Huffpost WorldPost
Ariel Rubin Headshot

Scat Porn and Prayer? Welcome To Sssempa World

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

"I will not call them gays any more, these are sodomites. And I ask you please, in the media, stop misusing the word gay, which means happy people. These are not happy people."

It's when the pastor starts showing the photos of men covered in feces fisting each other, that you realize this is no ordinary press conference. On January 15th, addressing a crowded room of local and foreign journalists, controversial "pro family" pastor Martin Ssempa , sitting beside a solemn-looking Muslim Sheikh in front of posters saying "Barack Obama Back Off" and "Africans Unite Against Sodomy", begins his lengthy invective.

Ssempa called the conference to announce his plan to mobilize more than one million people to march on February 17th in Kampala to show the world just how strong support is for the proposed 'Anti-Homosexuality Bill'. "We want to give a postcard that he [President Museveni] can send to his friend Barack Obama," he says. However Ssempa, clearly relishing the media's spotlight, takes the opportunity to begin a lengthy digression on his deep-seated feelings about homosexuality, pedophilia and the "broken" West's decadent influence. Most of what he says might be laughable if his influence wasn't so far-reaching and the message so deeply offensive. As he repeatedly boasts, 95% of Ugandans are against homosexuality, "this is democracy at work."

A highly charismatic and flamboyant man, Ssempa seems less to speak than to gesticulate wildly, gleefully exhorting the audience of the ills implicit in homosexuality. At one point, he even dramatically decides to break for prayer, calling on the god "who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah" to communicate to the media that Uganda will not perish in the same way. "God you know this bill has to pass," he prays with his eyes towards the heavens. "In Jesus' name, amen." Most of the journalists in the room, whether by force of habit or true faith, instantly mumble back, "amen".

Ssempa is no stranger to controversy, having over recent years, burned condoms in the name of Jesus and arranged for the publication of prominent homosexuals' names in cooperative local newspapers. His abstinence-based HIV/AIDS work was supported by the Bush White House and he has close ties with the born again First Lady, Janet Museveni. His latest work though, with MP David Bahati who privately introduced the bill, has thrust him into the forefront of the debate.

A captivating speaker and natural performer, (he was once the East African breakdancing champion), Ssempa clearly knows how to work a crowd. When a reporter asks why he is persecuting adults engaging in consensual acts in the privacy of their own bedroom, he quickly takes out his laptop to expose just what these acts are.

A pornographic slideshow of black and white photographs of men engaging in scatological fetishism is revealed. "I want to show you from their website", he proclaims, a devious smile forming. "I've taken the time to research what homosexuals do in the privacy of their bedroom. It is inhuman, it is animalistic, and it cannot be right. I want to show you these pictures." The audience lurches forward, leering at the pictures and groaning in disgust. Ssempa, enthusiastically goes on:

I want to say homosexuals eat each other's poop. Homosexuals stick their hands into their rectum. Homosexuals stick all sorts of deviant sexual things into their rectum. I want to show you this is from their website. So the first picture that I want to show you, you can see this man has just eaten the other person's poo poo and is rubbing it on his mouth, and I'm going to ask that we print for each of you a photocopy of this story so you get it fully.

Then, of course, they are grabbing each other's gentials, that is level number one, touching each other, grabbing each other. Then number three, now they are licking eachother's anus and are licking poop. And they call poo poo, chocolate. You see it is a change of words. I want you to see, Sheikh please forgive me but I want these people to see, they say a picture is worth one thousand words. This is a man eating the other person's poo poo, can you see that one? Please from BBC, I want you to tell them, we know what they do.

This coming from a man of god, a community and church leader, and yet also the co-author of a bill which makes touching another person "with the intention to commit homosexuality" an offense punishable by life in prison. He concludes, "After they have eaten poo poo, then he puts his hand inside the other man's rectum. You can see it. That is called fisting. FISTING! Practiced by 65% of all homosexuals. It is deviant! As if that is not enough, he puts it all the way," he pauses for effect and then excitedly grunts, "iiiiiin!" The audience erupts in laughter.

There is something distinctly un-Christian about Ssempa's lengthy tirade, whether it is the pronounced lack of compassion or the clever way he manipulates the argument. No he isn't victimizing, he is standing up for the real victims here: the minors and handicapped insidiously recruited by homosexuals. He criticizes rights groups for their betrayal of the "boy child" who is being molested and raped by men in Uganda without adequate protection. He accuses those who've accused him and his bill of fascistic and undemocratic aims as being "non-ideological" and "undemocratic" themselves, seeking to quash any discourse and stifle the debate.

Ssempa easily shores up support by turning the argument into one of African communal pride versus neo-colonial attempts to destroy it. He calls homosexuality a direct assault on the traditional African family in spite of (or perhaps to overcompensate for) the seldom-mentioned fact that he met his white wife in the United States. He frames the argument as the new clash of civilizations: "For us, as Africans, we are a community, our value system is 'I am because we are'. For the western people, the Europeans, they say 'I am because I am'."

He vigorously castigates America and European countries as "failed states" for "putting the export of sodomy as their number one priority" and seems especially emboldened by Uganda's recent oil discovery, dismissing Western aid as little more than a pittance. "If the changing of our laws to receive sodomy is the price we have to pay to receive mosquito nets and malaria nets, then we'd rather die in dignity."

According to Ssempa, America is bankrupt, deeply in debt to China and soon to be completely dependent on African oil. The U.S. can't afford to set preconditions now that Uganda sits on two billion barrels of crude. Uganda has entered a new era, the past Ssempa terms "B.U.O - before Uganda got oil"; now the country will sit alongside Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Ssempa laughs and goes on to wax lyrically about the inherent evils of "anal licking" while every day his draconian bill inches closer to being passed. After dismissing one reporter's query over possible cessation of aid to Uganda, he exclaims to a rapt audience, "I care deeply about white people telling us what to do. We really find that annoying. I want to say we are a superpower!"