DC
01/14/2012 05:08 pm ET | Updated Jan 15, 2012

Ugandan Ambassador Withdraws From MLK Event In Maryland

WASHINGTON -- Uganda's ambassador to the United States will not speak at an event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. in Maryland after concerns were raised over the African nation's anti-gay human rights record.

The Washington Blade reported Friday that an unnamed LGBT activist had asked two national gay rights groups and a human rights organization, TransAfrica, to ask the United Negro College Fund to withdraw its invitation to Perezi Kamunanwire, who was supposed to deliver the organization's keynote Martin Luther King Jr. Day address.

After the Blade made inquiries about the ambassador's planned appearance, the United Negro College Fund sent a letter to the ambassador expressing its concern over the nation's anti-gay record, which includes its highly controversial "kill the gays" bill.

As The Huffington Post recently reported, the legislation was shelved in May 2011 after intense international pressure, but one Ugandan gay activist, who has received on-going threats, wrote in The New York Times in December that it could be reintroduced at any time.

The Blade reported Saturday that the ambassador "abruptly withdrew" from the event:

The Blade contacted the United Negro College Fund after a black LGBT resident of the D.C. area sent an email to the Blade expressing "shock, sadness and disappointment" that UNCF would invite a Ugandan official to speak at its King Day celebration given Uganda's widely known record of anti-gay persecution.

"With the pending legislation there in Uganda, the death penalty for those found 'guilty' of being LGBTQ, I don't think Ambassador Kamunanwire is the most appropriate speaker for Dr. King's birthday," said the LGBT resident, who asked not to be identified.

The UNCF said that the ambassador had been invited based on his educational and scholarly credentials.

According to the UNCF's brochure on the event, WRC/NBC4's Pat Lawson-Muse is scheduled to be the mistress of ceremonies at the breakfast event, to be held at Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt.

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