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African activists attack OutRage! tactics

Tony Grew February 1, 2007

A group of 20 gay and lesbian activists from ten African countries have attacked the tactics of direct action campaigning group OutRage!

In a strongly-worded statement they accuse the group, whose most public spokesman is Peter Tatchell, of having, “disrespected the lives, damaged the struggle, and endangered the safety of African human rights defenders.”

The activists, who include Thuli Madi, Director of Behind the Mask in South Africa, and Peter Njoroge of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, urge Westerners not to support OutRage! campaigns on Africa.

Mr Tatchell hit back, saying that only a minority of African gay groups had signed the letter, and that most had refused:

“These are false, malicious allegations, mostly made by people who have never had any contact with me or OutRage!” Mr Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk

“They know little or nothing about our campaigns. Since we have never campaigned with them or in their countries, how can they judge us? OutRage! acted in good faith, with the sole intention of supporting our African brothers and sisters.”

The statement from the African activists focuses on a call earlier this month from OutRage! for Western activists to protest against a new law banning same-sex marriage being considered by the Nigerian government.

The African activists claim that the bill was almost dead, and that by calling for protests, OutRage! were actually rekindling interest in the legislation.

They accuse the UK-based direct action group of neo-colonialism:

“Stay out of African LGBTI issues. You have proven that you have no respect for conveying the truth with regards to Africa or consulting African LGBTI leaders before carrying out campaigns that have severe consequences in our countries. You have betrayed our trust over and over again.”

OutRage! suspended their Nigerian campaign on January 22nd, after protests from Human Rights Watch and some gay activists in Nigeria.

They said that, “individual LGBTI Nigerians in Nigeria and Nigerian LGBTI exiles and asylum seekers in the UK,” had urged them to take action.

OutRage cited a range of press reports in December 2006 from, among others, the Wall St Journal, LA Times, AP, and London’s Gay Times that the bill’s passage through the Nigerian parliament was imminent.

The African activists accuse OutRage! of releasing factually incorrect press releases, quoting people out of context, not consulting local activists and exaggerating the human rights abuses of African governments.

Mr Tatchell called the statement from the African activists sectarian.

“OutRage! works with all groups campaigning for queer freedom,” he said.

“Some gay organisations resent the fact that we work with groups they see as rivals. They want an exclusive franchise on the right to represent lesbians and gay men.

“We are willing to cooperate with everyone. This seems to have caused resentment among some activists.

“We are trying to build bridges. There is no place for pettiness and jealousy in the human rights movement. We should be working together.”

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