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When MPs laid bare taboo subject of homosexuality

KENYA @ 50
By Waweru Mugo | January 29th 2014

By Waweru Mugo

Kenya: Slightly over 16 years ago, then Local Government Assistant Minister Dr Elon Wameyo narrated to an attentive Parliament the story of a young civil servant working with the Customs Department in Mombasa. The story went thus;

“Despite the fact that he had a wife, he believed in being sodomised. Homosexuals used to go to his home, and even if they found him having dinner, he would leave the ugali there and take off. The wife did not protest. One day, he was taken to Malaysia by the homosexual tourists. When he came back, the disease had blown up. So, he ended up infecting the wife. He eventually died…”

Dr Wameyo, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who had plied his medical trade for about 30 years in Mombasa was talking about the trysts of a homosexual who lived dangerously and consequently contracted HIV ending up dying of related causes (Aids).

“So, through homosexuality, HIV is transmitted and it is a big problem now,” he went on. Quoting reports, he said “Aids has become rampant because of sodomy and homosexuality.”

Two years earlier in June 1995, Parliament had been told by none other than the Minister of State, Office of the President Jackson Kalweo, “Any homosexual is a dangerous man.”

His admission was prompted by the discomfort among legislators of the presence in the country of a foreigner linked to homosexuality activities at the Coast. Indeed, Parliament was told of the likelihood of riots erupting in Lamu following the return of a US national thought to have tried to organise an international gay conference there.

Accusing a Mr Paul Waiver of entrenching homosexual activities, Prof Rashid Mzee (Kisauni MP) posed, “Could the minister consider expelling him again, since homosexuality is prohibited under our country’s law and African traditions?”

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In his reply, the Minister of State Jackson Kalweo said investigations had confirmed that Australian Barry Fannes and Bon Assume, a Dutchman were indeed engaged in homosexual activities leading to their expulsion. Waiver who had also been expelled alongside the two had however been exonerated from blame, hence his return, but with caution.

Kalweo warned, “If he is found harassing other men, he will be put on the first plane out of this country.”

It was at this juncture that Lagdera MP Mohamed Shidiye shot up and pointed out the danger posed by homosexuals in the country. He labelled Waiver “dangerous” and a liability to Kenyans. Urging his re-expulsion, Shidiye wondered, “Is the minister aware that homosexuality is the greatest contributor to the spread of the (Aids) disease?”

And so it goes. Homosexuality is considered dangerous from a moral perspective and health consideration. For example, with deep rooted stigma and discrimination around it, those in it may not freely enjoy, say HIV and reproductive health services, and are considered a “most-at-risk population” for HIV infection.

In July the same year, Mr Adan Keynan (Wajir West MP) would lament that homosexuality had turned into a norm “these days”. “It is not unheard of, for somebody to be a gay. It is accepted all over,” he would claim on the floor of Parliament.

But statistics would not bear this out years later. A 2007 research found more than nine out of 10 Kenyans disapproved of homosexuality. 

Quoting the Pew Global Attitudes Projects, Anthony Ham in the travel guide ‘Lonely Planet Kenya’ said: “In a 2007 poll, 96 per cent of Kenyans surveyed stated that homosexuality should be rejected by society.”

Over the years, Kenya through its leadership, the Church and Muslim fraternity has maintained a tough stance on the scourge that homosexuality and lesbianism are slowly evolving into.

The country’s second President, Daniel arap Moi stand on the issue was unambiguous. An avowed Christian, Moi lamented homosexuality and lesbianism were “dangerous practices” and would not hesitate to speak up his mind on it. Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni had in the week called for the arrest of homosexuals for engaging in “abominable acts”.

As for the Anglican Church’s strong condemnation of homosexuality, the late Bishop Alexander Muge was in May 1990 stopped in his tracks and denied a chance to preach at a US California church after it emerged he most likely would condemn the practice in his sermon.

Muge would later say what had irked the US clergy as they shared a meal: “I pointed out that homosexuals and lesbians have taken over church leadership in the USA and there is no way God is going to bless this church with growth”. An enraged pastor, Rev Gary Ost, himself a homosexual would later “pay back” in kind by gagging Muge from speaking his mind.

An unforgiving Muge would charge that homosexuals must “repent and change their lifestyles… Sin should be rebuked by any and all means”.

And as the schism between the Anglicans in the West and others in Africa grew, the AP reported seven years ago; “…two US priests were consecrated as Anglican bishops in Kenya, the latest in a string of priests who are defecting to African congregation because of the American’s church’s liberal stance on gays”.

About three years ago, renowned Muslim preacher Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa urged for “open discrimination” against homosexuals and lesbians-such as keeping off their business “as a way of stopping the beastly act”. In an unrelated incident a year later, a homosexuals’ gathering in Likoni received unusual visitors- villagers, religious leaders and village elders keen to disrupt it.

Many more such incidents have been reported, pointing at the contempt many hold the gay community.

Fast forward to 2014, and Hams and his team’s words ring true. Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina is one such brave homosexual, but his outing while reigniting debate into the taboo subject has not gone down well with many a Kenyan, if the social media reactions are anything to go by. To date, many still view homosexuality as repugnant to cultural values and morality.

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