In memoriam: Georges Kanuma, friend and LGBT activist

Published: April 28, 2010

In memoriam: Georges Kanuma, friend and LGBT activist

Georges Kanuma, the Burundi LGBT activist and beloved friend to many, died April 14 at age 36 after a bout with malaria followed by kidney failure.

Georges was Burundi’s premier and out gay activist. He founded the Association for the Respect of the Rights of Homosexuals ( ARDHO ) , the only LGBT advocacy group in Burundi, and worked to provide resources and support for HIV and AIDS patients. I first met Georges last year, almost exactly a year ago, at a workshop I was presenting to a small group of international LGBT activists. We tend to render our dead in saccharine terms, but it is no exaggeration to write that he struck me as one of the sweetest and kindest people I have ever met. I warmed to him instantly, feeling both protective and protected in his presence. Without engaging in the flamboyance and bombast adopted by so many gay leaders, he simply went about his work quietly and effectively. My first inkling of his strength under pressure came when I saw him hastily leaving a session at a Heartland Alliance conference a few weeks later. When I cheerily asked him where he was going, he responded that a law against homosexuality had just been passed in Burundi and that he needed to take action immediately. I only found out the enormity of that law and Georges’ work around it much later.

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