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Ugandan gays brave stigma to honour murdered rights leader

in UGANDA, 26/01/2012

Ugandan gay rights activists braved hostility and stigma Thursday as they gathered to commemorate the first anniversary of the murder of their fellow campaigner David Kato.

"We are here to celebrate and thank God for our beloved friend and human rights activist David Kato," former Anglican bishop and gay rights campaigner Christopher Senyonjo told a crowd of around 100 activists and family members.

Kato, former advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was found bludgeoned to death at his home outside Kampala on January 26, 2010.

In November, a Ugandan court sentenced Enoch Nsubuga, 22, to 30 years in jail after he admitted beating Kato to death with a hammer. Nsubuga had claimed he was reacting to to unwanted sexual advances.

Gay rights activists speaking at the event called Kato, 46 at the time of his death, "the godfather" of the Ugandan gay movement and said that his passing had left a large void in the life of the country's gay community.

"He always looked out for all of us even at times when we thought it was too difficult," Frank Mugisha, director of SMUG, said at the function in central Kampala.

Kato's killing drew worldwide condemnation, coming after a newspaper in Kampala had published a picture of him in the same issue as a headline demanding that homosexuals be hanged.

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

"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.

Homophobia is widespread in Uganda and gay men and women in the country face frequent harassment and threats of violence. Homosexuality is punishable by up to life in prison.

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