MWANGA II THOUGHT HE WAS KING OF BUGANDA BUT WAS HE REALLY JUST ANOTHER AFRICAN QUEEN - and an evil one at that? That seems to be the consensus depending on the particular agenda of whoever is telling the story of Basammula Ekkere Mwanga II Mukasa, the controversial 19th-century African king who reportedly executed at least 22 of his young court pages for the solely for refusing to have sex with him. But is that what really happened? They say he was a pedophile with no God-conciousness at all, out to turn bright & innocent young boys into homosexuals. Really...was he? "Always out of Africa there is something new" wrote an ancient philosopher. Before that, someone else wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. If you think the current socio-political cultural clash of religion and homosexuality in some parts of Africa is brand new, think again. According to some accounts, most particularly from the Catholic Church, the same type of hysteria was going on almost 150 years ago. While it may only be coincidental that it's happening again in the same geographical area (Uganda), I think it makes perfect sense to first examine what's happening NOW before we look at what happened THEN!
UGANDA GODDAMN! The recent brutal and suspicious murder of David Kato, one of Uganda's few (and most visible) gay activists, made international headlines. Just a few months before he was killed, the 40ish Kato was featured as one of the country's "top homos" on the front page of a local newspaper called The Rolling Stone, where the paper's lead banner said HANG THEM! The article's by-line stated that local Ugandan homosexuals were looking to "recruit" 100,000 "kids" by 2012, and that they had already "raided" the local schools while helpless parents were left with no recourse but to face "heartbreak." Subsequently, Kato received numerous death threats, and on Thursday, January 27, it was reported that his body was eventually found having been bludgeoned to death with a hammer.
In 2009, the barbaric Anti-Homosexuality Bill (aka the Kill The Gays Bill) was introduced to Parliament by its author, David Bahati (r), and is still pending. If legislation is passed, members of Uganda's LGBT community could be sentenced to death or receive life imprisonment. It will also criminalize knowing anyone gay; citizens who do not report their friends, neighbors and loved ones within 24 hours will be held liable and face imprisonment. Sexually active HIV-positive patients could be charged with "aggravated homosexuality", a capital crime according to the bill and if any traveling Ugandans were discovered to have had same-sex relations with anyone abroad, they could be immediately extradited back to Uganda for prosecution. It is not by accident that David Bahati has traveled as far as Washington DC to seek support for this bill. It was drafted soon after a landmark visit from a contingent of anti-gay American Right-Wing Evangelicals who came in ignorance to help spread hate in the name of love through seminars, rallies and workshops.
In March, 2009, a three-day "conference" with thousands of ordinary Ugandans like preachers, teachers, church-goers, politicians, law-makers, parents and policemen was held, and is considered as the major turning point for much of what is happening now. How to turn gay people straight, how evil adult homosexual men were sexually after their young boys, and how gays were out to recruit & destroy families and marriages were their main topics. Scott Lively, the anti-everything "Christian" missionary, author of books like 7 Steps to Recruit Proof Your Child, and The Pink Swastika - which recasts gay men as the root cause for the rise of the Nazi Party and the Holocaust, was the host. Joining him were Don Schmierer, a board member & spokesman for Exodus International, the well-known "ex-gay" organization, and to undergird the legitimacy of their efforts, they were accompanied by a real live proponent of that ideaology - a dread-locked African American man named Caleb Lee Brundidge, who taught his African cousins how to "heal" from homosexuality.
Others who support this new-wave of so-called Christian evangelism are Tony Perkins from The Family Research Council, who paid lobbyists 25,000 last year to convince members of Congress to block a planned resolution to denounce Uganda's "Kill The Gays" Bill. Pastor Rick Warren, author of the spiritual blockbuster, The Purpose Driven Life, caused many to wonder what his real purpose was when he funded, appeared with, and publicized the work of Uganda's leading anti-gay activist, Pastor Martin Ssempa. Lou Engle, the Evangelical Right-wing leader, visited Uganda earlier this year to help reinforce the idea of homosexuality as being a "satanic attack on the family" at a rally in support of the bill. And an African American, Georgia-based pastor by the name of Carl Jenkins may have made a freudian slip when he recently stated that Africa's (particularly Uganda's) "economic potential is suffering" due to severe moral deficiencies that expressly include homosexuality, and how all that can change with his opening of 50 new churches in East Africa.
WHAT IS IT THAT THEY WANT OVER THERE? And why do the Ugandans seem to welcome the Western fundamentalists with such wide open arms?
