On January 27, amid gathering protests in Egypt, President Obama issued a passionate statement. Not about Hosni Mubarak—that would not come until the next evening. But about David Kato, a gay Ugandan murdered the day before. "The United States mourns his murder," the President said, "and we recommit ourselves to David's work." Kato's murder was also promptly condemned by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was featured in two full-length articles in The New York Times in as many days.
Since early 2008, the American government, media, and human rights groups have undertaken a coordinated effort to name, shame, and punish attacks on the human rights of homosexual persons, with an overwhelming focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Human Rights Watch has published ten major reports on anti-gay discrimination in this period, with special attention to Africa. The U.S. government has publicly criticized some African countries for even considering laws that criminalize homosexuality. It announced just last month that it is halting a $350 million aid program to Malawi at least partly because of its laws discouraging homosexuality.
But if any single African country has attracted American ire, it is Uganda. Is this because of a spate of anti-gay attacks? When a tiny college newspaper organized an egregious hate campaign last October against prominent gay activists, including Kato, a Ugandan court issued a permanent injunction against the publication. And David Kato's death is among only a handful of documented instances in which homosexuals have been killed in Uganda in recent years, with police now claiming that Kato was murdered by an acquaintance for reasons unrelated to homophobia. Despite Rachel Maddow's running commentary on Uganda—under ...1