Last edited: February 13, 2005

Namibian Call to "Eliminate" Gays

PlanetOut News, October 2, 2000

In another rhetorical outburst—this time to graduating cops—a top official denies gays and lesbians have constitutional rights and encourages persecution.

Namibian Home Affairs Minister Jerry Ekandjo on September 29 called on 700 new graduates of the police academy to "eliminate" gays and lesbians. Such rhetoric has resurfaced periodically in Namibia beginning with President Sam Nujoma in December 1996 (see PlanetOut News of December 18, 1996), including Ekandjo’s own memorable call for anti-gay legislation on the floor of the National Assembly in November 1998. However discrimination based on sexual orientation is explicitly prohibited in Namibia’s Labor Code, the rights of individual gays and lesbians are considered to be protected along with others under the national constitution, there is no sodomy law, and the courts have upheld immigration rights for binational same-gender couples; until 1996, homosexuality was never an issue. The gay and lesbian group The Rainbow Project called on the government to denounce Ekandjo’s remarks.

Ekandjo’s remarks at the police center in Ondangwa were first reported October 1 by the state-controlled Namibian Broadcasting Corporation television news. He said that the "constitution does not guarantee rights for gays and lesbians," and that "We must make sure we eliminate them from the face of Namibia," lumping homosexual acts with all other "unnatural acts, including murder." A murky but threatening quote had him saying, "Even if gays and lesbians had a gay dog they should murder it."

The Rainbow Project responded that gays and lesbians are protected by the constitution’s statement that, "inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is indispensable for freedom, justice and peace," and said the government should "publicly reject" Ekandjo’s assertions.

In November 1998 in the midst of a budget discussion, Ekandjo gave an impassioned speech in the National Assembly seeking to "curb the spread of homosexuality in society" by imposing "heavy penalties" on gays and lesbians—according to one source, those penalties to include castration. He said, "It is my considered opinion that the so-called gay rights can never qualify as human rights. They are wrongly claimed because it is inimical to true Namibian culture, African culture and religion. They should be classified as human wrongs which rank as a sin against society and God. ... Gays’ and lesbians’ rights can never qualify to be fundamental rights, because if a male dog knows its right partner as a female dog, how can a human being fail to notice the difference? If a female pig knows its right partner as a male pig, how can a human being fail to notice the difference?"

Of course both African tribal culture and myriad animal species have been found to feature homosexuality. But Ekandjo attributes homosexuality entirely to Western influences, and said, "We take everything [from Western culture] lock, stock and barrel without carefully analyzing what is good and what is harmful to us. Today it is homosexuality, tomorrow the right to walk naked, the day after it will be the right to abuse drugs. At the end the so-called rights will lead to our own extinction."

Ekandjo has a tendency to speak out of turn and shows a certain fascist bent; just last month he announced he would withdraw the work permits of any foreign judges who made rulings not in line with government policy, but was forced to back down and apologize. Ekandjo’s 1998 oration was quickly followed by Prime Minister Hage Geingob’s statement that "There is no chance that such a law is being planned" by the government.

But Ekandjo is not alone in his views and the law is not always the issue. In July of this year, the gay-supportive Namibian civil rights group and publication Sister Namibia saw its offices firebombed just a week after President Nujoma declared that gays and lesbians are "ungodly," "unAfrican" and "destroying the nation."

Nujoma’s original public anti-gay remarks in 1996 followed about two years of similar rhetoric by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.

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