About 100 Ugandan gay rights activists and mourners gathered Jan. 26 to commemorate the first anniversary of the murder of David Kato.
Kato, former advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was found bludgeoned to death at his home outside Kampala on Jan. 26, 2011. The local police initially put the motive down to robbery. But in November, a Ugandan court sentenced 22-year-old Enoch Nsubuga to 30 years in jail after he admitted killing Kato. Nsubuga alleged he was reacting to sexual advances.
Kato had received several death threats since October 2010 when his photo had appeared on the front page of a newspaper alongside that of former Ugandan Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo under a banner reading “Hang Them.” Both men have been outspoken advocates for human rights in Uganda, where current laws on homosexuality carry sentences of up to life imprisonment.
“We are here to celebrate and thank God for our beloved friend and human rights activist David Kato,” Senyonjo said during the gathering, according to reports.
Kato’s family members at the event spoke of the support that they had received from campaigners both in Uganda and the international community following his death, according to a news report from AFP.
“It is not easy when a loved one dies but thanks to all the friends inside and outside Uganda who worked with David … when I get down they lift me up and help me,” said Nalongo Kisule, Kato’s mother, according to the report.
Kato’s death came in the midst of international condemnation towards a bill that had been proposed in the Ugandan Parliament calling for broadening the criminalization of homosexuality and introducing the death penalty in certain cases.
The bill, which had been temporarily withdrawn due to public pressure, was reintroduced in October 2011 and parliamnetary debate re-opened.
Talking at the memorial event, international gay rights supporters pledged to help defeat the proposed legislation, the AFP reports.
An ENS video report highlighting Senyonjo’s ministry follows. The report, produced in March 2011, features a visit to Kato’s grave and his mother’s home.