US diplomats’ first gay pride in Kenya sparks praise and boycott

Kenyan LGBT activists divided about plans for LGBT pride event at US embassy on 26 June

US diplomats’ first gay pride in Kenya sparks praise and boycott
21 June 2012

Kenya is to have a gay pride for the first time but it’s not being organized by local LGBT people – instead it’s being put on by the US embassy.

American officials have invited local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists and dignitaries to the event on 26 June at their embassy in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

But some gay campaigners on the ground have spoken out against it, warning they may face a backlash from the Kenyan public and threatening a boycott.

Wanja Muguongo, executive director of UHAI, the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative, told Gay Star News: ‘I can not say how it will be because the future will determine that.

‘When it comes to Kenya, [prides] have not been done in the past for very many reasons. So for the American embassy to go out to do it is not good and can be really damaging.

‘Any kind of activism can hurt. It can be dangerous. But the danger must be something that is decided upon by that community and that is what I have a problem with in this case.’

LGBT activists discussion groups in Kenya and worldwide have been buzzing with debate about the event with some even calling for a boycott and accusing the US of cultural imperialism.

But others see it as an opportunity to advance the cause of LGBT rights in a completely safe environment.

Denis Nzioka, editor of the LGBT Identity Magazine, based in Nairobi told GSN that he would be attending the invite-only event.

‘The fact that the US embassy has taken the initiative to invite me and other LGBTQI people shows they are reaching out and I am going to the event to show support ant to show solidarity for them.’

He believes it will be a great opportunity for interaction between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Kenyans, with organizations from all over the country invited to send representatives, and other guests including international partners, funders, diplomats and other allies.

And Nzioka also wants to attend for personal reasons.

‘I am very excited this is going to be my first pride event and honey I am not going to miss that chance,’ he said.

‘There is going to be security and safety as opposed to me going down the street with my banner and exposing this to people who would not understand and I am going to get to share it with other LGBT and queer people.

‘Of course the media is going to be there but this is happening in the embassy and I am assuming all the media houses that are represented will be verified and checked and briefed.

‘My advice to the people who are going to be there who do not want to be seen in the media is just to ask for their picture not to be taken.

‘Chances are they will allow [LGBT organization] representatives to come and say a few words to the crowd and that is an opportunity for us.’

And he had a few words for those who had criticized the embassy’s actions.

Nzioka said: ‘The community has always said the US embassy is not reaching out to us. They have been accused of being silent and now when they are actually doing something they are complaining instead of congratulating them.’

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