26TH January 2011 started out like it would be an ordinary day but little did the Ugandan LGBTI movement know it would turn out to be a day smeared with great fear and sadness. One of the leading activists and Uganda’s first openly gay man David Kisule Kato was brutally murdered in his home and the movement was visibly shaken.
Five years later, David’s memory is still one of the pillars that hold the movement together and his work and passion are spoken of in high esteem. This year, Sexual Minorities Uganda, an organization David worked with put together a commemorative service to celebrate the legacy and memory of David Kato.
The service led by Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo, a renowned LGBTI rights supporter was intimate and emotional as friends reminisced about all they had learnt from the deceased. The Bishop focused his sermon on the misuse of scripture to spread hate and homophobia.
“The God I serve is a God of Love, it does not matter if one is straight, gay or otherwise, God still loves us all. In fact people that continue to spread all this hate basing on scripture are missing the point and misinterpreting the word of God to justify their evil deeds,” Bishop Ssenyonjo ,who was excommunicated from the Anglican church for his open association with the LGBTI community remarked.
He also called on all people to stand strong and embrace their truth like David did because there is no greater accomplishment in life than being true to oneself. People that had worked closely with David also shared their most intimate memories of him. Sibo, a South African colleague shared what was David’s driving force. She said that David, time and again, had appeared in different magistrates courts to defend LGBTI persons who had been incarcerated.
“David would walk into a court room and using his human rights defenders card, continue to defend people who could not afford to have any legal representation. He, on various occasions, told me that he knew how dangerous this line of work was but it had to be done lest the policy makers continue to stand by their unjust laws on the basis that LGBTI people were simply a myth,” an emotional Sibo shared.
To make the day even more special, SMUG premiered a documentary titled ‘And Still we Rise’. The seventy minute long movie navigates the lives of the LGBTI movement at the height of the Anti Homosexuality Act, the injustices suffered by gender and sexual minorities at the hands of the law as well as the consequences of being outed by the Ugandan media.
Needless to say, And Still we Rise is one of the few documentaries that capture the struggle of an ordinary Ugandan LGBTI person; it brings to light the unfair use of the law to not only discriminate but also penalize citizens for being who they are.
In his closing remarks, the Executive Director of SMUG Dr Frank Mugisha said the David Kisule Voice and Vision Award would recognize some of the Ugandan activists that have worked tirelessly to better the LGBTI movement in the country for the year 2015.
The award was in 2012 given to Maurice Tomlison, a Jamaican LGBTI rights activist. In 2013, Ali Erol from Turkey received the award and in 2014, it was given to Sou Sotheavy, a transgender activist from Cambodia.
The service ended with attendees lighting candles ; a moment in which it was truly obvious that David’s memory and efforts still lived on!