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The Globe and Mail

Gay activist killed by sex partner and not victim of hate: Ugandan police

A members of the Ugandan gay community carries a picture of murdered gay activist David Kato during his funeral near Mataba, on January 28, 2011.

MARC HOFER/Marc Hofer/AFP/Getty Images

Ugandan police say a prominent gay activist who was found dead last week was killed by a sex partner, ruling out that the murder was related to his gay-rights campaign.

David Kato was beaten to death with a hammer at his home last week and died on the way to hospital.

The case has provoked worldwide condemnation and drew attention to gay rights issues in Uganda and other African nations where homosexuality remains taboo. Gay activists in Kampala, who had believed Mr. Kato was killed because of his sexuality, said they still needed more proof from the police and they were considering their official reaction to the announcement. Some had feared the government would cover up the homophobia angle because the international media attention could jeopardize crucial aid inflows.

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Police said they arrested Enock Nsubuga, whom they described as a "well-known thief," on Wednesday at his girlfriend's house, saying he had been staying at Mr. Kato's home after the activist bailed him out of prison on Jan. 24.

"According to the suspect, he negotiated with the deceased to be paid money as he was to be used as a sexual partner," Uganda's top police officer, Inspector General Kale Kayihura, said. He said the men then had sex but Mr. Kato did not pay. "The following day, Nsubuga confesses that he picked a hammer from the bathroom and hit him on the head," Inspector Kayihura said. "There is nothing concrete to suggest that Nsubuga was motivated by hate, although we are not dismissing it."

Mr. Kato had been featured in October in a small-circulation newspaper that "outed" people it said were gay and called on the government to kill them. His photograph was published on the cover under the headline: "Hang Them."

The murder of Mr. Kato made international headlines and governments and rights groups criticized Uganda for failing to tackle what some called "a culture of hate" despite some Ugandans cautioning that homophobia had not been proven.

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