During US President Barack Obama’s official visit to Kenya this week, he’ll be confronted with 5000 naked men and women from the country’s ultra-conservative Republican Liberty party, who are planning on stripping to show him the difference between the sexes in protest at his “open and aggressive support for homosexuality.” Homosexuality is currently illegal in Kenya, with acts carrying a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
In a fascinating new interview, Jamie Wareham has spoken to the party’s leader, Vincent Kidaha, about the planned protest – and challenges him about why he thinks homosexuals should be stoned to death, and what he’d do if a member of his own family was gay. It’s an uncomfortable, but vital, encounter…
When you speak to a notoriously homophobic anti-gay political party leader, who says “I don’t want to ban gay people”, a flicker of hope lights up in your heart. The trouble with Vincent Kidaha is that he followed this up by saying, “they should be stoned instead”.
When President Obama visits Kenya later this week, he’ll be faced by Mr Kidaha and 5000 naked protesters who are unhappy with the president’s “aggressive attempts to bring in gay marriage” to the United States, which following a recent Supreme Court ruling, has now happened.
Vincent – the leader of Kenya’s Republican Liberty Party – says they are stripping bare to show Obama “there is a difference between a man and a woman” and argues Obama’s views on being gay are putting “African family values at risk”.
But it’s not just values at risk. Mr Kidaha also believes gays are bad for the environment – or “destructive”, to be specific. For him, it is down to conserving and protecting African culture and family values.
Vincent Kidaha (Image: Nairobi News)
It may not surprise you that I was a tad sceptical of his plans. The reason they are getting naked, seems to be largely down to the fact it garners a lot of attention. But I did suggest that 5000 people indecently exposing themselves to the president of the United States to prove homosexuality was indecent was ever so slightly contradictory. He retorted: “Yes undressing is indecent, but not as indecent as people accepting homosexuality.”
Indeed, forgive me for thinking of all those naked men walking together? It sounds very homoerotic.
Don’t worry, they’ve thought about that too. There will be marshals ensuring a good balance of men and women, but also making sure they don’t stand too close to each other.
Kidaha justified stoning gay people with an attitude reminiscent of the Hot Fuzz ‘greater good’ scene. “[Stoning people] is not not painful, it’s actually less painful than the judgment they will receive. It is not painful.”
I took the opportunity to ask if he wouldn’t mind getting stoned, because it sounded quite painful to me.
“Yes, I would be happy if that’s what’s needed. That’s why we are recommending if not stoned, that they be hanged.”
It is very easy to get caught up in his virulently homophobic hysteria. I was literally unable to take him seriously at all. However, for thousands of Kenyans, these opinions are a widespread daily battle.
In Kenya, you can face up to 14 years in prison for ‘homosexuality’. In other African nations, like Uganda – which Mr Kidaha noted his party stood in solidarity with – national newspapers regularly out and shame gay activists.
And it was shame I was interested with when it came to Mr Kidaha’s views too. They are clearly fueled by hate. Knowing how difficult it can be to come out here in the UK, I wondered how a gay family member of his would feel. I suggested they’d be very scared of him and would be ashamed of themselves.
He said, “I don’t think a member of my family who knows very well my views, I don’t think they would accept gay in.”
I managed quite successfully to hide being gay from my family for years though, so I asked him to humour me – what if one of your family members were gay?
“If a member of my family happened to be a gay, then I would defend them probably, and start to give them good direction to become a good person because I understand that they may be confused, or be promised things by someone else. I’d explain there is no need to be a servant to Europe, Africa is a better place. We are civilised and being gay is not our value.”
Shortly after this, clearly in disagreement, we parted ways.
President Obama is actually visiting Kenya to coincide with a summit on entrepreneurship. His visit has nothing to do with LGBT rights, though he is also expected to talk about corruption in Kenya. It’s also been the buzz of Kenya’s media for weeks. Thousands of pounds have been spent on the highly anticipated visit, as the president visits the country where his father was born.
I have to say though, just like Mr Kidaha didn’t change my mind – as a President who called the Supreme Court ruling to make gay marriage possible in every state ‘A victory for America,’ I don’t think Obama is going to change his “aggressively” un-prejudiced views either. Even if he is presented with 5000 naked protesters.
WORDS: JAMIE WAREHAM