Initial reports that a volunteer LGBT activist in Uganda was found
beheaded by search parties looking for a missing pro-gay priest appear
to be false, but there is no doubt that a horrific murder occurred.
Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin reported the beheading Monday based on a report by the Reverend Colin Coward in the Anglican blog Changing Attitude. Coward claimed that a search team found the head of Pasikali Kashusbe, whom he identified as a volunteer with the pro-LGBT group Integrity Uganda, in a pit latrine on a farm in the Wakiso District. According to Coward, the searchers were looking for the Reverend Henry Kayizzi Nsubuga, who disappeared last month after delivering a sermon supporting gay people. A mutilated torso also believed to be Kashusbe's was found near the farm.
Burroway said he supported Coward's claims with two separate reports in Ugandan media outlets, including video from NTV and an article in the Daily Monitor, which named the victim as Pascal Kashushu. However, on Wednesday he wrote that the gay elements in the story now appear to be a "hoax," although it is true that a horrific murder took the life of a young man. Read his update at Box Turtle Bulletin.
"Here is what we do know: a young man was brutally murdered, that he was mutilated and his head was cut off and dumped into a latrine," wrote Burroway. "That much is true. But we have now confirmed that the young man had no connections with Integrity Uganda. Furthermore, the story about the missing Rev. Henry Kayizzi Nsubuga's disappearance following a pro-LGBT sermon also appears increasingly unlikely. Yes, the man is reported to be missing, but so far the only sources indicating that he gave a pro-LGBT sermon are from Rev. Coward himself and the virulently anti-gay Anglican web site Virtue Online. In short, there is almost nothing about the article published by Rev. Coward that appears credible."
According to Burroway in an interview Wednesday with The Advocate, which reported on his initial story Tuesday, the hoax may be an attempt to discredit LGBT activists and foreign media by planting a false report. An early and dogged chronicler of the proposed Uganda bill that would impose the death penalty on gay people, he said the incident illustrates the challenges associated with reporting on LGBT issues in the country where information is scarce.
"It's generally extremely difficult to get information from Uganda," he said. "You always have to be a little bit jaundiced about the newspaper and television. It's difficult to get people on the record to speak, and even to contact people. Internet access is not very good."
Burroway said that Coward had yet to respond to his request for comment, although he did post an update to the Changing Attitude blog. In the post Coward wrote that the report from Monday "turns out to contain both truth and falsehood."
Gay activists in Uganda distanced themselves from the reports Wednesday afternoon. Sexual Minorities Uganda, a coalition of groups including Integrity Uganda, released a statement that said the beheaded man, whoever he may be, was not an LGBT activist.
"SMUG nullifies these reports and we are not aware of any LGBTI activist who has been beheaded," said the coalition. "However, details of the mutilated body are yet to be revealed by the Ugandan Police."
The coalition also dismissed reports that Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo, the chair of Integrity Uganda, knew the murder victim, and that the Reverend Erich Kasirye holds a current post with Integrity Uganda, which he helped found in 2000. According to Burroway, Kasirye was booted from the group under suspicion of fraudulent activity in 2004 and he may be the source of the hoax.
"Speaking to the Chair of Integrity Uganda, Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo, 'I have never worked with anyone who goes by the name Pasikali in my organization,'" said the SMUG statement. "'I also did not make any comments as quoted in earlier statements made by Rev. Erich Kasirye, Rev. Erich Kasirye no longer has any legitimate connection to Integrity Uganda and the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org is no longer available as a link to the leadership of Integrity Uganda,'" it said.
The Advocate will continue to report on the situation in Uganda and publish details as soon as they become available.