One year ago today, David Kato, the famous Uganda LGBT activist, was brutally bludgeoned to death by at least one man wielding a hammer. Today, filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall released this preview of their documentary film, “Call Me Kuchu,” which will premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on February 11. In it, Kato proudly explains, “If we keep on hiding, they will say we are not here.”
“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,’” The filmmakers write in today’s New York Times. “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.
Kato had just won a lawsuit against the Uganda magazine “Rolling Stone,” which had published his name, photograph, and home address — along with those of up to 100 other “known homosexuals” — under the front page title, “Hang Them.” Weeks later, Kato, in the middle of the day, in his home, was killed.
Police initially claimed the murder, just like the lying defenders of the murderers of Matthew Shepard claimed, was committed during the course of a robbery, but the world knew better. And the world knows better than to believe the story of the man they ultimately caught and convicted, who claimed he killed Kato because he owed him money for sex.
President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn were among the many to issue statements condemning Kato’s murder and honoring his work, and his life.
Today, we should all take a moment, watch this short film, remember David, thank him, and think.
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