Twenty African LGBTI rights groups – from countries across the continent – have issued a statement slamming the tactics of the UK based activist organisation Outrage!, led by Peter Tatchell, as being neo-colonialist, patronising and self-serving.
Titled “A Public Statement of Warning”, the communiquÃ© says that the groups “strongly discourage the public from taking part in any LGBTI campaigns or calls to action concerning Africa that are led by Peter Tatchell or Outrage!”
This follows a recent call by Tatchell advocating a mass letter-writing campaign against the Nigerian government to protest proposed anti-gay laws. African activists say that this unilateral action by Outrage! could actually hamper their efforts and work against the legislation. The controversial Tatchell is perhaps best remembered for famously attempting a “citizen’s arrest” of Robert Mugabe.
While the signatories says that they are willing to work with those who respect their advice and expertise regarding Africa, they claim that Outrage! has been acting in contempt and disregard of the wishes of African LGBTI activists. They further add that attempts to address the matter with Outrage! have failed and that they have no choice other than to take the issue to the public.
The groups says that Outrage! has “repeatedly disrespected the lives, damaged the struggle, and endangered the safety of African Human Rights Defenders” through a number of actions. Their claims about Outrage! include:
- “Outrage!’s press releases contain information that is not factual. They do not verify information before including it in their press releases. When they are corrected by local activists, they refuse to print retractions or to make any attempt to stop the damaging effects of their press releases.
- “Outrage! repeatedly quotes people out of context and uses these statements to further their own agenda rather than presenting the truth.
- “Outrage! does not consult the relevant local activists before embarking on campaigns that directly affect us and are destructive to our work. They disregard collaborative efforts by African LGBTI Human Rights Defenders and international Human Rights organisations, and come up with unilateral strategies that work against the progress being achieved by the rest of the Human Rights actors. We are tired of having to constantly expend energy working to undo irreparable damage that Outrage! has caused.
- “Outrage! exaggerates the violations our governments commit. When they quote African Human Rights Defenders in the very same press releases where they are exaggerating claims against our governments, we are held responsible for their reckless outbursts. As African activists, we are then left to face the wrath of our communities for statements we never made.
- “Outrage! does not listen to, value, or heed the advice of local genuine activists. They mix our words with the opinions of uninformed, naÃ¯ve, or crook [sic] individuals. They take whatever information is available, regardless of the source, and twist it to gain more publicity. Certainly, Outrage! is not acting on our behalf.”
The activists write that they “do not appreciate or accept the efforts of Western-based individuals or organisations who try to make our work for liberation into an ego-boosting publicity campaign for themselves. We condemn Peter Tatchell and Outrage! for their irresponsible journalism and a deplorable lack of respect for the very people they claim they are defending.”
The statement urges the public and the media to consult more “reliable sources” such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, adding that “Peter Tatchell and Outrage! are not reliable sources on LGBTI issues in Africa and information from them should not be trusted or used as a basis for action.”
Signatories to the statement include members of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Coalition of African Lesbians (South Africa), Behind the Mask (South Africa), Freedom and Roam Uganda, Minority Women in Action (Kenya), Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, ARDHO (Burundi), The Rainbow Project (Namibia) and Alliance Rights (Nigeria) among others.