YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – A leading Catholic prelate in Kenya, who’s set to take part in a Vatican Synod of Bishops next month, has objected to a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court allowing a gay rights group to obtain official recognition as an NGO.
In an interview with the ACI news agency, Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde of the Archdiocese of Mombasa said the court’s decision amounts to promoting a LGBTQ+ agenda in Kenya.
“It is very unfortunate. If you legalize something, it means you are promoting it,” Kivuva said.
“Registering them (LGBTQ associations) means you are giving life to the behaviors. If you join a football club it means you are ready to play football,” he said.
Kivuva, 71, is among the prelates chosen by the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa to take part in the upcoming Oct. 4-29 Synod of Bishops on Synodality in the Vatican, where, among other topics, the question of blessing same-sex unions is expected to arise.
“This (ruling) does not mean we should not continue defending ourselves,” said Kivuva, who is also the Chairman of the Kenya Bishops’ Conference.
“We should continue promoting marriages of the opposite gender, as it should be, because out of that we get children. It is perpetuating life,” he said.
Kivuva’s comments came in the wake of a Sept. 12 ruling by the Supreme Court dismissing a challenge to an earlier decision allowing the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) to register as a non-governmental organization.
Ten years ago, Kenya’s NGO Coordination Board, which has the responsibility to register NGOs, refused an application by the group on the basis that “it promotes same-sex behavior.” In February, however, the Supreme Court overturned that decision, and its Sept. 12 ruling confirms that the group is allowed to register.
The ruling provoked celebration within the gay community in Kenya.
“The [rulings] mean safety to organize as a community, a movement and organization. [This] win gives an assurance that we are heading in the right direction,” said Marylize Biubwa of Queer Republic.
Androgenous Alpha, the CEO of Nadharia Kenya, an NGO that works to promote gay rights, called it a “bittersweet” moment.
“It’s sweet because the legal system recognizes that we are here. That we exist,” he said.
The bitter aspect of the ruling, Alpha said, stems from the mismatch between a landmark decision like this one and society’s general ignorance of human rights.
It’s a ruling that may not be pleasing to the country’s political leadership. President William Ruto has repeatedly expressed his disapproval of gay relationships, and said the Supreme Court’s decision won’t change that.
“We respect the Supreme Court’s decision, but it doesn’t mean we have to agree with it. Our values, customs, and Christianity do not allow us to support same-sex marriages,” Ruto said.
“We have laws that govern us here in Kenya. I want to tell you that will not be possible…it can happen in other countries, but not here,” said Ruto.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has also insisted that the administration will not endorse same-sex relations.
“We will not entertain that kind of talk here,” he said. “That is the ‘devil’s’ doing. The president of this country is God-fearing; he will do what needs to be done. In any case, we have our traditions and customs, and what they are suggesting is repugnant to morality and justice and our way of life,” Gachagua said.
“We say no to women marrying other women and vice versa. As a god-fearing leader, do not allow this to happen,” said Member of Parliament Alice Ng’ang’a.
“Women don’t want to compete with men. We want to be given our space as women, and we will keep the fight on this issue,” she said.
Kivuva said he can’t understand why, despite opposition from the country’s highest authorities, the Supreme Court would still allow LGBTQ+ people the right to form associations.
“We had a [meeting] with the former and current president and they were clearly against this. Why is this happening now? Is money exchanging hands? Is money the only thing we need?” he asked.
The reference to money could be triggered by what has happened in neighboring Uganda, where the World Bank has withheld critical funding to the country on the grounds that it enacted draconian laws against gays.
“Our goal is to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance. These measures are currently under discussion with the authorities,” the World Bank said in a statement regarding the suspension of funding in Uganda.
Kivuva has called on Kenyans to continue defending themselves, a statement reflecting earlier statements made by the country’s bishops with regard to the Supreme Court’s ruling in February.
At that time, the bishops insisted that homosexuality “seeks to destroy life” and that it goes against the “natural order of beings.”