Round-up gays, urges President Nujoma

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Namibian President Sam Nujoma

«Traditional leaders, Governors see to it that there are no criminals, gays and lesbians in your villages and regions»

Sam Nujoma / The Namibian, 2 April - Namibian President Sam Nujoma has urged regional leaders to identify gays and lesbians in their communities so that they can be arrested.Speaking at Okahao in the Omusati region yesterday Nujoma re-emphasised the message he gave at the University of Namibia nearly two weeks ago when he told students that homosexuals should be arrested, imprisoned and deported.

Nujoma called upon Regional Governors, Councillors and traditional leaders in the North to single out gays and lesbians and common criminals in their areas.

He said they should be condemned by the whole nation and arrested. "Traditional leaders, Governors see to it that there are no criminals, gays and lesbians in your villages and regions," he said. "We in Swapo have not fought for an independent Namibia that gives rights to botsotsos (criminals), gays and lesbians to do their bad things here."

At the weekend Amnesty International criticised Nujoma's comments on gays and lesbians and said the vilification and persecution of people for their sexuality was a violation of fundamental human rights. The organisation's Africa Programme Director, stated: "The Government of Namibia is obliged to fully protect the rights of all its people, including gays and lesbians. Public officials must not incite discrimination, hostility or violence against members of sexual minorities."

Amnesty International's comments came in the wake of similar criticism of the President's statements from a local human rights organisation, the National Society for Human Rights, from Namibia's sexual minorities rights organisation, The Rainbow Project, and several of its working groups, and from the Namibian chapter of the Southern Africa Human Rights NGO Network.

On the legal front, both the Legal Assistance Centre and the Society of Advocates have also reacted to the President's remarks, pointing out in media statements that there are no laws in force in Namibia in terms of which homosexuals and lesbians can be arrested, imprisoned and deported because of their sexual orientation, and voicing the opinion that Nujoma's remarks were in conflict with the Constitution's protection of human rights for all.

If sexual minorities in Namibia were to be imprisoned, Amnesty International made clear, those targeted by the Namibian authorities would be considered prisoners of conscience. "Amnesty International believes that the vilification and persecution of persons for their sexuality is a violation of their fundamental human rights," the organisation's media statement reads. Anderson added: "Amnesty International considers those imprisoned for their sexual orientation, or for the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression and assembly, to be prisoners of conscience."

Anti-gay demonstrations
Meanwhile, public calls for official action to be taken against non-heterosexuals in Namibia were repeated over the weekend, with a Swapo-organised demonstration at Oshakati supporting Nujoma's statements on Saturday, and the President, speaking in the north of the country, yesterday reiterating his sentiments on the subject. Swapo is Nambia's geverning political party. 

At a demonstration at the Regional Governor's office which was organised by the Oshana regional branch of the ruling party, a petition was handed to Oshana Governor Klemens Kashuupulwa to demand that Government arrest and deport sexual minorities, Sikunda and supporters, and review the appointment of Judges with the same views as their colleagues who recently ruled against Government in the case on Government's plans to deport Sikunda.

Judges Sylvester Mainga and Elton Hoff, who handed down the judgement setting aside the deportation order that had been served on Sikunda due to administrative defects in the procedure used to decide his fate, have to quit the High Court bench immediately, Swapo's Oshana branch further demanded.

In the petition, which was read by the Swapo Youth League Secretary for the Oshana Region, Teobald Fidelis Ndoroma, support was stated for President Sam Nujoma's recent statements condemning homosexuals and lesbians, and "indeed to all our Swapo Party leaders who stood firm against gays and lesbians".

According to the petition "this social evils is tantamount to sodomy and gommora which we do not want to happen in independent Namibia." (sic) Reading the petition, Ndoroma said: "Therefore Comrade Governor, through you to the central government we want all gays and lesbians to be arrested and those not Namibians to be deported with immediate effect."

Based on article in The Namibian, by Oswald Shivute

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