David Kato, the 40-something Ugandan activist with Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), who was one of the plaintiffs who sued to shut down Rolling Stone‘s hit list of gay names and faces, has been killed, the organization relays. Kato appeared on the front page of Rolling Stone‘s Top 100 Gays list, the very piece the newspaper’s editor Giles Muhame defended himself against claims it incited violence. Witnesses spotted a man enter Kato’s home on Wednesday, hit him twice in the head (with a hammer, reportedly), and take off in a getaway car, reports Human Rights Watch.
Kato was among the lead voices on the ground lobbying against David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. If British officials need any more reason to provide a safe haven for fellow Uganda activist Brenda Namigadde, who sought refuge in the U.K., they just received it. “In Uganda, I have nobody there,” says Namigadde, who is facing deportation this week. “If I am sent back I’ll be tortured, maybe killed. It’s very dangerous for me.” She’s not kidding.
UPDATE: American evangelicals, who helped seed and bolster Uganda’s anti-gay fear campaign, play the victim card. Muhame, the editor, insists his newspaper is not connected to Kato’s murder: “There is no need for anxiety or for hype. We should not overblow the death of one.” Police are leaning toward a blaming his death on a common robbery.
UPDATE: President Obama issued this statement: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the murder of David Kato. In Uganda, David showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate. He was a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom. The United States mourns his murder, and we recommit ourselves to David’s work. At home and around the world, LGBT persons continue to be subjected to unconscionable bullying, discrimination, and hate. In the weeks preceding David Kato’s murder in Uganda, five members of the LGBT community in Honduras were also murdered. It is essential that the Governments of Uganda and Honduras investigate these killings and hold the perpetrators accountable. LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights. My Administration will continue to strongly support human rights and assistance work on behalf of LGBT persons abroad. We do this because we recognize the threat faced by leaders like David Kato, and we share their commitment to advancing freedom, fairness, and equality for all. “