Saturday, October 24, 2009

Leave us alone, says gay Kenyan couple

Daniel Chege Gichia (centre) and two friends in London. Photo/FILE

Daniel Chege Gichia (left) and three friends in London. Photo/FILE 

By GITAU wa NJENGA in London

Two gay men of Kenyan origin, whose much-publicised wedding in the UK last weekend elicited excitement in London and back home, have asked the public to respect their privacy.

In a telephone interview with the Sunday Nation from the seaside town of Brighton, south coast of England, where they are on their honeymoon, the couple said they had committed no crime to warrant such attention.

“We appeal to the Kenyan public and the media to leave us alone; we have not committed any crime, our marriage is within the UK law,” said Daniel Chege Gichia, the 39-year-old man whose wedding to Charles Ngengi, 40, in a civil ceremony on October 17 at Islington Registry Office in North London has been widely reported in the media.

Information obtained by the Sunday Nation in London under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which gives the right to obtain information held by public authorities in the UK, shows that Gichia is a British citizen.

He was issued with a passport by the UK Passport Office after he was naturalised by the British Home Office in 2000. The new information emerged as Mr Gichia and Mr Ngengi broke their silence for the first time since their controversial wedding which has sparked public outrage across Kenya.

The couple, who wed under the controversial Civil Partnership Act 2004 which came into effect in the UK in 2005 allowing couples of the same sex to have legal recognition of their relationship, said they were deeply appalled by the Kenyan media intrusion and public outcry following their wedding.

“Our sexuality has nothing to do with our respective families. I’m disgusted by media intrusion on our families in Kenya,” Mr Ngengi said.

Our families

“It is regrettable Kenyan media invaded our families’ privacy by visiting our parents in Murang’a,” Mr Gichia said. “The visit to our family home was uncalled-for and most undesirable. I heard the press were asking them all sorts of questions.

“Our parents have nothing to do with our decision to get married; we are both consenting adults who decided to be civil partners. It is none of anybody else’s business,” Mr Ngengi said.

Mr Gichia told the media to concentrate on matters of national importance instead of ‘‘digging into our private lives’’. “The media should report on important issues like the indictment of perpetrators of the post-election violence and the poor state of security in Kenya instead of peeping into our private life. We are just two innocent individuals who are in love and have not committed any crimes,” he said.

“Our families are being targeted by homophobic extremists; they have done nothing wrong. It is not fair to persecute our aged parents.” “My brothers have been given a two-week ultimatum to leave Gaturi village in Murang’a district by members of the outlawed Mungiki sect,” he claimed.

The Sunday Nation could not independently verify Mr Gichia’s allegations about the Mungiki threat. Mr Gichia’s claims coincided with the report in Friday’s Daily Nation that his family in Gaturi village was targeted by homophobic neighbours.

Pressed to comment on claims that their controversial marriage has brought shame and sorrow to their families and the nation in general, the couple instead shifted the blame to the media coverage. Mr Gichia left Kenya in 1994, flying first to Spain before moving to London. He was naturalised as a British citizen in 2000, while Mr Ngengi moved to the UK recently.

A British immigration law expert who spoke to the Sunday Nation in London said: “In the absence of dual citizenship in Kenya, Gichia is not a Kenyan citizen; he entered into a civil partnership with Ngengi as a British citizen, and he acted within his rights.” Mr Ngengi is still a Kenyan citizen and must undergo a rigorous vetting process before becoming a British citizen.

According to the UK Border and Immigration Agency, which is responsible for controlling migration in the United Kingdom, persons who are married to or are civil partners of a British citizen and wish to apply for naturalisation as British citizen must meet mandatory requirements which include three years’ residency in the UK and good character.

“Hopefully, the Kenyan laws might change in the future and, one day, we might repeat our wedding in Kenya, ” said a defiant Mr Ngengi. A source close to Kenyan immigration said that because of the controversial gay wedding in London, it might not be in the ‘‘public interest’’ to allow Mr Gichia to enter Kenya.

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