‘Wait for Obama’: Kenyans evicted for being gay told to complain to US president

Reuters/Edward Echwalu
A gay Kenyan couple evicted from a flat for being homosexuals was told by the landlord that if they feel aggrieved, they should “wait for Obama.” The American president is due to pay an official visit to Kenya late in July.

The pair was evicted from their flat in Kabete, a suburb of the capital, Nairobi, after their neighbors found out about their sexual preference, Kenyan LGBT activist Denis Nzioka told Gay News Star.

For two years the young men have been telling their landlord that they live together to save money.

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But rumors began to spread among the neighbors that Peter, 26, and John, 29, are in fact a gay couple. They were eventually shown the door, with the landlord reportedly telling them to “go wait for your Obama.” Reportedly, one of the men has had to return to live with his parents, while the other had to move into poverty-stricken accommodation.

The US president’s name was mentioned in the argument because, in the light of his upcoming Kenyan visit, controversy is growing in the local community about whether he is planning to speak about gay rights while in Nairobi.

Legalization of same-sex marriage in the US and Obama’s highly-publicized support to the LGBT community has sparked much debate in conservative Kenya.

“There have been more beatings, evictions and attacks when public discourse focuses on the [LGBT] community. It gets heightened and it will only increase momentum as Obama’s visit gets closer,” said Denis Nzioka, who runs human rights website Watetezi, which tracks injustices against the Kenyan LGBT community.

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Earlier this week Kenyan leaders asked Obama to leave his “gay agenda” at home while visiting his father’s homeland.

“We are telling Mr. Obama, when he comes to Kenya this month — and he tries to bring the abortion agenda, the gay agenda — we shall tell him to shut up and go home,” the Washington Times cited Kenyan lawmaker Irungu Kangata addressing demonstrators outside the parliament.

The Obama administration rejected the demand, saying the American president would stand by LGBT rights.

“When the president travels around the world, he does not hesitate to raise concerns about human rights,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told journalists ahead of Obama’s trip to Kenya. “I’m confident the president will not hesitate to make it clear that protection of fundamental human rights is also a priority for Kenya, something we hold dear here in the United States of America.”

Traditionally, the US does not criticize the situation with human rights in countries Washington regards as close allies, such as the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, where the US supplies weapons and law enforcement equipment despite numerous rights violations.

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Nzioka does not question that Obama’s attempt to promote gay marriage in Kenya would surely cause more anger of the locals and spark more attacks on the members of the LGBT community.

“From his White House statement, I expect he’ll speak on broader issues of human rights and in that might come respect for sexual orientation. How he frames that is Obama’s job. He won’t promote same-sex marriage, I’m sure,” Nzioka told Gay Star News on Wednesday. “If he does get very specific about LGBT human rights issues, people would be very angry that he’s coming here to promote gays. They’ll say they need US aid, not gays.”

Same-sex acts are outlawed in Kenya, with punishment of up to 14 years in prison, and even 21 years in case of certain aggravating circumstances.

Obama will be in Kenya with a three day visit to attend the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit on July 24-26. This is going to be his first official visit to his paternal ancestors’ homeland. The president's 91-year-old step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, also lives there.

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If Obama chooses to speak about LGBT human rights issues while visiting Kenya it will be good for the community, believes Nzioka. “But if he doesn’t mention it at all, then the haters will have egg on their face. We will have to see what happens next.”