should be so insensitive to say the murder of David was a robbery attack on his house. Granted. Let us assume it was broad day robbery. But what kind of thief robs, kills, and even remembers to leave the door of his victim under lock and key? Reports indicate that David's neighbors had to break the door to get him out only to find that he had been hammered on the head several times and left unconscious. How about the person who hacked David's Gmail account early this week to make us believe he was stranded in London and needed financial help? Was this all planned in advance by David's killer to make us send money to London thinking it was going to help our friend who was stranded?
Either way, Uganda's homophobic politicians, anti-gay pastors, and the Rolling Stone Editor have a lot to answer for their rhetorical hate speech that makes LGBT people easy targets for hate crime.
When people like David Bahati claim that LGBT Ugandans have received 50 million dollars to promote homosexuality, does that make people buy into the rhetoric that LGBT activists are rich people? And does that justify the fact that people tried to break into the house of one of the activists in the Rolling Stone case two nights before David was murdered? The Editor of the Rolling Stone tabloid (no connection with American Rolling Stone magazine), should be investigated and held as one of the suspects in David's murder case. I see a direct relationship between Giles Muhame's "Hang Them" headline, the campaign on his facebook page, and the events that led to David's death. The Rolling Stone tabloid must be thoroughly investigated. International human rights bodies must speak out not only for David, but for LGBT people all over the world who are brutally killed, tortured, and harassed because of their fight against oppression and injustice.
This is the time for the sponsors of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the Government of Uganda to fully consider withdrawing their bill from parliament and to honor human rights in their entirety.
Like many great human rights defenders who have been slain, we may never find David's killer. But we can use this great loss of a brave activist to change the face of LGBT activism in Uganda.
Goodbye my friend. Goodbye brave son of LGBT Africa.
for more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.