Kenya: Openly gay Senate candidate withdraws from race

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Kenya’s first openly gay Senate candidate has pulled out of the electoral race, citing security concerns and a lack of funding.

In a Nov 26 statement, David Kuria Mbote says he’s unable to continue his run without adequate security and the means to hold meetings in Kiambu County, the seat he was contesting.

“It is with a heavy heart and great sorrow therefore that I wish to announce my withdrawal from the Kiambu County Senate Race. For those who supported my campaign, I will work on a formula for refunding you the money, because while we have already used it in the campaign efforts, you donated with the aim of us holding right up to the end.”

Kuria told Gay Star News he received “threatening text messages” that indicated that anyone who voted for him should die, just as he also should.

“Although I am sure such messages are from the fringe and do not represent the mainstream, they are very scary and I was faced with the choice of either to invest in security and move from where I live or withdraw from the race,” Kuria said in the report.

In a September Q and A with Gay Star News, Kuria, who was a cofounder and general manager of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), acknowledged that his history in gay rights activism meant the chances of getting funding to run an election campaign were “nil.”

In Kenya, sex between men carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Several people in Kenya and in other African countries who were inspired by Kuria’s run for office expressed disappointment, as well as understanding, at his withdrawal from the race.

“I am saddened by the news that Kuria is pulling out of the race. This goes to show that our politics in Kenya truly needs a facelift. Kiambu County will surely lose a great leader,” says Barbra, a queer feminist and activist in Nairobi who is quoted in the news portal Identity Kenya.

“I think David’s withdrawal for the race is discouraging for me. I have been following his foot prints and so seeing him withdraw scares me and the others who are imitating him. I am sad but do not know why and so have nothing much to say than to let him know how I admired his courage and bravery,” Mac-Darling Cobbinah, a human rights activist from Ghana, adds.

Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha called Kuria’s withdrawal “disheartening.”


“We looked at him with a lot of admiration as a pioneer in the political arena, but again I would understand if the campaign is weighing on his personal life, but I also have to appreciate that he tried, and he made a political statement by standing in the first place,” Mugisha says.

Watch the following interview featuring David Kuria Mbote.

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Natasha Barsotti is originally from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. She had high aspirations of representing her country in Olympic Games sprint events, but after a while the firing of the starting gun proved too much for her nerves. So she went off to university instead. Her first professional love has always been journalism. After pursuing a Master of Journalism at UBC , she began freelancing at Xtra West — now Xtra Vancouver — in 2006, becoming a full-time reporter there in 2008.

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