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Prominent Kenyan activist brutally murdered, body stuffed in metal box

Freelance photojournalist arrested in connection with Edwin Chiloba’s death

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Edwin Chiloba (Photo courtesy of Edwin Chiloba's Instagram page)

Kenyan police have arrested a freelance photojournalist believed to have been involved in the brutal murder of Edwin Chiloba, a prominent LGBTQ and intersex activist and fashion designer.

Zacchaeus Ngeno, a regional deputy police commander in Uasin Gishu County in western Kenya where Chiloba’s murder took place, confirmed to the press that investigators are pursuing two other suspects who are on the run. 

The unnamed freelance photojournalist who has not been publicly named because the investigation continues was last seen with Chiloba on New Year’s Eve at a popular nightclub in the region where the victim lived.   

The suspect in custody is expected to be arraigned early next week.

Chiloba arrived at Tamasha Place nightclub at around 10 p.m. on Dec. 31 and left after 1 a.m. after watching the New Year’s fireworks with friends, according to Melvin Faith, the deceased’s sister who works there and happily ushered in 2023 together.  

Faith noted her family was later worried about Chiloba’s indefinite unavailability on his cell phone and in his rental house where he lived alone until the shocking discovery of his body on Wednesday inside a metal box that had been dumped on a rural street. A commuter on a motorbike first discovered it. 

Chibola, in addition to being an LGBTQ and intersex activist and a model, and was finishing his undergraduate studies at a local university. Chibola was widely covered in local newspaper for his outstanding fashion designs as one of the country’s young emerging entrepreneurs. 

The arrest and heightened pursuit of the two suspects comes amid pressure from the LGBTQ and intersex community, and local and international rights groups on Kenyan authorities to swiftly investigate and prosecute those who killed Chiloba.

Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director Davis Malombe in a press statement described the murder a “disgusting act of homophobic violence.” He added it violates the Constitution; which grants the right to life, dignity, and freedom of expression for all regardless of gender, sex and any other status.

“The killing is reprehensible and unjust. We demand the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to take swift and due action in investigating this murder, booking and prosecuting the perpetrators,” Malombe said.

He raised concerns over the recent increase in cases of threats, assault and murders of LGBTQ and intersex people in Kenya with little effort from the police to address them.

“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. LGBTQ rights are human rights. We demand justice for Edwin,” he said. Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard via Twitter condemned Chibola’s murder as “heart-breaking” while demanding a “full and independent” probe by the authorities. 

Ned Price, the openly gay spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, echoed Callamard.

“Our sincere condolences to the family and friends of prominent Kenyan LGBTQI+ community member Edwin Chiloba,” tweeted Price. “We call for full accountability for his death.”

Chiloba joins a long list of LGBTQ and intersex people in Kenya who have been murdered.

Sheila Lumumba, a nonbinary lesbian, was raped and murdered last April in Nyeri County in northeast Kenya. Two suspects have been arrested and charged, and the case remains in court.

Violence against gays and lesbians remains commonplace in Kenya. The country’s penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual acts and those found guilty can face up to 14-years in jail. Pressure, however, has been mounting from inside Kenya to protect the LGBTQ and intersex community’s rights.

Willy Mutunga, the country’s chief justice emeritus who served on the Kenyan Supreme Court from 2011-2016, is the latest former senior government official to demand the State grant full and equal rights to LGBTQ and intersex Kenyans. Mutunga has questioned how any parent can disown their child and even deny them basic needs because they belong to the LGBTQ and intersex community.

Despite the pressure, President William Ruto’s administration remains noncommittal to granting LGBTQ and intersex people equal rights just like his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta.

Ruto during an interview with CNN last September said gay rights were not a priority for Kenyans and dismissed calls for his government to give the LGBTQ and intersex community equal rights through changes to the law. Ruto noted “we respect everybody and what they believe in” while demanding that Western countries respect Kenyans’ beliefs.

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Africa

Namibian High Court strikes down Apartheid-era sodomy laws

Gay activist challenged statutes in 2020

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(Bigstock photo)

The Namibian High Court on Friday ruled laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country are unconstitutional.

Friedel Dausab, a gay activist, in 2020 challenged the Apartheid-era statute.

The Washington Blade previously reported Dausab said the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, which listed “sodomy” as a Schedule 1 offense, and a second law that criminalized “unnatural” sexual acts, promote stigma and exclusion of LGBTQ Namibians. Equal Namibia, a Namibian LGBTQ advocacy group, on its X account praised the ruling.

“Welcome to a new Namibia. A born-free Namibia,” it said.

Dausab, who challenged the laws with the assistance of Human Dignity Trust, a British NGO, told Reuters he is “just happy.”

“It’s a great day for Namibia,” he said. “It won’t be a crime to love anymore.”

Namibia is the latest country in which consensual same-sex sexual relations have been decriminalized in recent years.

The Namibian Supreme Court in May 2023 ruled the country must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. The landmark decision sparked criticism among leading politicians and religious officials.

Activists say their rhetoric has contributed to increased harassment of LGBTQ Namibians and hate speech against them.

Amnesty International in a press release notes MPs last June passed two bills that “seek to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminate against trans people and criminalize any support, celebration or promotion of same-sex unions with up to six years in jail and hefty fines.” Khanyo Farise, the group’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa, said the organization in recent weeks has “observed alarming rhetoric threatening LGBTI persons in Namibia.”

“Whatever the outcome of the High Court decision on June 21, violence and discrimination against LGBTI people has no place in Namibian society,” said Farise. “Authorities should take decisive action to prevent human rights violations against LGBTI persons and hold perpetrators accountable.”

