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Anti-Gay sentiment grows in Kenya
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Anti-Gay sentiment grows in Kenya

LGBT community appeals to government for protection

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The wave of anti-Gay sentiment in Kenya continues to grow.

Mob violence on February 12 occasioned by reports of a same-sex wedding in the town of Mtwapa has lead to house-to-house searches, attacks on Gay men in the street, and the sacking of an AIDS clinic.

Both Human Rights Watch and the LGBT rights organization Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya have called on the Kenyan government to protect its LGBT citizens.

Gay Kenyan activist Denis Nzioka told a Gay City News reporter that conditions are now very dangerous for LGBT Kenyans.

"Ever since the outburst of violence in Mtwapa, Gay people have had to fear for their lives," he said. "Vigilante groups are hunting down Gay men, going door to door, and anyone who is overly flamboyant is attacked in the street." The KEMRI HIV/AIDS clinic, whose employees were assaulted and arrested on February 12, was reportedly damaged by a mob and is now closed.

"Kenya's government should act quickly to protect people accused of homosexual conduct and groups offering HIV/AIDS services from vigilante attacks," Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued February 17.

The organization has sent a letter of protest to the Kenyan government urging them to act against anti-Gay rioters.

Meanwhile, Kenyan activists accused government authorities of failure to respond appropriately to anti-Gay violence. Police reportedly arrested five Gay men who were victims of mob violence, but none of their attackers.

Activists also suggested that reports of a same-sex wedding might have been fabricated as a pretext for attacks on the LGBT community.

GLBT COALITION ISSUES STATEMENT
The statement from GALCK - the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya - says in part:

"The members of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya are appalled at the behavior of the people of Mtwapa, Kilifi, but more especially by that of the provincial administration and the police. The five arrested people committed no crime, and we demand their immediate release.

"We are also concerned that the media in Kenya continues to play a big role in inciting the public to take matters in their own hands. We understand the media especially in Mombasa called upon residents to 'stand against the pollution of culture.' In the supposed Gay wedding publicized in the media, there are glaring inconsistencies that the media should have investigated before broadcasting the news.

"The Action by the Kilifi District Commissioner and the heavy contingent of the police makes one wonder about the government priorities. This is a district drowning in drugs and the large number of drug-addicted youths accompanying the police is proof enough. Yet instead of arresting the drug lords and drug pushers the police chose to arrest five hapless youths engaged in [an] HIV vaccine research project.

"The Gay and Lesbian Coalition members, including the membership from Mombasa, call on the government to give protection to all Kenyans including the sexual minorities, and to prevent State agents and third parties from meting violence on minority populations.

"We therefore call on the government to move with speed to decriminalize homosexuality so that we can begin to educate the society on the evils of discrimination against sexual minorities.

"We urge the media to desist from making inflammatory statements that may put the lives of Gay people at risk.

"We also call upon the religious leaders in Kenya to appreciate that compulsory heterosexuality is not the way to enforce their religion."

The full statement is available on the website GayKenya.com.

BBC News has reported that the five arrestees have been released and warned to leave town by police.

The Mtwapa bar that was rumored to be the venue for the supposed same-sex wedding has been ordered closed by authorities.

Club California was raided by the Kenyan Department of Public Health on February 12, and subsequently served with demands that the owners correct a long list of "public health violations." The bar has not reopened.

"Though it's by no means a Gay club, the owner has not discriminated against Gays who regularly hold events at the club," Gaykenya.com says.

The Kenyan national government may be unable to act against anti-Gay violence, even if its leaders wished to do so. It has been paralyzed by a dispute between Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The two formed an uneasy coalition government after inter-ethnic rioting killed 1300 Kenyans following disputed national elections in 2007.

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