Ugandan Gay Activist David Kato's Funeral Marred By Angry Scenes
Presiding pastor called on homosexuals to repent or be 'punished by God' at the murdered activist's service
Xan Rice in Nairobi
Friday 28 January 2011 18.16 GMT
Angry scenes marred the funeral of murdered Ugandan gay activist David Kato today when the presiding pastor called on homosexuals to repent or "be punished by God".
Towards the end of an emotional ceremony to mourn Kato, who was bludgeoned to death on Wednesday, Anglican pastor Thomas Musoke launched into a homophobic tirade, shocking the dozens of gay men and women as well as foreign diplomats in attendance.
"The world has gone crazy," Musoke said. "People are turning away from the scriptures. They should turn back, they should abandon what they are doing. You cannot start admiring a fellow man."
Witnesses said that Kato's former colleagues at Sexual Minorities Uganda, where he worked as an advocacy officer, quickly shouted Musoke down.
"We have not come to fight," one woman screamed. "You are not the judge of us. As long as he's gone to God his creator, who are we to judge Kato?"
The microphone was away grabbed from Musoke, and a scuffle ensued. Police were forced to intervene, escorting the pastor away from the funeral.
The incident highlighted the deep, religiously-stoked homophobia that exists in Uganda, and which Kato's friends believe may have caused his death. He was one of few openly homosexual men in the country, and was a regarded as the "grandfather" of the gay community due to his long struggle for equal rights. His death came just three weeks after he won a court victory against a newspaper that had called for him to be hanged.
The murder attracted condemnation from around the world, but received more muted coverage in Uganda.
The funeral was held near Kato's ancestral home of Namataba, outside Kampala, and was attended by about 300 people, including family, friends, and members of the local community. A busload of gay activists arrived from the capital wearing T-shirts featuring Kato's face, or rainbows or the slogan "The struggle continues".
Three tents had been erected in a clearing, and Kato's body was displayed in open white coffin. A large crucifix lay on top. Kato's colleagues later covered it with a large rainbow flag.
A human rights activist who attended the ceremony said that Kato's mother and some of his closest friends struggled to contain their emotions as various speakers, including Kato's twin brother, paid tribute to his life and work.
A statement from US president Barack Obama praising Kato as a "powerful advocate for fairness and freedom" was read out. In her address, Sylvia Tamale, dean of the law school at Makerere University and a prominent critic of the harsh anti-homosexuality bill currently before parliament, called on the government to speak out against injustice in the country.
Following the pastor's departure, Kato's friends completed the burial, before quickly returning to Kampala due to threats from some local villagers.
While the investigation into the killing continues, the government continues to insist that it was a normal crime unconnected to his work or sexuality. In a statement, the Ugandan Media Centre said that "investigations point to aggravated robbery as the reason for murder". It said the main suspect, a man who allegedly lived with and worked for Kato, was still at large.
But Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the government should not be publicising any conclusions so quickly. "The police need to do their job properly, and it not helpful to say this was simply a robbery before the investigation is completed."