“Looking for Kato” by Kenne Mwikya & Amil Khassim
Kenne and a friend, Amil Khassim discuss the death of David Kato and what it means to for queer rights and queer activists in East Africa. Some six months on David has been forgotten in the frenzied media which hops from story to story like kangaroos on a mission to nowhere. For the queer community particularly in Uganda and the wider East African region, David’s death was a shock not just for it’s brutality but the reality of hate expressed. The conversation is moving and honourable. Thank you Kenne and Amil for this thoughtful piece……
Then, I met up with another friend in town who said he’d been to the burial; that gay men wore rainbow shirts, and there was quite the fight for his body by them. His neighbours abandoned his corpse, but the gay men were persistent in claiming it and eventually burying him.
It made me think about honour.
He was honourable, you know?
The fact that death has been much of a theme in my poetry, and in a way, much of the philosophy I’ve read, I take a more critical approach to his death. The man’s death was quite mysterious. For crying out loud, people just said he was beaten up to death.
No one publicly, was arrested or charged for murder.
Indeed, many have forgotten who David was.
Whereas, for many queer men, his death was a shocking revelation of their fate. I’m sort of ambiguous about this, because I felt that visibility was important, and as such projects like these curated by the Makerere University have emerged. I think death has a way of bridging meaning with nonsensical aggression. Trust me, I’m not one for war and clamour, but people always find themselves seeing a person at death.
If they’ve forgotten him, they won’t forget other homosexual men. If they’ve been trying to kill someone else, all that has been blown by the death of David Kato. Even, the tabloids that had printed lists and lists of queers couldn’t laugh at his death, you know?
How was his death perceived by Ugandans in general? I come back to this question because it is so integral to what we have come to see as East Africa’s activist culture. In extension, the question would maybe be “how does the public come to terms with activists and activism in general”?
I don’t want to believe that we have come to the end of the discussion because I think that talking about Kato’s influence on where today’s politics are moving is something that must be addressed before we move on. Underneath a huge overlay of invocations of his death linked with the “hopeless” situation in Uganda are people, like the organisers of this project, who are genuinely concerned with his legacy, want to take issue with this notion that his demise as another mantle upon which the pathologisation of queer/homophobic Uganda takes place. Sokari Ekine said that Makerere University has a lot of progressives and thus the possibility and actualisation of this project, could there be more to this? All this in light of the fact that you didn’t study at Makerere, of course.