Obama Gives Hope for Gay African Community

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South Africa might be progressive and pretty in pink, offering a great gay tourist destination and gay marriage for everyone, but it’s only the rainbow tip in the largely homophobic African subcontinent.

Amnesty International released a report this week titled “Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa”  which detailed facts and human rights abuses against LGBT individuals within the sovereign countries.

Of its various findings, it notes that 38 countries consider homosexuality illegal. Four of them—Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria, and southern Somalia—offer the death penalty for those found guilty of “homosexuality,” and five more—Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, Liberia, and Nigeria—have all attempted to further criminalize homosexuality within their countries. Open discrimination within these countries has resulted in difficulty obtaining or outright refusal of medical treatment, and such things as “corrective” rape occur to try to “cure” lesbians and queer women into becoming heterosexual. Other sexual violence, like forced anal exams, and targeted killings happen throughout the region, making the situation for LGBT individuals rather dire and extreme.

For all of these reasons, and because of his vocal support of the LGBT community, President Obama is expected to make a statement of some kind against these practices while on his African tour later this week and next. The primary reasons for the trip are to promote democracy and U.S. businesses (competing with China for markets), and to discuss subjects of development with several African leaders. He will be visiting Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania during his unusually long (for a U.S. president) international tour, and be back in the U.S. for Independence Day.

It seems almost a given that the president will make some kind of comment. In foreign affairs, back in 2011 he asked individuals in the State Department “ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of” gays, lesbians and transgender people. His second inaugural address indicated a full-fledged support for gay marriage. And just last week he called on Congress to draft a bill outlawing workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals.

The situation is quite sensitive: President Obama seems to be in a position to make a political statement that would affect American relations in the Sub-Saharan region, and he will have to choose the timing and the nature of his comments carefully if he does make them. Africa is a dynamic continent, and we could see a changing landscape, albeit slowly, with strong positive LGBT sentiments from its leaders.

To end on a slightly more positive note, Amnesty’s report also mentions a few uplifting points in its report. Mentioned before, South Africa allows same-sex marriage and joint adoption, and Cape Verde, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Seychelles have all decriminalized homosexuality. Several countries also have a history of homosexual marriages and art, which while current leaders tend to see as incorrect and “un-African,” some are starting to see these things in a more accepting light.

Three Gay Teens Killed At Death Camp To Make Them Real Men!

 

Raymond Buys looked a picture of health and vitality before being sent by his mother to The Echo Wild Game Rangers training course, to “Make him a better man, to give him a better future” on 12th January 2011. Less than ten weeks later the 15 year old was in hospital, severely malnourished, dehydrated, his arm was broken in two places and there were cigarette burns and wounds all over his body.

He was put on life support in intensive care just two months into the three-month course at the bush camp an hour away from Johannesburg, South Africa. He was so badly injured his mother was told by the doctors the chances of his survival were ‘Virtually Zero’. Raymond Buys lay for four weeks in intensive care before he died.

‘I sent my son on this course to make him a better man, to give him a better future,’ Raymond’s mother, Wilma told The Daily Telegraph. ‘I trusted Alex de Koker with his life.’ Mrs Buys explained how her son had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and was struggling at school and that the course run by Alex de Koker, had been recommended to her by a friend. Mr de Koker, promised her he could help, that he could find her son a job in the wildlife trade.

During the first two months of her son’s placement at the camp, she says she spoke to Raymond just three times – and was told by Mr de Koker that he was self-harming. “Raymond was only allowed to speak to me on speaker-phone,” she said. “When I asked him why he was hurting himself, he told me ‘Mum, I’m not doing it to myself’.”

Mr de Koker called Mrs Buys on 23rd March and informed her that Raymond had been admitted to hospital for tests. When she arrived at the hospital, she found that he was dying.

Alex de Koker, 49, The Echo Wild Game Rangers ‘General’ and employee Michael Erasmus, 20, are on trial for charges of murder, child abuse and neglect, along with two cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm in relation to Raymond Buys’ death.

Last week, the Vereeniging District Court heard the harrowing testimony of a boy who had shared a tent with Raymond Buys. Gerhard Oostuizen, 19, claims Buys was chained to his bed every night, was refused permission to visit the toilet and on one occasion was forced to eat his own faeces. On another occasion Oosthuizen said, that after Mr Buys tipped over a container of washing powder, he was forced to eat what he had spilled and vomited foam.

The 19 year old told how he observed that Mr Buys would be beaten with planks, hosepipes and sticks when he failed to carry out manual labour tasks. Oostuizen further alleges he saw Alex de Koker tie Buys to a chair naked with his head covered in a pillowcase, and would electrocute him with a stun gun.

Raymond is not the first young man to have allegedly died at the hands of Alex de Koker, there have been at least two others deaths at the camp. Eric Calitz, 18, and Nicolaas Van Der Walt, 19, have both died after being enrolled at the Echo Wild Game Rangers camp held on a farm near Vereeniging in 2007. The Calitz’s family were initially informed of his Eric’s death by text message. They were told that their son had died of a heart attack. Subsequently, the cause of death was changed to a seizure, and later, to dehydration. It was eventually revealed that Calitz had died from bleeding on the brain. Van der Walt’s death was first believed to have been a heart attack, but according to local media and forensic reports, the youth appeared to have been choked with a seatbelt.

The trouble started for Eric Calitz when he requested to leave expensive camp, de Koker reportedly told him he ‘wasn’t a moffie [gay] and he would make a man out of him’.

