Why African LGBTI communities should say NO! to US imperialism.

The US Embassy in Nairobi recently announced that  it would be holding “the first ever annual celebration of LGBT Pride at their embassy on June 26″ .

Gay pride or LGBT pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward LGBT  people to promote their self-affirmation, equality rights, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance.

Local LGBT activists and dignitaries have been invited to this event.

The announcement has received mixed responses from local LGBTI activists.  Those supporting the event have defended it saying it is a good opportunity for networking and “shows the US is actively reaching out to the local LGBT community”. Others have accused those of calling for a boycotte as ‘insecure”  and “spreading fear” .  But as Kenne  Mwikya points out in his post there are deeper  issues at stake here which have conveniently been ignored by those supporting the event such as “supplanting of local queer initiatives”; possible backlash from the Kenyan public and government; and by attending implicitly supporting US imperialism and it’s ‘war on terror’.  Added to these are serious concerns over aid and trade conditionality….

Topping the list is the requirement that the beneficiary promote “a market-based economy that protects private property rights… and minimises government interference in the economy through such measures as price controls, subsidies, and government ownership of economic assets.” In addition — and here’s the big one — the beneficiary must make progress toward “the elimination of barriers to United States trade and investment.”

as well as the presence and role of AFRICOM which is closely tied with various Anti-Terrorist legislations and increased US surveillance across the continent .  As Beth Tuckey shows “it is not the militarisation of Africa that will guarantee security for [Africa] or the US but justice and equitable trade”.  It is highly disappointing that some African LGBTI activists are comfortable with the US and it’s poor human rights record.   This speaks, to some degree,  to the professionalisation of social justice whereby funds are provided by US and European non-profits to service work that under the guise of being apolitical, seeks to maintain existing local and international power structures.  Kenne comments………

The US Embassy in Nairobi this morning held its first LGBT Pride event. It invited activists and representatives from various LGBTIQ/MSM organisations. On hearing the news, a group of “we” communicated with each other trying to stage a boycott or issue a statement against the event. Our reasoning was that LGBTIQ organisations and individuals should not be made to create links with the imperialist US which in its war on terror, economic initiatives and political alliances had created a lot of violence, killing and hardship for lots of LGBTIQ and non-LGBTIQ citizens in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the Coast and North Eastern parts of Kenya. There is actually a statement to that effect which was drawn up by one of us but definitely inspired by the things we said about the event.

It is not the first time that a United States embassy has held a pride event. The event is an affirmative response by the embassy to President Obama’s announcement last year that June of every year would LGBT Pride month. It’s totally fine and OK for those working there to have and enjoy this event. The problem comes when the event, like in Islamabad last year, flies in the face of local sensitivities toward sexual and gender minorities. The Islamabad event had a major backlash from the public with demonstrations and denunciations taking place. As a result, the burgeoning local LGBTIQ/MSM NGO community went undercover, fearing violence from citizens and the government. The problem, also, is the detachment and alienation of such an event with the lived experiences of queers. Take the Iraq pride event of spring 2009 taking place in the Green Zone of Baghdad while dozens of gay and “effeminate” men were being slaughtered in the city outside. The same can be said of what took place this morning in Nairobi: though the embassy extended courtesy to activists and members of various organisations, the flexible band of space that composes an event like queer pride was not there, replaced as it were by the mediation of the state in cultural affairs and a few individuals to represent the rest.

But perhaps the most offensive thing about the event is the supplanting* of local queer initiatives towards affirming ourselves with ones that are, again, mediated by an imperial state and cool indifference of local LGBT organisations. I was going through my twitter this morning, shocked at how activists eased into calling this event #PrideInKenya, a pride event of national/Kenyan importance and recognisability, as if Kenyans or even Kenyan organisations participated in its planning, the composition of those attending or even the tenor of its message. How can a room filled with (I estimate) less than 100 people brought together by governmental policy and a search for recognition by the United States be queer pride?  Continue reading Kenne’s Blog

Read the statement against the Kenyan LGBTIQ Pride event.