African LGBTI smear campaign
OutRage! refutes false, sectarian allegations.
Lies, slurs, egos, power & funding - nothing to do with queer liberation.
London - 30 March 2007
On 30 January 2007, a group of African LGBTI activists issued a news release headed:
"African LGBTI Human Rights Defenders Warn Public Against Participation in Campaigns Concerning LGBTI Issues in Africa Led by Peter Tatchell and Outrage!"
LGBTI = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex
Their news release contains a series of false, defamatory allegations.
OutRage!'s African Affairs spokesperson, Kizza Musinguzi, and Peter Tatchell, have issued the following refutation of these untrue, sectarian, malicious claims:
This controversy has nothing to do with LGBTI liberation. It is all about certain African LGBTI groups vying for power and funding, and their bid to damage other, more radical and grassroots, African LGBTI groups, which they see as political rivals.
OutRage! is one of the few western-based LGBTI groups with a long record of support and solidarity with LGBTI groups in developing countries.
Peter Tatchell pioneered solidarity with LGBTI activists in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, way back in the early 1970s - when most other western LGBTI campaigners showed little or no interest in the persecution of LGBTIs in developing nations. OutRage! has continued this tradition of international solidarity since its foundation in 1990.
OutRage! reiterates its solidarity with all African LGBTIs - and their straight allies - in their struggle for freedom from all forms of oppression.
We regard this dispute as a huge, wasteful diversion from the main priority, which is to fight homophobia and transphobia.
Kizza Musinguzi, African Affairs spokesperson for OutRage! and a Ugandan queer rights activist, said:
"These are untrue, sectarian allegations. They are made mostly by people who have never had any contact with Peter Tatchell or OutRage! Since we have not run any campaigns concerning their countries, how can they accuse us of treating them badly?
"They have been fed lies about us by a handful of conservative gay activists in Africa and the US who hate OutRage!'s radicalism and are jealous of our effective campaigns.
"Those who signed the anti-OutRage! statement did so on the basis of allegations that are entirely false. Some signatories signed in good faith, but they were hoodwinked by people who are out to destroy OutRage!
"OutRage! has always acted in response to appeals for help from Nigerian and Ugandan LGBTI groups. We supported their struggles. Most African groups recognise this. Only a small minority of the dozens of African LGBTI groups signed the letter denouncing us.
"We continue to work with all the Nigerian LGBTI groups and two of the Ugandan LGBTI groups. We enjoy their confidence and support. If we had done anything wrong, they would not still be working with us. Even some of the people who signed the letter criticising us are now working with us again. They realise the allegations against us were unfair. This includes Oludare Odumye of Alliance Rights Nigeria. He has since expressed regret at the attacks on us.
"Nigerian and Ugandan gay groups are divided, with different groups pursuing different agendas and tactics. It is partly a divide between well-funded groups and volunteer grassroots activists, and between reformists and radicals. OutRage! supports them all, but works most closely with the grassroots radicals. The more reformist groups resent this. They don't like the fact that we work with the radicals, who they see as rivals. They want exclusive control of the gay rights movement in their country. Many do little or no work with African progressive political parties and human rights groups, whereas OutRage! and its African allies advocate cooperation between gay rights groups and left parties, trade unions and civil society movements.
"Some of this dispute is also about money. There is competition for funding. Certain organisations see others as competitors. They want to be seen to be doing all the important work, so they can get the lion's share of the funding.
"According to the mostly conservative African groups who condemned us, the Nigerian government's proposed new anti-gay legislation (banning same-sex marriage and imposing other draconian restrictions of LGBTI people) was dead. They said there was no need to campaign against it. This lulled everyone into a false sense of security.
"However, we took a different view, which proved to be correct. Acting on warnings from our Nigerian activist allies that the legislation was likely to be revived, in mid-January 2007 OutRage! urged a global campaign against the new law. We did this at their request.
"Some of the more conservative LGBTI groups saw us as challenging their power and authority. That is why they denounced us and tricked others into signing their statement, based on lurid, untrue allegations.
"In fact, OutRage! and our Nigerian allies were right. The legislation was revived in early February 2007. Indeed, it was revived soon after the African LGBTI activists made the monumental misjudgement of sending their denunciation of us to the Nigerian media. Their well publicised denunciation boasted that the anti-gay legislation was dead and that we were scare-mongering.
"Their publicity alerted the Nigerian government and probably triggered the subsequent revival of the proposed anti-gay law.
"Having denounced OutRage! to the whole world and urged all LGBTI groups worldwide to cease campaigning against the proposed Nigerian anti-gay law, the international LGBTI movement was caught napping when the legislation was revived," said Mr Musinguzi.
His views are echoed by Peter Tatchell:
"I have supported every African liberation movement struggle for nearly 40 years - in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Eritrea, Darfur and the Western Sahara," said Mr Tatchell.
"For two decades, I have worked in solidarity with African gay groups. Indeed, I initiated the first international campaign to support the newly emergent African LGBTI movements in the early 1980s, fund-raising for their cause. Until now, no African LGBTI groups have complained or criticised my work. All have appreciated the support given to their campaigns. I don't want thanks or praise, but nor do I want to be misrepresented and unfairly maligned.
"Contrary to the allegations made against us, our news releases do not contain untrue information, we do not exaggerate homophobic repression, our campaigns have not caused damage and we have never put anyone's life in danger. These smears are being spread by reformist political opponents in Africa and the US who are trying to discredit OutRage! to advance their own sectarian political agendas.
"I challenge anyone to show where OutRage! news releases are inaccurate, exaggerated or reckless - or European chauvinist. Such claims are politically-motivated smears.
"Our critics are nearly all paid professional NGO officials. Some are funded by the West. Some are full-time lobbyists who oppose grassroots activism and direct action protests. They say all campaigning should be left to them. They want to be the gatekeepers of LGBTI activism. Their denunciations look like a bid to maintain their exclusive control over the LGBTI human rights movement in Africa. A number of the signatories resent the fact that OutRage! works with and supports African grassroots groups that they see as rivals.
"A week before these activists denounced us, we halted our Nigerian campaign and made a public statement to this effect. We have not campaigned on Uganda for five months. So why did they denounce us?
"The news releases we issued in September 2006 on Uganda were at the request and approval of Ugandan LGBTI groups, including SMUG. They sent us their quotes for inclusion and we included them as requested. Victor Mukasa from SMUG suddenly turned on us after we also quoted other Ugandan LGBTI activists who Victor regards as rivals. Demanding recognition as "the leader" of the Ugandan LGBTI movement, she proceeded to publicly denounce other groups, like GALA and MUSLA as "crooks". Victor's uncomradely reaction appears to be about ego, power and sectarianism, not politics and liberation.
"Even so, at Victor's insistence, we halted out Uganda work in mid-September 2006. We find it curious that after several months of doing no campaigning on Uganda we are now suddenly denounced in late January 2007. Why, five months after we ceased working on Ugandan issues, are we being pilloried?
"This vendetta has nothing to do with LGBTI rights. Certain groups seem more interested in fighting other activists than in fighting homophobia. Their petty jealousies and political sectarianism is undermining the campaign for LGBTI liberation in Africa," said Mr Tatchell.
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