A youth group – affiliated to the ruling party, EPRDF – have joined forces with a religious group to organize an anti-gay rally in the Ethiopian Capital city at an undisclosed future date, according to news on the English weekly Ethiopian Reporter last Sunday.
The news indicated that Addis Ababa Youth Forum and an association of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, named Weyneye Abune Teklehaimanot, has notified the municipality of its plan “to hold a mass demonstration in the capital to protest against Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) and the violence that is being committed against minors”.
Addis Ababa Youth Forum is a of coalition youth and women associations in the city; mainly the Addis Ababa Youth Association, EPRDF’s Addis Ababa Youth League and other smaller groupings. The Forum was established shortly after election 2005, when the ruling party was alarmed that a significant section of the capital city’s youth took part in the post-election street violence.
Weyneye Abune Teklehaimanot is a least-known association that produced a video associating same-sex practice with the advent of an anti-Christ, which Christians believe to be a sign of “the end of the world”.
The anti-Gay rally has the backing of governmental institutions such as “the Addis Ababa City Culture and Tourism Bureau, Addis Ababa Labor and Social Affairs Bureau, Women, Youth and Children Affairs Bureau and the Addis Ababa Police Commission”, according to the Chairman of Addis Ababa Youth Forum.
Addis Ababa Youth Forum claims to have over 55,000 members in Addis Ababa and expects a two hundred thousand strong turn out for the anti-Gay rally, which it describes as “a part of the awareness raising activities [against LGBT that exposed] a lot of children to rape”.
Associating homosexuality with pedophilia has become a recurrent theme in the Ethiopian private press that frequently publishes interviews of Dr. Antonious Seyoum and articles allegedly sponsored by him.
Antonious is head of an NGO named United for Life, which is widely believed to be funded by American Evangelicals in contravention of Ethiopian laws restricting foreign finance on policy advocacy activities. Dr. Antonious Seyoum and his NGO are known for organizing Ethiopian religious leaders against African Men for Sexual Health and Rights(AMSHER) meeting planned as a pre-conference of the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2011). The plan to hold an anti-Gay press conference, to be followed by a rally, was cancelled after the then Health Minister, Tedros Adhanom, arrived at the scene and appealed to the religious leaders after summoning them to a closed meeting, while local and foreign journalist waited outside. The religious leaders accepted the argument that such a public scene will only fuel public violence and rebuked Dr. Antonious – and his nurse wife – who were not amenable to reason at the time.
It is not yet clear if Antonious have a role in the recent plan of Addis Ababa Youth Forum and Weyneye Abune Teklehaimanot association. However, sources close to youth associations in the capital city disclosed that Antonious has been sponsoring seminars that equate homosexuality with pedophilia in a few sub-city level youth associations.
Observers have been surprised that Addis Ababa Youth Forum, where the ruling party is believed to play a key role, collaborated with a religious grouping on a policy matter.
Horn Affairs indicated last week that Gay-bashing rhetoric is likely to increase in the run up to the election next year.