The small town of Mtwapa in the coastal town of Kilifi may make history if it hosts Kenya’s first gay wedding planned for Friday.
Two men are said to have announced the wedding, to be held at a hotel. News of the nuptials is an open secret in the fast-growing town, famous for its vibrant night life.
Some gay couples from Western countries are among dozens of guests expected to witness the marriage. News of the wedding has rattled religious leaders — both Muslim and Christian — who have united in their vow to stop it “at all costs”.
Speaking after a joint meeting on Thursday, religious leaders condemned the planned wedding. Furious clerics from the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) and the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) met at Masjid Answar Sunna Mosque, Mtwapa and cursed the couple and the organisers of the unconstitutional marriage.
CIPK Kikambala region coordinator Sheikh Ali Hussein and Kilifi's NCCK representative Bishop Lawrence Chai said they had given the government seven days to close down night clubs they accused of fuelling homosexuality in the town.
The clerics claimed that a large number of youths were being recruited into gay clubs and warned that “God is about to punish the fastest growing town in Coast region”.
“Come night, come day, we shall not allow that marriage to be conducted in this town tomorrow (Friday). We shall stand firm to flush out gays who throng this town every weekend from all corners of this country,’’ the religious leaders said in a statement after their meeting.
The controversy comes amid opposition to a clause in the draft constitution which many religious leaders said could legalise same sex marriages. However, the clause that said every adult has a right to start a family has since been deleted from the draft.
In Uganda, rights activists are up in arms over an attempt by Parliament to pass a law, supported by some religious leaders, to make homosexuality a capital offence. The law proposes that serial homosexuals be hanged.
In Mtwapa on Thursday, NCCK and CIPK officials asked the government to “save the country from the shame of being used to conduct a marriage between people of the same sex.” They also warned the owner of a building in the town, who was allegedly renting rooms only to homosexuals, to evict them or face their wrath. They gave him a seven-day ultimatum to throw out tenants.
Sheikh Hussein and Bishop Chai called on the government to intervene and urged the provincial administration to take their calls seriously. They also demanded that a government institution in the town be investigated, for allegedly providing medical services to homosexuals.
“How can a State institution be involved in providing counselling services to these criminals. We ask the government to shut it down with immediate effect or we shall descend on its officials,” warned Sheikh Hussein.
They claimed that the clinic was being used as a recruitment centre where members gather every Sunday for treatment. The clerics asked the government to withdraw the licences of night clubs and bars linked to gay activities across the country.
Last year, two Kenyan men, Charles Ngengi and his ‘bride’ Daniel Chege Gichia, married in Britain under a controversial civic partnership Act that came into effect in 2005.