Locals attacked an HIV-prevention training meeting in Mombasa, Kenya yesterday (23 February), hitting out at the LGBTI attendees.
The victims were at a meeting at the Likoni Youth Empowerment Centre and Library in Kenya’s second biggest city when the mob started causing trouble.
The meeting was run by Kenya AIDS NGO Consortium (KANCO) as part of an ongoing project, which has been running for several years, to engage with men who have sex with men and LGBTI people to help reduce HIV prevention.
Participants at the meeting were also being told how to access treatment and support if they do become infected with HIV.
However a pre-organised group of Likoni residents, who had apparently alerted the media to their planned action, barged in to the event accusing the participants of ‘promoting homosexuality in the community’.
It is believed that in the tightly-knit community, word had spread about someone attending the meeting, which tipped off the mob.
The victims fled, some over the rooftops, but several had their clothes torn and were hit in the scuffles leaving them cut, bruised and, in one case, with a broken finger. KANCO told Gay Star News there were no more serious injuries.
Alan Ragi, executive director for KANCO, explained the incident was more surprising as they had been running workshops like this around Kenya for several years.
Although homosexuality is illegal in the country he told GSN: ‘Generally there has been a lot of support for our work both from the government and the community.’
He said that, despite the incident, they are pressing ahead with their education program, including holding a meeting today. They have, however, emphasized the need for participants to keep the details confidential and have moved to more secret locations.
‘We are still going on. It is the right thing to do,’ he said. ‘They [the local community] need to have more tolerance for LGBTI people. If they don’t learn about this, then some person will have sexual relationships with a woman and the virus will be spread.
‘You have to control it. The community should appreciate more that what we are doing is helping them to cut down on HIV infection.’
Some activists remain concerned that at least one participant was caught on camera, near their home, by the media, effectively outing them.