I remember hearing about him but only after he was murdered. Very sad.
David Kato was founding father of Uganda’s emergent gay rights movement,
the first openly gay man in the country, and an international gay
rights activist. He was brutally murdered in January 2011.
Born around 1964, Kato joined his twin brother John Wassawa Mulamba and
family in their ancestral village of Nakawala. He reported being raised
in a religiously conservative home where homosexuality was not accepted.
Kato attended King’s College Budo and Kyambogo University in Uganda and
then taught at the Nile Vocational Institute in Njeru. The school
dismissed him in 1991 without benefits because of his sexual
orientation. He relocated to Johannesburg, South Africa in the mid-1990s
to continue teaching and witnessed that nation’s transformation from
apartheid to a multicultural democracy. He first went public as a gay
man while there.
Kato returned to Uganda in 1998 and soon afterwards held Uganda’s first
gay rights news conference in the nation’s capital, Kampala. By doing
so, he became the first person in his home country to openly admit his
homosexuality. In apparent retaliation, police officers arrested and
beat him and detained him for a week. This would be the first of his
three arrests for being gay.
Kato started teaching again in 2002 when he joined the faculty at St.
Herman Nkoni Primary School in the Masaka district of Kampala. In 2004,
Kato co-founded the gay rights group, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG),
in Kampala and then worked for the organization as a litigation/advocacy
In October 2010, a Ugandan newspaper, Rolling Stone
association to the U.S. magazine), published a piece entitled “Hang
Them,” listing photos and addresses for the most prominent 100 gay men
and lesbians in Uganda, including Kato. In response, he and two other
activists sued the paper. In January 2011, Uganda’s High Court ordered
the newspaper to pay damages to the three litigants and to stop printing
information about LGBTI (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered
On January 26, 2011, Kato was brutally murdered in his home near
Kampala. His assailant beat him to death with a hammer. The professed
murderer, Sidney Nsubunga Enoch, received a 30-year prison sentence.
Enoch’s confessed motive was Kato’s propositioning him. Many Ugandan
activists question his story and allege that Kato’s murder was
retaliation for the Rolling Stone law suit and his other activism.
Kato’s death also has been linked to conservative Christian groups from
the United States who held anti-gay rallies and workshops in Uganda in
2009. Ugandan politicians and ministers responsible for writing a
stringent anti-gay bill participated in the meetings, even discussing
the legislation with the Americans.
Kato’s martyrdom brought much criticism from the international
community. The Ugandan government was urged to squelch this legislation
which had called for the death penalty for certain homosexual acts. The
law was set aside in May 2011 but a similar anti-gay measure was
introduced in 2012.
Katherine Fairfax Wright and Marika Zouhali-Worrall documented Kato’s
work in the 2012 film, “Call Me Kuchu.” That same year, SMUG joined five
other groups in launching the annual David Kato Vision and Voice Award
for LGBTI advocates world-wide.