About 1,000 people gathered outside a town hall in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today and set fires in the street to protest against the LGBTI community.
People protested outside the Bukavu town hall in eastern DRC from early in the morning. About 50 police stood at the entrance to stop the protesters getting in to the building.
Some protesters sat in the middle of the road, while one man shouted anti-LGBTI rhetoric into a megaphone. Behind him other protesters started a fire in the street.
‘Go into their homes, burn them down,’ the man said before eventually appealing for calm in the streets.
A wave of posters that started appearing around Bukavu sparked the protest. A local church erected the posters which call for the criminalization of homosexuality, abortion, being transgender and drug use.
Fleeing in fear
‘We are very scared, LGBTI people are running away from Bukavu,’ said local LGBTI advocate Kashindi Shabani Gady.
‘They dragged old car tires into the street, poured oil over them and put them on fire.’
Gady used to volunteer at the only LGBTI organization in the DRC, which is called Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko. He told Gay Star News the anti-LGBTI rhetoric is lead by influential pastor, Daniel Chibo Rehema.
‘He has a radio program where he tells people that LGBTI people should be kicked out of the country,’ Gady said.
‘People listen to the pastors because they are treated like Gods here, they have a lot of power.’
Chibo’s homophobia escalated in recent days with the erection of the posters. He is also lobbying the government to ban LGBTI people from entering the main market in Bukavu.
Being LGBTI is not illegal in DRC. The government tried to criminalize homosexuality in 2016 but failed. But that doesn’t stop the community from facing extreme levels of persecution and discrimination.
LGBTI people often live together to not only save money but because it is often unsafe for them to remain at home or even venture out into the streets to find work, go shopping or get and education.
Gady told GSN last year the decades of war has left people in the DRC scarred and intolerant of minority groups.
‘People are suffering from that (war) and they suffer from the taboo of being LGBTI,’ he said in October.
Kady fled today’s protest to find safety, but planned to return when the situation had calmed down.
‘The people are told to go and find LGBTI people, to brand them and kick them out of the country,’ he said.
In the meantime, Kady was working to provide shelter and support to LGBTI people in Bukavu who are worried about the rising anti-LGBTI sentiment.
Gay Star News reached out to Bishop Daniel Chibo Rehema for comment.