Activists try to stop Nigeria’s bid for Commonwealth glory

Tony Grew August 6, 2007
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Gay activists in Nigeria have questioned whether that country should be allowed to host the Commonwealth Games because of its “systematic persecution of lesbian and gay Nigerians.”

A delegation led by Davis Mac-Iyalla, founder and leader of the gay Christian group, Changing Attitude Nigeria, met with the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) in London last week to put their case.

They presented the CGF with an 11-page report setting out why it should reject the bid by the Nigerian city of Abuja to host the 2014 Games.

The report, entitled Abuja’s Bid – Sins of Omission, was authored by Mr Mac-Iyalla and Mike Hersee, both members of Changing Attitude Nigeria, the Anglican church pressure group which campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights.

Mike Hooper, chief executive of CGF, agreed to present their report to the President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Michael Fennell, later this month.

The Commonwealth Games was founded under its original name, the British Empire Games, in 1930.

They are held every four years, giving around 5,000 athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations the chance to compete.

The Commonwealth Games Federation constitution dictates that “there shall be no discrimination against any country or person on any grounds whatsoever including race, colour, gender, religion or politics” in Article 7.

The CGF website also claims that “Underlying every decision made by the CGF are three core values – HUMANITY, EQUALITY AND DESTINY.”

Nigerian law directly contradicts this, stating that anyone who has “carnal knowledge of any person against order of nature or permits a male to have carnal knowledge of him” can be imprisoned for 14 years.

“It would not be right for the 2014 Commonwealth Games to be held in Nigeria, given the country’s appalling human rights record, including its systematic persecution of lesbian and gay Nigerians,” said Mr Mac-Iyalla.

“Nigeria’s homophobic oppression is a violation of the Commonwealth Games ethos of equality, humanity, peace, unity, cooperation and understanding. Unless Nigeria radically improves its human rights record, it should be ruled out of consideration as a host for the 2014 Games.”

Peter Tatchell of gay human rights group OutRage!, and the Reverend Stephen Coles, a member of the General Synod of the Church of England and Vicar of St Thomas’, Finsbury Park, London, were also in the delegation.

Mr Tatchell paid tribute to Mr Mac-Iuyalla’s work on gay rights.

“Davis has done a magnificent job exposing the victimisation of gay people in Nigeria – a victimisation that is incited and endorsed by the Anglican Church of Nigeria and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola.

“Earlier this year Mr Mac-Iyalla was forced to flee Nigeria and seek exile in a nearby African country, due to threats to kill him.

“These threats were prompted by his public condemnation of homophobic discrimination and violence in Nigeria, and by his public witness as an openly gay Christian.

“Davis is a truly remarkable, courageous man. He is taking a defiant stand in support of gay human rights, despite the serious danger that he could be murdered. We salute him,” said Mr Tatchell.

The final decision on which city will host the 2014 Games will be taken in early November.

Abuja is in direct competition with Glasgow to host the international sporting competition.

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