By Alex Temblador
Obama will be arriving in Kenya, his ancestral home, today as part of a two-nation tour in Africa, with a trip to Ethiopia to follow. However, his arrival may be met with 5,000 naked Kenyans, a protest against Obama’s support of the LGBT community.
The Republican Liberty Party is very anti-LGBT and will put on a “peaceful protest” in the streets of Nairobi when Obama arrives. Leader of the Republican Liberty Party, Vincent Kidala, said, “Obama should know that gay rights is Western. When in Africa he should value our rights.” To show their disagreement with Obama’s view, the party has supposedly gathered 1,000 prostitutes, and a number of other Kenyans (if the reported number of 5,000 is correct), to march naked. Their intent is for Obama “to see and understand the difference between men and women.”
Kenyan LGBT activist Denis Nzioka claims this protest will not come to fruition: “This is a kneejerk reaction after only 25 showed up at their last homophobic rally…They want to show to the people and to Obama the ‘differences’ between men and women, that a penis enters a vagina. That’s how they think, and that’s how stupid and ridiculous and ignorant this is. The Republican Liberty Party [is] just trying to stay relevant.”
This naked protest is not the only way Kenyan’s have tried to show their distaste for Obama’s support of homosexuality. In the past month, they’ve been using the hashtag #KenyansMessagetoObama to tell Obama not to challenge LGBT rights in Kenya. Some of the messages clearly indicate that many Kenyan’s have little understanding about what it means to be gay.
I guess the only message Kenyans have for Obama is we are not gay!!! We love God!TIA..well according to this hashtag #kenyansmessagetoobama
— Browneyes (@ItsKwambox) July 6, 2015
— mark korir (@krrmark) July 6, 2015
— Escobar (@njogujr) July 6, 2015
Additionally, one of the tweets stated:
“We have pressing matters,things that matter to Kenyans lives. Keep your gay agenda to yourself, Kenya’s want business.” If Kenya wants business and not our “gay agenda,” we have to ask: will America bring business to a country with laws that criminalize homosexuality?
As stated, in Kenya homosexuality is a crime. For instance, George Njeri, a gay Kenyan man will go to court today for being gay. He was arrested in February while talking with another man at a restaurant. The police found the British TV drama series Queer as Folk in his home and then pressured him to name other gay men that he knew. He refused and was subjected to an anal exam and spent five months in jail. Njeri’s story was splayed over the news and they called him a “porn star.” Because of this, his landlord kicked him out and he suffers from harassment in public.
Speaking about his ordeal, Njeri said, “I am so scared. They tell me I could be jailed for 20 to 30 years. I don’t want to lose my life in jail. I didn’t kill anybody, I didn’t go for an underage child, I went for somebody who knows his own mind and wanted to be with me as I wanted to be with him. That’s not supposed to be a disaster. Obama is right: we are humans, we are not animals.”
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta stated that gay rights was not an issue in regards to Obama’s visit.
“That is a non-issue to the people of this country, and it is definitely not on our agenda at all,” Kenyatta said in response to a question about gay rights. We as a country, as a continent, are faced with much more serious issues which we would want to engage the US and all our partners with.”
Still, many are encouraging Obama to speak on these issues, like Eric Gitari, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission: “What Obama should do in public forums is use his African card and heritage to say his understanding is that people like this existed long before the blacks were shipped off to slavery, long before the continent was colonised, long before the religions that divide us. Obama should use his understanding as an African to challenge people to expand their knowledge in these matters.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest announced earlier this month that Obama will not be pressured against speaking on equality. When asked if his visit was determined on him not discussing certain issues, Earnest stated, “Absolutely not.” He also added:
“Obviously, we have been clear that when the president travels around the world, he does not hesitate to raise concerns about human rights. And that’s been true when he’s traveled to places like China; it will be true tomorrow when he meets with the General Secretary of Vietnam. And I’m confident that the president will not hesitate to make clear that the protection of basic universal human rights in Kenya is also a priority and consistent with the values that we hold dear here in the United States of America.”
There is a real need for Obama to speak about the unequal justice that the LGBT community suffers in Africa. In many African countries, homosexuality is a crime, though there has been some small victories in the LGBT rights movement recently in Africa. Mozambique recently decriminalized homosexuality; the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights condemned violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals in May; Uganda’s Supreme Court overturned a law that gives long prison sentences for same-sex relationships; and just this week Ugandan presidential candidate Patrick Amama Mbabazi came out against homophobia. Even in Kenya, a court required a government agency to formally register a gay rights group in April.
Still these small victories does not make up for the overwhelming stories of injustice that many LGBT Africans and Kenyans suffer every day. We hope that this weekend Obama brings up LGBT rights and opens the minds and hearts of many citizens in a country (and a continent). And today we will see if Obama is met with a rally of naked Kenyans, though they shouldn’t worry. We’re pretty sure that Obama knows the difference between men and women. Just like he knows the difference between acceptance, love, and equality from injustice, human rights violations, and hate.
Featured Photo by Zoriah