Anti-gay fervour spikes ahead of Obama’s Kenya visit

William Ruto, Kenya’s Deputy President

William Ruto, Kenya’s Deputy President

As homophobic incidents spread ahead of President Obama’s visit to Kenya later this month, the White House says that the American leader may well address LGBT rights during the trip.

Obama’s pending visit has ignited a firestorm of anti-gay sentiment in Kenya, as politicians and traditional and religious leaders have warned him not to bring up the divisive issue.

Obama is being painted as a Western “promoter” of un-African values because of his support for LGBT equality and same-sex marriage.

On Tuesday, a small protest by anti-gay MPs and clerics against same-sex marriage was held in Nairobi calling on Obama to stay silent on the issue, while a number of other homophobic incidents have come to light in recent days.

Kenyan LGBT rights activist Denis Nzioka told Gay Star News that two men living in an apartment estate in Kabete, on the outskirts of Nairobi, were evicted last Friday.

The 26 and 29-year-old men were thrown out by their landlord over his suspicion that they are a gay couple. He reportedly told them to get out and “go wait for your Obama”.

On Thursday, the African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC) reported that four gay Ugandan refugees in Kenya narrowly avoided being beaten by a mob screaming anti-gay slurs outside their rental house. After calling for help, the young refugees were then detained by police.

(A number of LGBT Ugandans fled to Kenya after their homeland passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was later struck down by the courts.)

According to AHRC’s Melanie Nathan, the attack could be attributed to factors such as inflammatory remarks against the LGBT community linked to Obama’s visit as well as recent comments by Kenyan Deputy President, William Ruto who stated that “Homosexuality is against the plan of God.”

“We have heard that in the US they have allowed gay relations and other dirty things… No amount of persuasions, theories or philosophy will make us change our position. We believe in God, this is a God fearing nation and will continue to be so,” Ruto said on Sunday.

On Wednesday, 20 Kenyan LGBT and human rights organisations held a press conference calling for an end to the “ongoing anti-gay rhetoric led by various political leaders in this country” in “response to the US Supreme Court decision and the upcoming President Obama visit to our country.”

The groups warned that the comments are “ill-advised and un-African and come with devastating consequences,” including having a detrimental effect on the fight against HIV in the country.

They argued that from past experience “whenever our political leaders stoke these debates, many Key Population members stop accessing services due to fear of discrimination or attacks at health centres and their homes across the country.”

Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest insisted that Obama will not be swayed from expressing his views. “I’m confident the President will not hesitate to make it clear that protection of fundamental human rights is also a priority for Kenya, something we hold dear here in the United States of America,” he said

Nzioka has told Mambaonline that he believes that the American president should avoid specifically mentioning LGBT people or issues during the visit, and rather refer to human rights in general to avoid inflaming the already tense situation.

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