The Echo Wild Game Rangers training camp was supposedly set up by de Koker to teach boys how to become game rangers. However, police reports of the kind of activities that teens would undertake while on the camp do not suggest that a lot of “game ranging” took place. A preliminary police investigation in 2007 found that “the para-military style training presented on this course was not normal ranger training”. In that year, the court heard that De Koker and his “co-instructors” addressed each other using military ranks, and taught skills like leopard crawling and endurance running and walking.

In 2009, De Koker was handed a suspended sentence over Calitz but escaped charges for the death of Van Der Walt, and the camp was allowed to continue.

Gender activist Melanie Nathan has said the three young men were all perceived as ‘gay and clearly effeminate’. ‘With a little bit of digging [into the story], the gay reparative undertones start to emerge.’ Nathan wrote.

Both de Koker and Erasmus have pleaded not guilty to the charges, the court resumes in May.

The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill Drops Death Penalty Clause.

The committee of Ugandan MPs that endorsed the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill have dropped the death penalty provision, claims MP Medard Segona. He told media outlets there had been “substantial amendments” to the horrific bill that increases penalties for being gay in the African nation, however he said he was not allowed to reveal further details.  Segona, is a member of the Legal and Parliamentary committee of Uganda’s parliament said “I can confirm it has been dropped.” Adding “Some of us who are human rights activists would discourage the death penalty.”

The Ugandan parliament will shortly debate the bill and Segona believes this will happen before Christmas, although refused to be more precise. In recent statement the speaker of the Ugandan parliament, Rebecca Kadaga promised the bill would be passed as a “Christmas gift” to all its advocates and supporters.

The bill has been tabled by MP David Bahati, well known for his deeply homophobic views, proposes longer jail terms for homosexual acts, including a life sentence in certain circumstances. Before the change , the original bill included the death penalty for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” which was defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender”.

The original drafting of the bill also prohibited the “promotion” of gay rights and called for the punishment of anyone who “funds or sponsors homosexuality” or “abets homosexuality” and sentences will be long.

There appears to be broad support for the bill in the Ugandan parliament, even President Yoweri Museveni who would have to sign the bill before it becomes law, is known to be supportive however international pressure is likely to increase dramatically.

US President Barack Obama who described the bill as “odious” and many International donors have threatened to cut off aid to Uganda if the country does not do more to protect the rights of gay people, including the UK, Canada and the US.

“If the Americans think they can tell us what to do, they can go to hell” said
John Nagenda, Ugandan presidential adviser recently.

Uganda is one of 38 African nations where homosexuality is currently illegal where penalties range from 1 year to life imprisonment. Three nations, Sudan, Mauritania and Nigeria still have the death penalty for being gay.

Ugandan Websites Hacked

Anonymous, the often maligned and somewhat anarchic ‘hacktivist’ group spectacularly struck right at the heart of the leadership of the homophobic Ugandan government this week when it hacked into two of their high profile websites. Anonymous attacked and hacked into the websites of the prime minister and Justice Law and Order Sector and issued following statement -

“Today’s hack and deface of the Ugandan Prime Minister’s site was the latest in a long list of actions against the government and infrastructure of Uganda for crimes against LGBT people.” The Anonymous statement read. “We will not stand by while LGBT Ugandans are victimized, abused and murdered by a ruthless and corrupt government. #TheEliteSociety and #Anonymous will continue to target Ugandan government sites and communications until the government of Uganda treats all people including LGBT [people] equally, with respect and dignity and immediately ends the arrest and harassment of LGBT [people].”

The Ugandan government is currently discussing a gay hate bill that is passed would make homosexuality and homosexual acts punishable in law with penalties including the death sentence.

“The government of Uganda will not stop us or LGBT people from standing up to their hatred and fighting against their abuses . . . Equal treatment for ALL people, or you can expect us again.” the hacking group said.

In another message featuring an image from Uganda’s recent Pride celebration that appeared on the Office of the Prime Minister’s website, the social activists said “You have been warned, repeatedly, to expect us. Your violations of the rights of LGBT people have disgusted us. ALL people have the right to live in dignity, free from the repression of someone else’s political and religious beliefs.”

“You should be PROUD of your LGBT citizens, because they clearly have more balls than you will ever have. Real Ugandan Pride is demonstrated in standing up to oppression despite fearing the abuse, torture and murder inflicted on LGBT [people] at the hands of the corrupt government.”

I personally am not usually a fan of hacking groups, however I applaud Anonymous for this stand against the horrific repression of the gay community from one of Africa’s most oppressive and dangerous countries. This is not the first time the ‘hacktivists’ have taken a stance against homophobia and intolerance, in previous years they attacked the hideous Westboro Baptist Church and their vile hate sites.

Gay Rights Activist Murdered

Tanzanian gay rights activist Maurice Mjomba has been found dead at his house in Dar es Salaam, it have been announced.

Julius Lumanyika Kyaruzi, the coordinator at the Centre for Human Rights Promotion where Mjomba was a Training Coordinator confirmed Mr Mjomba, 29, had been found dead at his home. It is believed he could have been dead for some time and according to local sources there are clear indications he was murdered. At this stage it is not clear if his murder was motivated by homophobia, although that seems highly likely.

It is believed that Mr Mjomba, who was a leading member of Stay Awake Network Activities, a group dealing with sexual health education for men who have sex with men, was strangled to death at his home, some time ago.

At the time of writing the results of an autopsy were still pending.