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Protesters vandalize Zimbabwean LGBTQ rights group’s offices

GALZ has reported the incident to the police

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Protesters vandalized GALZ's offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, with homophobic graffiti. (Photos courtesy of GALZ)

A handful of protesters over this past weekend vandalized the offices of Zimbabwe’s largest LGBTQ rights organization.

Although they did not enter GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s building in Harare, the country’s capital, they did gather at the gate and sang homophobic songs. The protesters also left anti-gay graffiti on the gate and walls.

Several people after the incident started to question the authenticity of the protesters, arguing GALZ itself organized the protest in order to get funding. They said some of the protesters “looked gay” and even argued the organization had yet to approach the police.

GALZ has sought to discredit some of the reports, while calling the protest disrespectful and uncalled for.

“We categorically condemn the acts of vandalism and intimidation that occurred on Sunday afternoon,” said GALZ in a statement. “A group of individuals claiming to represent various Christian churches descended at our offices. They proceeded to vandalize the property, painting hateful graffiti on the walls. While we respect differences in values, it is utterly unacceptable to deploy acts of vandalism and intimidation against communities who hold different values.”

GALZ said it has filed an official police report, and is “cooperating fully with the ongoing investigations.” 

“We call on the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable for these criminal actions,” said the organization. 

GALZ also said it remains steadfast in its commitment to LGBTQ rights, and urged religious and political leaders to be at the forefront of fostering unity in Zimbabwe.

“This act of violence has not been committed in isolation, it is a stark reminder of the ongoing discrimination and hostility that our community faces,” said GALZ.

“We urge religious and political leaders to condemn such acts of hate and to uphold the  constitutional rights and freedoms for all citizens to be protected by law regardless of their diverse backgrounds including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We encourage Zimbabweans to resort to open and respectful dialogue to address indifferences,” added the organization.

Several United Methodist Church parishioners last month held a protest in Harare during which they protested the church’s recent decision to allow LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriages. James Kawadza, one of the protest organizers, said it was un-African to engage in same-sex relations.

“Homosexuality is unlawful in Zimbabwe and marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “The church has aligned with the rainbow movement, and this is also a threat to our African traditions and human existence at large. Homosexuality is not contextual, it is an abomination where Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality says any “male person who, with the consent of another male person, knowingly performs with that other person anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act, shall be guilty of sodomy and liable to” a fine, up to a year in prison or both.

Cases of people being arrested under this provision are rare.

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What’s next for LGBTQ rights in South Africa after the country’s elections?

African National Congress lost parliamentary majority on May 29

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Pretoria and Cape Town are the first cities in Africa to install Pride crosswalks. Activists are wondering what the outcome of South Africa's May 29 elections will mean for LGBTQ rights. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Walker/Pretoria Pride)

More than 50 independent candidates and political parties participated in South Africa’s national and provincial elections that took place on May 29. The Electoral Commission of South Africa declared the results on June 2.

No independent candidate or political party managed to secure the outright parliamentary majority of more than 50 percent of the votes, which prompts the creation of a coalition government. None of the 18 political parties that managed to win at least one seat in the National Assembly wholly represented the LGBTQ community.

Although South Africa is the only African country that constitutionally recognizes the rights of the LGBTQ community, some of the political parties that managed to secure seats in the National Assembly had signaled they would reserve these gains.

Former President Jacob Zuma, who leads the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, during a January debate said the thought of dating within the same gender was unpalatable and un-African. The MK is now the country’s third largest political party after it won 14.58 percent of the vote, making it a pivotal player in the formation of a coalition government.

Dawie Nel, the executive director of OUT LGBT Well-being, said undermining the constitution is “a dangerous, misguided, and populist strategy to avoid acknowledging the failures of governance and the lack of implementation of constitutional values that are meant to improve the lives of South Africans.”

“South Africa’s constitution is celebrated as one of the most significant achievements of our transition to democracy, ensuring that all citizens are treated with dignity and respect, and that their rights are protected in all aspects of life,” said Nell. 

There now seems to be an impasse on who becomes the government’s next leader because of some of the demands that political parties made before they entered into any negotiations.

Bruce Walker of Pretoria Pride said the best possible outcome for the preservation of LGBTQ rights in South Africa would be if the former governing political party, the African National Congress (ANC), which garnered the most support with 40.18 percent of the vote, partners with the Democratic Alliance (DA), which finished second with 21.81 percent of the votes, to form a coalition government.

“I think it will be a good outcome for the community if the DA has some power in a coalition government,” said Walker.

Rise Mzansi, which managed to secure 0.42 percent of the votes with two seats in the National Assembly, said it will continue protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community.

“Rise Mzansi reaffirms its commitment in protecting LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa, as outlined in Section 9 of our constitution,” said the party.

Zubenathi Daca, program coordinator for student employability and entrepreneurship development in Nelson Mandela University’s Department of Student Governance and Development said the fight for LGBTQ rights in South Africa will continue.

“The battle has not yet been won,” said Daca. “Queer people are still being killed and homophobic remarks are still being made towards us daily, and we need people who have found the confidence to voice out their dissatisfactions against how they are treated and also speak out for the voiceless.” 

“This society is ours just as it is everyone else’s,” added Daca. “We are in corporate spaces, leadership positions, and political spaces to show that we belong here, and that we are here to stay.” 

The constitution says National Assembly members should be sworn in within two weeks of the elections. They will then meet for the first time and elect a new speaker, deputy speaker and president.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo who will preside over the entire process, on Monday said the National Assembly will meet for the first time since the elections on Friday.

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