Kenyan premier calls for arrest of gays

Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga. AFRICA REVIEW | FILE 

Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga has ordered the arrest of gay couples in the country.

Addressing a rally in the capital Nairobi on Sunday, the prime minister termed their behaviour "unnatural".

“If found the homosexuals should be arrested and taken to relevant authorities,” Mr Odinga said.

The premier thrilled the crowd in a largely conservative country when he asserted that the country's recent census showed there were more women than men and there was no need for same sex relationships.

He termed it "madness" for a man to fall in love with another man while there were "plenty of women" and added that there was no need for women to engage in lesbianism "yet they can bear children".

Attracted the wrath

Mr Odinga’s statements are likely to rub Kenyan activists the wrong way, who have recently been emboldened to go public to campaign against widespread homophobia.

The remarks also come months after the country's special programmes minister Esther Murugi attracted the wrath of Kenyans by calling for recognition and acceptance of gays, a topic almost anathema in the conservative country of 40 million.

On Sunday, Mr Odinga accused the ‘No’ team [that opposed the passage of Kenya's new constitution] of misleading Kenyans during the campaigns that the new constitution recognises same sex relationships.

The Kenyan premier's stance is in contrast to Botswana, where history was last week made when a gay couple became the first in the country to go public.

Same sex relations are illegal in Botswana and offenders risk prosecution and jail, a stance replicated in many African countries.

But Botswana President Ian Khama has been quoted saying that it is a "private" behaviour and that the country's police have more pressing things to do than "running after gay people".

Close to 40 nations on the continent outlaw same-sex relationships, with Uganda having been in the news earlier this year when it proposes tough anti-gay legislation. Only South Africa, Chad and Gabon do not expressly outlaw it.

--Additional reporting by LEE MWITI

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