Uganda’s LGBT community is in shock after David Kato, a leading LGBT rights activist, was bludgeoned to death in his home on Wednesday afternoon.
Kato, who was the advocacy officer for the organisation Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was reportedly bashed with a hammer.
According to Human Rights Watch, witnesses told police that a man entered Kato’s home in Mukono at around 1pm, hit him twice in the head and departed in a vehicle.
Kato died on his way to Kawolo hospital. Police told Kato’s lawyer that they had the registration number of the vehicle and were looking for it.
The Ugandan Rolling Stone tabloid recently published Kato’s photos in an issue dedicated to identifying the country’s “top homosexuals” with a headline that read, “Hang Them”. The Supreme Court of Uganda later barred the publication from running similar articles in future.
SMUG noted that Kato had been receiving death threats since his face was put on the front page of the tabloid.
“Across the entire country, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Ugandans mourn the loss of David, a dear friend, colleague, teacher, family member, and human rights defender,” said SMUG in a statement.
“No form of intimidation will stop our cause,” added Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of SMUG. “The death of David will only be honoured when the struggle for justice and equality is won.”
Human Rights Watch expressed its shock at Kato’s death, noting that he was a prominent activist in the fight against the country’s pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which seeks to impose the death penalty against “repeat offenders”.
“The Anti-Homosexuality bill has already generated hatred before it has even been enacted and it should immediately be withdrawn by its author,” commented Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“President Yoweri Museveni should categorically reject the hate that lies behind this bill, and instead encourage tolerance of divergent views of sexuality and protect vulnerable minorities,” she said.
The organisation called for an urgent and impartial investigation into Kato’s death.
His funeral is expected to take place on Friday at his ancestral home in Namataba, Mukono District.