Vigil to Commemorate Slain Ugandan Activist

Calls for End to Homophobic Religious Hate

For Immediate Release

(New York, February 1, 2011) US religious leaders have a moral responsibility to condemn and combat the murderous spread of homophobic hate in Uganda, said a coalition of over forty human rights organizations announcing a vigil in memory of slain Ugandan human rights activist David Kato. The candlelight vigil will be held at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza and followed by a procession to Uganda House, the Ugandan mission to the United Nations, on February 3 at 4 pm. (Co-sponsors and event details below.)

Kato, a prominent leader of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement in Uganda, was found murdered in his Kampala home on January 26. His photograph had been published in a Ugandan tabloid that called for hanging gay people; he had recently led a successful lawsuit forcing the publication to desist. The groups also voiced concern that homophobia may prevent Ugandan authorities from conducting a full and fair investigation of Kato's murder.

"David Kato was a hero not just to LGBT Ugandans, but to all Ugandans, and to all supporters of human rights," said Frank Mugisha, Kato's colleague in Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an LGBT rights organization in Uganda. "As we mourn him, we must also ensure that his killers are brought to justice and that no LGBT Ugandan ever faces the same deadly violence again."

Kato was a leading opponent of the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" introduced in 2009 by MP David Bahati - proposed legislation that would criminalize any advocacy or support for LGBT people, as well as punish homosexual conduct with the death penalty under certain circumstances. The bill was promoted by US evangelical Christian leaders including Scott Lively, Don Schmierer, and Caleb Lee Brundidge, who met with Ugandan parliamentarians and advocated for increased strictures against homosexuality while preaching in Uganda in early 2009.

"In our grief and anger reacting to David's murder, we draw a line in the sand," said Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). "We will be standing outside the United Nations and Uganda's Mission to demand an end to this unspeakable violence and homophobia in Uganda and around the world."

US evangelical leaders including the influential minister Rick Warren have long taken a close interest in Ugandan affairs and have embraced and supported Ugandan Christian ministers who promote homophobia. Warren himself - who delivered the invocation at President Barack Obama's inauguration - has falsely compared homosexuality to pedophilia.

"David Kato's murder shows that lies have consequences," said Rev. Kapya Kaoma, the director of Public Research Associate's Project on Religion and Sexuality. "Those U.S conservatives who have lit the brushfire of homophobia in Africa now have to face their guilt. They must speak out against the violence that now threatens all gay Ugandans."

An additional vigil mourning David Kato - organized by IGLHRC, AIDS Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), and Gender Dynamix - will be held in Cape Town, South Africa the same day at 5:00 pm local time at 6 Spin Street, Cape Town (opposite Church Square).

"David will be greatly missed and it is going to be extremely difficult to replace his leadership," said Val Kalende, Board Chair of Freedom and Roam Uganda, a lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organization in Uganda. "But we cannot afford to remain silent as the government of Uganda continues to show its unwillingness to protect the fundamental rights of LGBT citizens. There is no better time than this for our government to drop the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and to stop the religious-sponsored homophobia that might have caused David's death and might lead to the loss of many others."

Vigil Details:

WHAT: Candlelight vigil and procession

WHY: To honor slain Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato

WHEN: February 3, 2011, 4:00 pm at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza; 5:00 pm at Uganda House

WHERE: Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the corner of 2nd Avenue and 47th Street, NY, NY.
Uganda House at 336 East 45th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, NY, NY.

WHO: The keynote speech will be delivered by Val Kalende, Board Chair of Freedom and Roam Uganda, an LBT organization in Uganda.

Recently added speakers include:
Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council

Additional speakers include:

  • Cary Alan Johnson (International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission)
  • Reverend Kapya Kaoma (Public Research Associates)
  • Amanda Lugg (African Services Committee)
  • Pastor Joseph Tolton (Global Justice Initiative)
  • Dr. Cheikh Traore
  • Invited guests include United States and New York City government officials.
  • Speaker list in formation.

Over forty organizations are sponsoring this event including:

ACT UP/New York, African Services Committee, American Jewish World Service, Amnesty International, amfAR: The Foundation for AIDS Research, ARC International, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Audre Lorde Project, Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, Center for Women's Global Leadership, Council for Global Equality, FIERCE, Freedom and Roam Uganda, Gay Asian and Pacific Islander Men of New York,, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Global Forum on MSM & HIV, Global Justice Ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches, Health GAP (Global Access Project), House Of Rainbow Fellowship, Human Rights Campaign, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Immigration Equality, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, Make the Road New York – Globe/PRYDE, Metropolitan Community Church of New York, National Black Justice Coalition, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, New York City Anti-Violence Project, None on Record, Open Society Foundations, Political Research Associates, Queer African Youth Networking Center, Queers for Economic Justice, Sexual Minorities Uganda, Stonewall Community Foundation, St. Paul’s Foundation For International Reconciliation, Wapinduzi Productions

Media Contacts:

Jessica Stern
Director of Programs
+1 212-430-6014;

Michael Bochenek
Director of Law and Policy
Amnesty International Secretariat
+44 790 439 8047;

Boris Dittrich
Acting Director – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Program
Human Rights Watch
+ 1 917-535-3863;

Kapya Kaoma
Project Director
Political Research Associates
+1 617-666-5300;

Scott Long
Senior Fellow
Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, Columbia University School of Law
+1 212-854-7487;