Kenya gay activist criticises Odinga crackdown threat

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga (file photo) Raila Odinga stressed that the new constitution did not legalise gay weddings

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A gay rights activist has criticised Kenya's prime minister for threatening a crackdown on homosexual people.

David Kuria from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya told the BBC that Raila Odinga's comments would encourage people to extort money from gay and lesbian people.

On Sunday, Mr Odinga warned that men or women found engaging in homosexual acts would be arrested.

He later said he was only saying the constitution bans same-sex weddings.

Mr Odinga was heavily involved in campaigning for the new constitution which was passed in a referendum in August.

He said rival political leaders had said the new document allowed gay marriages.

Homosexual acts are illegal and can be punished by up to 14 years in prison.

It is believed to be the first time Mr Odinga had made such comments.

Mr Kuria told the BBC's Network Africa programme that he did not know why Mr Odinga had made the statements in a speech to his constituency in the Nairobi slum of Kibera.

He said most African leaders who condemned homosexuals were trying to gain political leverage but he said Mr Odinga was already popular so his statement was "surprising".

An MP in neighbouring Uganda last year tried to introduce the death penalty for some homosexual acts, sparking international condemnation.

The BBC's Caroline Karobia in Nairobi says gay people are largely left alone in Kenya as long as they do not draw attention to themselves.

The city is home to some well-known gay pubs, she says.

'Sad'

Mr Odinga said on Sunday: "We will not tolerate such behaviours in the country. The constitution is very clear on this issue and men or women found engaging in homosexuality will not be spared."

Mr Kuria said the prime minister's comments left him "full of sadness".

"We thought in this country we had made a lot of headway," he said.

"People will succumb to extortion, blackmail and violence."

In February, five people were arrested near the resort of Mombasa after reports they were trying to organise a gay wedding, sparking local protests.

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