Monday, July 17, 2023

Lynching the suspected Kuchu in Africa, How real is the risk?


This is a post that I should have written long ago. But I am reluctant to do it. Because I am an African, a Ugandan, and I am a kuchu living in Uganda.
It is true. I as a kuchu in Uganda, and in Africa, I can be killed, by a mob of enraged Ugandans and Africans, if and because I am suspected to be kuchu.

There. I have written the cursed words.

Why the reluctance?
I am a human being. I am conflicted, knowing the potential for fatal violence of my lived reality, even as I block it out. Of course I block it. I am a human being, and that is how we treat unpleasant realities. Denial.
It works. But it also means that I am reluctant to pen an article that will strip away my blinders, make me look at the nakedness of danger I flaunt every single day.

Yeah, I am at risk of being killed by a mob of people who come to know and suspect that I am kuchu. An LGBTQ individual.
Plain fact.

So, why write the post now?

Started with a twitter post. Someone was killed in Kakuma refugee settlement in Kenya.
Kakuma is known amongst kuchus in Uganda. If you dare take the risk of getting out of Uganda, seeking asylum on the strength of persecution for our sexuality,  that is where you will end up. But, it is also a violent place. One report quotes:


“the "extreme discrimination and violence" faced by "several hundred" LGBTQ+ people living in the camp, which hosts 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers in north western Kenya.
They find themselves victims of "hate crimes, acts of violence, including rape, and other serious human rights abuses",”


One might argue that those are special circumstances. Displaced people in a camp. I am a kuchu living in my community, in my village and hood, so to say. Am I at risk?
Unfortunately the answer is yes.

Violence targeted at people’s perceived sexuality is a world wide phenomenon. Widespread and quite severe, in South Africa, and Brazil. In much of Africa, it is the vigilante attack by a mob of mobilized citizenry that is the danger hanging over our coming out.
Here is a reminder and note from the recent debate of an anti-homosexuality bill in the Parliament of Ghana (July 2023). The person quoted was on a television broadcast.


“"I don't accept that when someone is caught in the act, they should be beaten to death. No! We are against their acts but it doesn't mean they are not humans," he said”

Dr. Benjamin Otchere Ankrah has sounded caution to Ghanaians not to inflict bodily harm on any person suspected of or caught in the act of homosexuality. According to him, though he strongly supports the anti-gay bill before Parliament, he however cautions the citizenry not to take matters into their own hands.”


That is a very real possibility for an Kuchu in Africa to consider. And be aware. And move circumspectly.
(Never mind the condescension in that opinion. Benjamin Otchere Ankrah above doesn’t want us kuchus ‘bodily harmed’, but strongly supports the bill. Parse the difference…, he is a very upright and moral human being, whose love for sinners like us is..!)

The updated US travel advisory alluded to the risk of vigilante violance.
Thing is, however incensed Ugandans might feel that the US gave the advisory in revenge for them passing the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, the concerns of the US state department are specific and pretty spot on. The updated travel advisory states:


“LGBTQI+ persons, and those perceived to be LGBTQI+, … could face harassment or attacks by vigilantes.””


Remember the lesbian couple in Jinja, arrested in March 2023 and in prison over the Easter period? A mob of parents in fear of the contagion of homosexuality went to the school where one of them was teaching. They would have lynched her, if she wasn’t in custody at that particular point.

True, the judge in her case then denied her bail for some time, reasoning to protect her from her community… I think that was bullshit. The judge just wanted the ‘suspected homosexuals’ in jail…, even without being convicted. And indeed, they both got bail.
We are kuchus. We know how to negotiate our safety. We have several years’ practical experience doing exactly that. Not perfectly, but believe me, we would rather risk death by mob outside prison than the mercies of the state’s guests, thank you very much.

A more typical example was this report in another part of the country; Kamuli, Uganda. The report of the article was 13th March 2023


“Rogers Wabuya and Derrick Wamwangu, both residents of Bukiabi sub-county were rounded up by residents from a lodge in Bumbo town council on Saturday.

Fred Timbwa, an eyewitness, says that residents stormed the guest house following a tip-off from one of the workers. Mathew Nabiswa, a paternal uncle to Wamwangu, says that the residents stormed the guest house armed with machetes, axes, stones, bricks, and sticks to lynch the duo but were saved by the Bumbo town council LC III chairperson, Joseph Kamuli.”


Take good note of those few very relevant details. A couple went to a hotel, presumably seeking some privacy to have sex. Consensual sex. A worker at the hotel noted them. The worker then went out of their way to tip off others. A mob mobilised. They stormed the ‘guest house’, armed with ‘machetes, axes, stones, bricks and sticks’
From the eye witness account, it was luck that there was a noted leader who prevented a mob killing at that particular moment in time. Most likely they were beaten.

Sadly, that is the reality of what can happen to any of us kuchus in Africa. It was the same scenario that that commentator in Ghana was thinking about in the quote above.

Two countries, miles and miles apart; one in East Africa, the other in West Africa. And the same kind of ‘spontaneous violence’ to lynch the suspected homosexual is a risk that is understood as part of what is possible.

Why is this so? Why would this be so?



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