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Africa’s LGBTI history: From randy kings to gay sex as medicine

Africa’s LGBTI history: From randy kings to gay sex as medicine

Homosexuality has never been alien to Africa. It was here long before the white men went there and even before colonialism took place.

Research by renowned historians, gays organizations and a report just released by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) prove it is not true homosexuality was imported from the western countries because it already existed there long before the scramble and partition of Africa.

‘It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that homosexuality was existing for a long time in Africa before the colonial masters came here,’ said Kenyan history tutor, Thomas Oundo.

In Uganda where the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill is about to be assented to by the country’s president amidst international outcry, most people wrongly believe homosexuality is not only being promoted by western countries and the USA, but was also introduced in the country by whites, which is completely untrue.

Among the most prominent homosexual personality was the king of the then most organized kingdom in east Africa, King Mwanga II of Buganda Kingdom, whose borders fall within modern day Uganda.

King Mwanga II, who reigned from 1884 to 1888, was widely reported to have engaged in sexual relations with his male subjects. Notably, Uganda didn’t become a protectorate of Britain until 1894.

Researcher Ambrose Mukasa said: ‘It is documented that King Mwanga II had many young men in his palace and was sodomizing them at his will.

‘When missionaries introduced Christianity and some of the young men were baptized and taught about the dangers of homosexuality, they started denying Mwanga the usual “pleasure” he used to get from them.’

Mwanga reportedly became annoyed and went wild wondering how mere pages had started disobeying him. He clashed with the missionaries. He instructed the killing of all the young men who disobeyed him – with the executions taking place between 1885 and 1887. And the murdered young men were considered martyrs because they resolved to die for their new religion rather than surrendering their bodies to the king.

The word Bbaffe in Buganda kingdom means ‘our husband’. All subjects in Buganda under Mwanga, including men, were instructed to refer to king Mwaga as Bbaffe because to him, men were also his wives.

‘Even men referred to king Mwanga II as Bbaffe which means that he was free to sodomize any man he wanted after all he was the husband for all men and women,’ said an elder in Buganda, Siomon Mugere.

SMUG even quotes Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni acknowledging there were incidences of homosexuality in African tradition. In its report it says Museveni noted that ‘In our society, there were a few homosexuals. There was no persecution, no killings and no marginalization of those people.’

And that’s not the only proof of homosexuality in pre-colonial Africa. A Jesuit working in Southern Africa in 1606 described finding ‘chibiadi’ which are men attired like women, who behave themselves in a ‘womanly’ way and are ashamed to be called men.

And in the early 17th century, in present day Angola, Portuguese priests Gaspar Azevereduc and Antonius Sequerius encountered ‘chibados’, men who spoke, sat and dressed like women and who entered into marriage with men. Such marriages were not only reportedly honored but also prized.

According to Ejakayit Emorot, a 90-year-old elder in the Teso community of Kenya, same sex relations historically existed amongst men who behaved as and were socially accepted as women.

And in pre-colonial Benin, homosexuality was apparently seen a phase boys passed through and grew out of.

Among the Bantu speaking Pouhain farmers in present day Gabon and Cameroon, homosexual intercourse was known as ‘bian nkuma’. It was actually considered a medicine for wealth which was transmitted through sexual activity between men.

Those examples, and many others exist in many other African communities, give concrete evidence homosexuality long existed in Africa before the colonialists arrived.

The idea it is ‘un-African’ simply isn’t born out by the evidence.

But what is clear, is this: in many African countries where homosexuality is today criminalized, the laws were introduced by the British.