In this chilling excerpt from a longer article, the Rev. Canon Kapya Kaoma, a human rights researcher and Anglican priest from Zambia, discusses the reasons for diatribes against LGBT people by African leaders such as Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Gambian President Yahya Jammeh.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe: Gay people are “worse than pigs and dogs.”
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh: ” “We will fight these vermins [sic] called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes.”
African Politicians’ Biggest Scapegoat
By the REV. CANON KAPYA KAOMA
… Many people ask why these leaders and presidents are making such horrific statements about their own LGBTQ/I populations when many African sexual minorities are already living in hiding and fear for their lives. What needs to be understood is that these words are almost always used in the context of attacking the West or Western culture. By adopting the claim that homosexuality is foreign to Africa and only exists because of the West, their denouncement of homosexuality is seen as fighting back against historic neo-colonialism or imperialism—which, in turn, gains broad praise from their constituents.
It is true that Western nations have not always acted in the interest of Africa (to put it mildly), but to use the West as an excuse to persecute and imprison innocent persons is appalling. Politicians like Mugabe and Jammeh, who have robbed their respective nations of billions of dollars, are also responsible for their countries’ dire economic states. These African leaders condemn the West and scapegoat gays to distract from real issues facing their nations and to hide their own incompetence, corruption, and despotism.
But this raises another question:
- Do we, as Africans, have moral standards for our own speech to which we hold ourselves accountable?
- Are we so blinded by hate for gays that we don’t see their humanity?
- Even those who may not agree that LGBTQ/I persons should have full equality under the law should, at the very least, all agree that it is immoral for the head of State to rob citizens of their humanity?
- Is it not immoral that our religious leaders sit back in silence as politicians compare our fellow human beings to dogs, vermin, leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis?
It is ironic that both Mugabe and Jammeh spoke their words during their countries’ independence celebrations, which recognized that they were once considered less than fully human by colonial governments. These leaders have forgotten that it is not long ago that it was we who were dehumanized—a time when murdering an African was viewed as lesser evil.
Do none of my fellow countrymen see anything wrong with using the same words against our own people?
As Africans, we need no reminder that the first step on the path towards genocide is to erase your opponents’ humanity. In Rwanda, the Tutsi were dehumanized as cockroaches—helping thereby to justify their slaughter. Another historical parallel can be made to the Jews (and the gays) in Nazi Germany when their lives were reduced to reviled caricatures.
Of course, the ultimate irony of this sad tale is that it is not LGBTQ people who are foreign to Africa, but rather the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that is being used against them. Jammeh’s and Mugabe’s words were so heavily influenced by U.S.-based conservatives—people like Sharon Slater, Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren, and U.S.-based organizations like the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). They are all among hundreds of other U.S. culture warriors, who deny that LGBTQ rights are human rights, and work to spread their beliefs in Africa where there are already few legal, religious, or police protections for African sexual minorities.
It is time for all nations of the world, alongside religious leaders, churches, and organizations, to defend the humanity of sexual minorities on the African continent. LGBTQ individuals are human beings with human rights to be protected and defended, and to sanction their destruction is a crime against humanity. The global community must openly demand human rights for all humans regardless of their sexual orientation.
If we do not, then leaders like Presidents Jammeh and Mugabe will continue to use American conservatives’ words to incite the slaughter of their own citizens. Africa has entered a phase in which the genocide against sexual minorities is in sight.
For more information, read the full Political Research Associates commentary: “LGBTQ Rights – African Politicians’ Biggest Scapegoat.”
About the author:
The Rev. Canon Dr. Kapya John Kaoma, the religion and sexuality researcher for Political Research Associates in Massachusetts, is an ordained Anglican with a particular interest in human rights, ecological ethics, and mission. After traveling to Uganda, Rev. Dr. Kaoma produced a 2009 PRA report entitled “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia” that prompted invitations to testify before the United States Congress and the United Nations. In 2012, he followed up this research into the U.S. Christian Right’s exportation of homophobia with another report, “Colonizing African Values,” and he appears as an expert voice in the 2013 documentary “God Loves Uganda.” His new book, American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism, is scheduled for publication this month, in conjunction with a May 19 showing of “God Loves Uganda” on PBS.
Kaoma is currently the rector of Christ Church, Hyde Park, Mass., and a visiting researcher at Boston University Center for Global Christianity and Mission. He received his doctorate in Ethics from Boston University. From 1998 to 2001, he served as dean of St. John’s Cathedral in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and lecturer at Africa University, where he coauthored a text in ethics, Unity in Diversity. From 2001 to 2002, he was academic dean of St. John’s Anglican Seminary in Kitwe, Zambia, where he launched its women’s studies and church school training programs.