Kenyan president: Gay rights will take time in Africa


President Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta says that while gay people should not have to face violence it will take time for most Africans to accept LGBT rights.

Kenyatta addressed the contentious issue in an interview on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS programme.

When asked by Zakaria why the country persecutes “people for something that they have ultimately no control over,” Kenyatta replied that, “the majority in our society do not wish to legalise this issue of gay rights.”

He said that, as he told President Obama during the American leader’s July visit, “this is not an issue that [most Kenyans] are going to put at the centre. They have more pressing issues.”

Kenyatta insisted that, despite this, he “will not allow people to persecute any individuals… Or just to beat them, or to you know torture them.”

He was pressed that gays and lesbians are in fact persecuted in Kenya because same-sex sexuality is illegal.

Kenyatta responded: “What I am saying is witch hunts. You know we won’t allow people to take the law into their own hands and harass. Every individual has a right to be protected by the law and that’s stated in our [2010] constitution.

“But what we are saying is that as a society we do not accept some of these values. And this is where I am saying we have to get synergies. You’re not going to create the United States or Great Britain or the Netherlands in Kenya, or in Nigeria or Senegal overnight.”

“We have to understand that these are processes and they take time,” added the president.

Gay sex is illegal in Kenya, with penalties of between five to 14 years’ imprisonment. The constitutionality of this ban has yet to be challenged in court.

Earlier this month, a report documented a series of mob attacks against LGBT people in Kenya’s coastal region. Human rights groups claim that the authorities’ response to the attacks and other forms of anti-gay violence “has been limited.”

In several cases, LGBT people who did attempt to file complaints met with discriminatory treatment by the police, who mocked or harassed them or refused to take statements, said the groups.

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