Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa has been charged with blackmail for allegedly paying a man to falsely accuse another pastor of sexual assault. Ssempa is notorious in Uganda and around the world for his anti-LGBT sentiments and past efforts.
Ssempa, along with seven other anti-LGBT Christian activists, is accused of hiring and paying a man named Robson Matovu to claim that he was sodomized by Pastor Robert Kayanja of Rubaga Miracle Centre Cathedral in Kampala. According to the Advocate, no evidence was found to support the sexual assault claim, and the charges were retracted. “In retracting their statements, the complainants said they had been mobilized to make false accusations against Pastor Kayanja in order to tarnish his name,” a report reads. The Ugandan newspaper New Vision indicates that although several arrests have been made, police have thus far been unable to take Ssempa into custody, suggesting that he “eluded” them.
This development comes after various headlines Ssempa has recently made regarding his opposition to equality for the LGBT community, including his displays and graphic descriptions of gay pornography at his Ugandan church while asking, “Is this what Obama wants to bring to Africa?” He is also strongly supportive of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would make physical acts with members of the same sex punishable by the death penalty. He has organized demonstrations and spoken out in public for the bill—often associating the LGBT community with pedophilia, insisting that he is a protector of children, and claiming that Uganda as a country opposes LGBT rights.
Jim Burroway, editor of the Box Turtle Bulletin, notes the implications of this story in the context of Uganda’s current political climate. “Public charges of sodomy are a common way to settle political and other scores in Uganda. Should the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill become law with its death penalty and other heightened penalties for advocacy on behalf of LGBT people or failure to report gay people to police, such conspiracies will increase and carry far greater dangers. The bill will mean that no one will be safe, including straight people.”
GLAAD has reported in the past about the struggle for LGBT people in Uganda, and has worked with pro-LGBT religious advocates in the country (such as Bishop Christopher Senyonjo) to amplify their voices. We have also recognized Ssempa’s homophobia and his impact even in America, as well as his connection to this dangerous bill. If the charges against Ssempa and his colleagues turn out to be true, they will serve as a perfect example of the extreme tactics being used by anti-LGBT activists in order to ensure that equality is not brought to our community in Uganda and elsewhere.
GLAAD will continue to monitor coverage of this story and report on the latest updates.