Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Kenya’s first openly gay politician withdraws from elections

Rights activists are hailing anti-poverty and AIDS activist David Kuria as a pioneer, despite his aborted election campaign due to an apparent lack of funds

By David Smith  /  The Guardian, LONDON

During his journey, Kuria, an anti-poverty and AIDS activist, gained an insight into another Kenya. “I think the narrative of Kenya being a homophobic society is taken out of context,” he said. “True, many people do not approve of same-sex relationships, but that is because of the stereotypes they have been made to believe in.”

“I was getting invitations by many young families for their children’s birthday parties, or first masses for newly ordained priests in Kiambu. Far too many people would show up even when we only wanted to hold small meetings. That really does not look to me like a homophobic society,” he said.

Homosexuality is outlawed in 36 African countries, with many leading politicians describing gay people as “un-African.”

“Again that is one of those stories that have been told over and over again that it has come to be seen as true, but there are also very few public LGBT voices. These need to increase for the narrative to be debunked,” Kuria said.

After the disappointment of his abortive bid, Kuria doubts that he will run for office again.

“In the struggle for rights, some individuals have to make sacrifices that can not be merely compensated by the realization of these rights,” he said. “It often tends to be important to know that one’s efforts are also appreciated; in my case, I expected broad-based ownership and support. It is hard to see what new thing I can do to change that situation. I just think I was not the right person for this.”

Whatever he does in the future, Kuria is already an important pioneer who made an impact, says Ian Temple of the Kaleidoscope Trust, which invited him to speak in the UK this year.

“He’s a very inspirational and brave man who’s willing to stand up and be counted, whereas generations of Kenyans have been forced to keep their heads down,” he said.

“We’re inspired by his desire to enter public life as an LGBT person in a country where to be gay is to risk being a social outcast. We understand his reasons for pulling out and we know he’s still completely committed to positive social change and access to HIV protection and treatment,” Temple said.

The Web site David Kuria for Senator is still active. Beside a picture of the activist is a biblical quotation: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.”

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