150 years ago, the particulars were perhaps a little bit different - MAYBE! However, the theology and the modus operandi were almost exactly the same! Catholic and Protestant missionaries from the West worked in direct cahoots with the British colonists and imperialists who wanted to conquer the bodies, souls and MINDS of the African people in order to exploit the riches and natural resources of the continent.
And right at the center of what went down in Uganda was a young king, or Kabaka, named Mwanga II (r). The current record has reduced him to his sexuality, and now refers to him as evil and weak because of it. Before I deal with Mwanga, I find it absolutely necessary to look at the socio-political and religious climate around him. I am of the opinion that in order to understand him, a short examination of his father, Kabaka Mutesa I is also in order. I also see that I'm going to have to divide this post in two parts. I personally think it's worth it.
Talk about an agenda! The strategic infiltration of Christian missionaries into late 19th Century Africa directly coincided with colonial and imperialist thirst for power. The missionaries were portrayed as innocents, symphathizers, or noble heroes going into the strange, pagan “dark continent” to rescue the “savages” from themselves by spreading love, light and Jesus! Their encounters with the Africans usually involved a takeover of interior land, the authority to impose new rules and regulations, a destruction of traditional belief systems and religions, and the general complete obedience of those colonized. They were agents of the colonizers and theirs was a complete collaborative effort! European merchants already operating in Africa supported them in order to have free reign in consolidating their commercial interests and became active team members in the “civilizing” mission. As usual, inclusive in the grand scheme of things was the induction of some Africans themselves as agents in their own undoing.
As in other parts of Africa, the Protestant & Catholic missions in Uganda first had to colonize the consciousness of the people by seizing their MINDS! So goes the adage that if something has your mind – it has YOU! Life as the Africans knew it was suddenly viewed as bleak, black and wrong, and everything the Missionaries had to offer was seen as good, white and right. “As an agent of imperialism, Christianity was crucial in establishing and maintaining political, cultural, and economic domination. In most cases the missionaries tried to impose upon the Africans some particular ways of seeing and being or values and attitudes that betrayed not only their self-righteousness but also limited understanding of African societies. Since cultural assimilation was a crucial part of the European civilizing endeavor, the belief in the superiority of the alien culture to the indigenous practices provided the lens through which many missionaries – and later colonial officials – interpreted and pursued their missions in Africa” (Njoku & Korieh, Missions, States, and European Expansion in Africa, pg.5).
Sermons were constructed for small children with the subliminal message of inferiority. A particular sermon called A Giant Question Mark & A Giant Ear from the book, Missionary Sermons for Little Folks by Margaret Applegarth, outlines a small black-colored map of Africa to be presented to children with the clear instruction to notice three things – that it is black, and concurrently shaped in the form of a question mark and a giant ear. The black color is to remind the students of the skin they're in, and the fact that their customs are just as black as their bodies. It reinforced the message that black people worshiped evil black spirits in superstition, while the collective “ear” was positioned to hear something new, true and revolutionary. So what were they to do with the information? BREAK TIES with heathenism and satanic tribal traditions, make new alliances, and adjust to new religious standards, adherences and allegiances.
The missionaries also believed the Africans to be too earthy, too sensual and too sexual. They already believed anything sexual was WRONG even if it occurred between a husband and a wife, and since they believed the Africans to be so much more primitive, and intellectually and emotionally inferior by instinct, they helped usher in the construct of the noble savage who was too innocent for “unnatural vices” that most definitely included homosexual behavior. To help conceptualize the behavior they were witnessing amongst some African men, they rationalized that it must have been introduced to them by Arabs who were only considered a tad bit more genetically advanced, and they TAUGHT THAT IN THEIR MESSAGE TOO!
Were all the Africans just passive, willing and total recipients of this new, civilizing change? NO! Imperialist intents were clearly recognized locally especially after diseases, armies and mass destruction usually followed in the wake of the missionaries arrivals. Africans often responded in ambivalent and myriad ways, and a struggle often ensued within the consciouness as the two cultures fought for co-existence and common ground. They accepted some of the new cultural trends and subverted others resulting in a cultural hybrid of the two. But one thing is clear; many of the indigenous people now associated Christianity with authority, power, and a way to better their own personal circumstances. Such was the case in Uganda.....
In Part Two, I will present a short but necessary introduction to Mwanga's father, Kabaka Mutesa I, the court pages, and then I'll deal directly with the enigma himself.