US envoy: Funding won’t be pegged on gays stance

US ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman

US ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman at the KICC in Nairobi on March 2, 2023 during the commemoration of International Women's Day. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

The United States has waded into the debate of same-sex relationships and marriages that has been in the headlines this week.

The Supreme Court early in the week dismissed an appeal by the government to bar the registration of a lobby for gays and lesbians.

The decision ended an 11-year legal battle by activists seeking the official registration of an LGBTQ+ organisation in Kenya.

Yesterday, US ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman said her country would respect the stand of every country on LGBTQ+ rights.

She also dismissed any connection between the USAID donation of Sh16 billion in support of Kenya’s drought relief efforts and the country’s stand on the LGBTQ+ debate.

“There is absolutely no linkage between food and drought relief and Kenya’s stand on LGBTQ,” she said.

The envoy also reiterated her country’s respect of Kenya’s values and position on LGBTQ rights.

“In the US, we probably have a different position,n which includes LGBTQ rights as human rights but we respect every country’s point of view on what position they want to take. We will respect that but of course our democratic values and the way we feel is different and that is okay.”

She added that countries have their differences when it comes to conversations around same-sex relationships.

According to Ms Whitman, the hardline stance of the Kenyan government on same-sex relationships will not affect the long-term relationship between the two countries.

“We have a strong working relationship and I think the Kenyan government knows the US perspective, in fact, I know they do but we also respect Kenya’s right on this particular issue.”

The response comes a day after President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga both took a hard stance on the matter, with the Head of State saying the country will not condone same-sex relationships and marriages.

President Ruto said that the Supreme Court’s majority decision on the registration of the LGBTQ+’s association is against the culture and traditional way of Kenyans.

Dr Ruto urged the religious leaders to step up efforts to teach the young generations about the right way of life, castigating some of the institutions in the country for teaching the vice to students.

“I am a God fearing man. Even though we respect the court, our religion, traditions, law and customs do not allow for women to marry fellow women, nor for men to marry fellow men. I want to tell them that we have traditions, laws and customs, we respect our constitution and all our religions. We shall not allow women to marry women, or men to marry men. That is not possible in our country,” the President said on Thursday in Nairobi.

And Mr Odinga, also speaking in Nairobi, said the Judiciary overstepped its mandate in allowing registration of homosexual groups.

“Article 45(2) of our constitution states that every adult has a right to marry a person of the opposite sex based on the free consent of the parties and that’s the law,” Mr Odinga said.

He added: “It’s not the role of the Judiciary to make laws. If there is a lacuna, you go to Parliament for laws to be amended. Parliament has not amended any laws regarding homosexuality and if they have to, they must do it in line with Article 45(2).”