NAIROBI, Kenya – An official with Kenya's largest gay rights organization said Monday there is panic among its members following remarks made by Kenya's prime minister that homosexuals should be arrested.
The office of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya received calls from concerned members, some of whom are HIV-positive and fear they will be arrested when they collect life-prolonging medicine from government clinics, board member Nguru Karugu said.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Sunday said homosexuals who are found in the midst of sex acts will be arrested. Odinga's spokesman said in a statement Sunday night that the prime minister was quoted out of context.
In an audio recording of Sunday's speech heard by The Associated Press, the prime minister says in the Kenyan language of Kiswahili that "if a man is caught having sex with the other we jail them, or if a girl is caught with the other ... we will jail them." In the latter part of his statement he used profanity to explain lesbianism.
"We want a country that is clean, a clean way of doing thing has clean mannerisms ... we do not want things to do with sodomy," Odinga said.
Kenya's laws prohibit "sex against the order of nature." That charge is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Karugu said the prime minister's remarks are big blow to Kenya's efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. He said the government has included gays in its plans to combat the virus.
Civil rights activist Zawadi Nyongo called for a protest outside the prime minister's office on Wednesday.
Odinga's spokesman, Dennis Onyango, said the prime minister was trying to convey how groups opposed to the country's new constitution — which was adopted in August — used lies and scare tactics to get people to vote against it.
Onyango said the prime minister gave two examples of opposition propaganda that the new constitution would legalize gay marriage.
"He then added a rider that even if the constitution allowed gay marriages, census data showed there were more women than men in Kenya and people would naturally go for marriage with the opposite sex," Onyango said. "The highlight on the alleged order for a crackdown completely missed the point."