By Melanie Nathan, July 7, 2015.
Kenyan anti-gay protesters took to the streets in Nairobi Monday, warning US President Barack Obama not to speak about gay rights when he visits Kenya, “the country of his ancestors,” later this month. (As the Ugandan Monitor put it!)
The march today, was organized by the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, a coalition of several churches.
The demonstration drew around 100 people, wearing T-shirts and waving posters with the slogan “Protect The Family”. The Rally was started off by Bishop Mark Kariuki and Kiharu MP Irungu Kingata among other MPs are said to have participated.
“We do not want Obama and Obama, we do not want Michelle and Michelle,” they chanted. “We want Obama and Michelle and we want a child!”
“It is important for us as Kenyans to know that the US is not God, and thus we cannot follow them blindly,” said protest organizer and evangelical Christian pastor Bishop Mark Kariuki.
Kariuki said Obama was welcome to visit “his father’s home” but should not “talk about the gay issue.”
Homophobia is prevalent in many African countries and gay sex remains illegal in several nations, including Kenya where it was outlawed under British colonial legislation.
There has been a rise of intolerance in Kenya, including attacks gays and cases of so called “corrective rape” against lesbians. Many Ugandan LGBTI refugees, fleeing the anti-gay climate in Uganda, are in Nairobi at this time seeking resettlement by the UNHCR. These refugees are seriously concerned for their safety as they are fear easy recognition as being gay from Uganda
This march also comes on the heels of Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto, who is on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague accused of crimes against humanity, telling congregants at a church service that homosexuality was “against the plan” of God.
And what a divergence from the real issues at hand – not surprising from the dusty playbook of religious right and politicians. And that is how homosexuality gets played. The religious right from the West has been fervently inciting anti-gay sentiment at Church services and meetings, while politicians will gladly play the game, to avoid being the focus of the real issues plaguing the country.
“We have heard that in the US they have allowed gay relations and other dirty things,” Ruto said, according to the Daily Nation newspaper. ( See what I mean?)
“I want to say as a Christian leader that we will defend our country Kenya, we will stand for our faith and our country.” (uhuh – translated as “look in the other direction …I am not the criminal the gays are….”)
Ruto made similar comments in May when US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kenya.
The way the Kenyan Press sees it:
“US President Barack Obama’s imminent visit seems to cause jitters among political and religious leaders opposed to same sex marriage.
The leaders, among them Deputy President William Ruto, Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau among others have spoken of the country’s apparent stand against same sex marriage as they warned of resistance to push for the legalization of homosexuality in the country.
So dire is the issue that some religious leaders and a section of members of parliament are holding a protest against homosexuality on Monday.”
The way I see it:
President Obama’s visit is being used to rile up anti-gay sentiment as a means of diverting attention and gaining popularity for local politicians through the churches. The timing is the perfect storm as the US President mere weeks ago praised the US Supreme Court for ruling in favor of same-sex marriage for all the United States of America. And people who have had the fear of God drummed into them at the Churches will gladly provoke the backlash that US marriage equality has delivered to the anti-gay countries of the world.
ON a similar note – Manyatta MP John Muchiri cautioned President Obama against advocating for same sex marriage while in Kenya saying the US President should respect the Kenyan culture.
In what seemed to be an interesting twist, the State House through its spokesman Manoah Esipisu termed the debate a non-issue saying Kenya respects freedom of speech. “As Kenyans we believe in Freedom of speech. We cannot tell Obama what he can or cannot say during his visit to Kenya,” he said.
President Obama is among few world leaders who have been vocal about same sex marriage.
Obama’s visit later this month will be his fourth to Africa since becoming US president, but his first to Kenya since taking office in 2009. It is my sincere hope that President Obama will indeed not talk about marriage equality for LGBT people or even gay rights. It would be better for this context of Kenya, that he rather speak of respect and dignity for all human beings to include human rights for all, such as the decriminalization of sexuality. That would be a meaningful and killer start!
Marchers can be seen here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5qLNyjnDKA