The New York Times is reporting that Kenyan police officers broke up a gay wedding on Friday and arrested several wedding guests, saying they had to intervene before an irate mob could stone the wedding party to death.
Like many other countries in Africa, which are intensely — and officially — homophobic, Kenya outlaws homosexual behavior. Violations in Kenya are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
“It’s culture, just culture,” said a Kenyan police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, when asked to explain the intense feelings about homosexuality. “It’s what you are taught when you are young and what you hear in church. Homosexuality is unnatural. It’s wrong.”
Mr. Kiraithe said that the planned wedding between two men had been kept a secret, but that a group of local people found out just before it was to start in Kikambala, a beach town along Kenya’s white-sand coast. A mob quickly formed, and some outraged bystanders even shouted that the people at the wedding should be burned.
“You know, down at the coast, where there are so many tourists, people tolerate a lot,” Mr. Kiraithe said, mentioning the rampant sexual tourism in which both expatriate men and women often hire lovers several decades their junior. “But this is too much. These people were nearly stoned.”
Mr. Kiraithe said that five wedding guests were arrested for unlawful behavior and that they might be subject to tests to determine if they had “illegal carnal knowledge of each other.” He could not explain why the couple who were planning to marry were not arrested, saying the reports from the scene were still arriving.
In neighboring Uganda, the homosexuality issue has become front-page news after a lawmaker with the governing party proposed executing gay people. Most people in Uganda support criminalizing homosexuality, and an anti-gay bill is being debated by the cabinet. But in recent interviews, many people said they thought imposing the death penalty was going too far.
The anti-gay bill has catalyzed a firestorm of criticism, with many of Uganda’s foreign aid donors voicing concern and some even threatening to cut off much needed help. In recent weeks, the Ugandan government has indicated that it may water down the bill or scrap it all together. Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s powerful president, who has been in office for 24 years, recently expressed apprehensions about the bill because it was becoming a “foreign policy issue.”
“The prime minister of Canada came to see me, and what was he talking about? Gays,” Mr. Museveni said. “Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to see me, and what was he talking about? Gays. Mrs. Clinton rang me. What was she talking about? Gays.”
Andrew Wasswa, a gay activist in Uganda, said he attended a meeting on Wednesday between several gay rights activists and high-ranking government officials, but it still was not clear what the government was going to do.
“They kept asking us, ‘Why all this criticism, why all this pressure?’ ” he said. “They seemed more concerned about the foreign pressure than anything.”