Gay City News (New York City) (02.18.10) - Monday, February
Unfounded rumors of an impending marriage between two men have
sparked waves of violence in the coastal city of Mtwapa. In
addition to numerous assaults and arrests of suspected
homosexuals, the rioting saw the sacking of a medical facility
serving HIV/AIDS patients.
The situation reportedly began when a barber told the imam at
his mosque that two men planned to marry on Feb. 12. The imam
denounced the plans before his congregation, and local radio
stations quickly took up the cause, spreading the rumor
On Feb. 11, an imam and a Christian bishop held a news
conference in which they railed against the wedding and
specifically excoriated the Mtwapa clinic run by the Kenya
Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).
"How can a state institution be involved on the pretext of
providing counseling to these criminals?" asked Sheikh Ali
Hussein and Bishop Lawrence Chai, the Daily Nation newspaper
reported. "We ask the government to shut it down with
immediate effect or we will descend on its officials."
KEMRI is a large national organization with 750 staff members
whose research is supported by Britain's Oxford University.
Its clinic in Mtwapa includes an AIDS program offering
counseling and treatment to men who have sex with men.
The day after the press conference, according to Nairobi gay
activist Denis Nzioka, a well-organized mob of 200 to 302
armed people surrounded the clinic, which was purported to be
the site of the wedding. The clinic's computers and other
materials were destroyed, and it was forced to shut down. As a
result, many HIV-positive persons who rely on the clinic have
been unable to access their medications.
Although the violence has been heavily covered in the national
media, Nzioka said all the coverage "was, sadly, very, very
homophobic." Hussein used radio broadcasts to urge Kenyans to
take part in an anti-gay demonstration in Mtwapa on Feb. 19.