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South African social justice organisations mourn our courageous queer African martyr: comrade David Kato in Uganda

The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, Treatment Action Campaign and SECTION27 are saddened and outraged to learn of the brutal murder of comrade David Kato in Kampala, Uganda yesterday, 26 January 2011. We join activists in Africa and across the world in condolences to fellow comrades in Uganda, his loved ones, family and friends.

Many have followed and been part of his social and political trajectory as a bold, courageous and outspoken openly gay man, defender of human rights, equality and freedom for many voiceless and faceless LGBTI under consistent persecution, especially in Uganda. As South African-based activists, we met him at the 1999 conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association that was held in Johannesburg. His zeal for expanding the realms of freedom across the world and his active commitment to solidarity and fighting for social justice left a last impression on all of us.

MP David Bahati and Pastor Martin Ssempa and their callous fostering of prejudice and homophobia are at least in part responsible for this callous murder. By mobilising for a law to ban homosexuality in Uganda, these two individuals have led a hateful crusade against rights and freedoms. Their actions are against their professed Christian values of love, justice and respect. David Kato stood for these values.

The Bahati-Ssempa crusade and the murder of David Kato are a fundamental attack on these core values of many Christians and many others on our continent. It is the government of Uganda’s responsibility to act to stop the killings and injuries of queer people. The effects of the much criticised Ugandan Anti-Homosexually Bill and the Rolling Stone tabloid’s publication of  ‘a list of gay and lesbian people to be reported to the police’, despite some victories, cannot be ignored as we come to terms with his murder . The silence of many in powerful positions on the plights of LGBTI people on the continent amounts to an endorsement of homophobia, hate crimes and the killing of our dear brother, David Kato.

The South African government itself has also consistently failed to uphold and promote its Constitution and to to urge AU member states to protect LGBTI people on our continent from any forms of violence, discrimination and persecution. At multilateral platforms, the SA Government and Department of International Relations and Cooperation have taken numerous homophobic stances creating and nourishing a climate of violent prejudice and homophobia.

Standing firmly in our resolve to continue struggling for the self-determination, freedom and equality of all LGBTI people in Africa, we will remember Comrade David’s courage and dedication at the planned picket for 1 February in Pretoria (SA) to remind our government of their Constitutional obligations towards LGBTI people and to call for progressive activists participating at the World Social Forum in Dakar not to let his life go in vain.

We send Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) our solidarity and pledge to collaborate of whatever deemed necessary to get to the bottom of the murder of Cde David and to continue the struggles forged in Uganda.

No one is indeed free until we are free! Lala kahle Qabane! You leave a big gap in our movement. Your work and legacy will continue to inspire our struggles!