These are fragments of David Kato, glimpses of a Ugandan activist and friend who – one year ago today – was brutally murdered. These moments offer a perspective on the inner world that David shared with us, a world teeming with passion and relentless determination, good humor and vivid daydreams.
During our first days in Kampala, a member of Parliament told us, “there is no longer a debate in Uganda as to whether homosexuality is right or not – it is not.” From what we knew of the pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill – which proposed death for H.I.V.-positive gay men and prison for anyone who failed to turn in a known homosexual – we were tempted to believe him.
But David showed us a different reality. Initially, he played something of a fixer, our main liaison with the L.G.B.T., or “kuchu” community. We soon realized, however, that the man known as the “grandfather of the kuchus” was one of the most outspoken and inspired activists in East Africa. The more time we spent documenting his work, the more evident it became that, contrary to the M.P.’s claim, David and his fellow activists were, in fact, generating real debate in Uganda. Kampala’s kuchus had begun to dismantle the country’s discriminatory status quo, and were working tirelessly to change their fate and that of others across Africa.
Today, as we revisit our memories of David, we remember his fortitude and remarkable legal achievements, boldly guided by his vision of establishing a Ugandan gay village. But perhaps most of all we recall these words, spoken with more logic than defiance: “If we keep on hiding, they will say we are not here.”
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