This week we are marking 20 years since the Rwanda genocide. Twenty years seems like a long time but to the survivors it seems like yesterday. The effects of this tragedy will last forever. Our prayers go to all the victims.
We pay tribute to all those who played a part in stopping the genocide from claiming more lives, we also call upon all the perpetrators of this catastrophic hate crime to be brought to justice.
Losing a million people to hate is something the world should be ashamed of and every nation should dedicate its energy and attention to ensuring it is not repeated.
While addressing the crowd in the Amahoro Stadium in Rwanda in commemoration of the 20th anniversary, President Paul Kagame said no genocides take place other than from a deliberate genocide ideology:
‘All genocides begin with an ideology, a system of ideas that says this group of people here are less than human and deserve to be exterminated.’
He also went on to cast blame on the French, Catholic missionaries and Belgium officials responsible for fermenting the ideology in Rwanda that resulted in the slaughter of a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.
Among the dignitaries attending was the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, a country that shares a border with Rwanda.
The words of the leader of the Republic Rwanda are a lesson for other African leaders to stop their gay hate ideology that is likely to cause future extermination of LGBTI people in Africa and work towards equality and justice for LGBTI people in Africa.
Today in Africa there is a growing ideology aimed at exterminating LGBTI people.
Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh described gay people as ‘vermin’ and warned the government will tackle them in a similar way to malaria-causing mosquitoes. Jammeh has before warned gay people to vacate his country before he cuts off their heads. He also called gay people the biggest threat to human existence –extreme words but the same sentiments expressed by the previous pope.
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, while celebrating his 90th birthday, claimed that ‘filthy gays destroy nations’, he also threatened to cut gay people’s heads off, castrate them and compared them to ‘pigs and dogs’.
The continent has seen anti-gay laws coming into place calling for tougher sentences for homosexuality. Death sentences exist in some parts of Nigeria.
The gay hate ideology in Africa is backed with propaganda claiming LGBTI people are social deviants and western cultures are using gay rights to destroy African families.
The growing gay hate in Africa has been attributed to the colonial era laws and the influence of religion, both at that time and subsequently through the fundamentalist evangelical, apostolic churches from America and extreme Islamic preachers.
Former US President Bill Clinton has on many occasions called the Rwanda genocide his greatest regret. The American government can do a lot in stopping the gay hate preachers from exporting the gay hate ideology to Africa before the continent starts to coordinate its renewed attack to LGBTI people.
Since the new anti-gay law was signed in Nigeria we have seen attacks by the public and the police on the country’s LGBTI citizens. Some have fled the country to seek refuge.
In Uganda the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act was claimed by President Museveni to be a way of protecting the Ugandans against a group of people that was less human. Religious leaders have organized two marches in the country to thank the president for signing the act.
For the first time in the history of Uganda, a bill was signed on live television followed by interviews by the president in which he gave his anti-gay personal views.
The president used this opportunity to continue to plant his ideology of gay hate in Uganda. Just a day after the law was signed, tabloids in Uganda started to Out gay people. A good number of LGBTI people are fleeing the country for their safety.
The police have also closed a clinic aimed at preventing HIV in Uganda, under the guise of preventing ‘recruitment and training of youth’ into homosexuality.
At a recent march in Uganda, organizers assembled young people from a whole range of schools, from nurseries to universities, to show their gay hate. Many of the youngsters would still not understand the issues, let alone have an opinion on them, but that didn’t stop the perpetrators of the gay hate ideology taking advantage of their innocence.
The long term damage this is doing to the future of LGBTI people in Uganda can not be underestimated.
In many parts of Africa, religious leaders are still highly respected, sometimes really viewed as representatives of God on earth. Therefore their anti-gay views, held for whatever personal reasons, are a powerful too in spreading gay hate ideology.
We have seen arrests and parading of gay people in Uganda. The gay hate ideology has claimed lives in Africa, for example the late David Kato Eric Lembembe. Others have committed suicide due to the persecution they face. Many are refugees and others living under fear for their lives.
The new law is currently being challenged in the Ugandan courts, but the fight against it will certainly be long and hard.
And other Ugandan neighboring countries are starting to rejuvenate their gay hate ideology. In Kenya they have formed a caucus to combat homosexuality at the same time as plan to introduce a motion in parliament compelling authorities to more strongly enforce the anti-homosexuality laws.
In Ethiopia lawmakers are set to pass a bill that puts homosexuality on a list of offenses considered ‘non-pardonable’ under the country’s amnesty law.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the few African countries that doesn’t already criminalize homosexuality, Steve Mbikayi, an MP with the Parti Travailliste Congolais (PTC), introduced a draft bill to the Congolese National Assembly to explicitly criminalize homosexuality.
In South Africa LGBTI people have been blamed for depopulating the country. It is widely spread across Africa that gay people are spreading HIV, therefore some people are made to believe that in order to fight HIV they have to fight gay people first.
In the short run gay people face only isolated murders rather than mass extermination. But the continued spread of the gay hate ideology in Africa puts the continent on a dangerous path to mass killings – an LGBTI genocide.
An ideology grows and spreads gradually; it is planted deep in people’s hearts. The harm is clear. And these laws, marches calling for no gays in Uganda, anti-gay speeches by presidents and other opinion leaders in the long run can be used by the anti-gay vigilantes to wipe out LGBTI people in Africa. In the short term too, it is well known that mob justice is rife in Africa, especially on people perceived as law-breakers.
The world cannot afford to ignore this growing ideology. From Rwanda, to Bosnia to Nazi Germany, the lessons from history are hauntingly clear – the time to act is now.
Edwin Sesange is a Ugandan and leads the Africa LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group.