Friday, 1 October 2010

Malawian Tiwonge Chimbalanga headed for Canadian asylum

HT: African Activist

Source: Maravi Post

One of the two first Malawians to be openly gay and whose arrest over Christmas last year and subsequent five-month incarceration drew worldwide condemnation is leaving for Canada where he has sought asylum, a family member and a human rights activist have confirmed.

"Yes, Tiwonge will be going to Canada to settle," Maxwell Manda, a cousin of Tiwonge Chimbalanga's, told in an exclusive interview Thursday. "He is just finalising travel documents."

Manda said Chimbalanga, or Aunt Tiwo, who currently ekes out a living by doing odd jobs, will find a career in his adopted country.

"Some people will host him for some three years then after that he will find what to do," he said. "We have advised him not to mess this opportunity."

Gift Trapence, whose Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) - a local NGO that looks after the interest of minority groups like gays, lesbians and sex workers - worked very hard to win the freedom of the two men, also confirmed Chimbalanga is Canada-bound.

"I don't have much details as of now, may be by next week, but what I know is that his passport is ready, he is just waiting to be issued with a visa for Canada," he told Thursday.

Chimbalanga, 20, and his now-estranged 26-year-old gay beau Steven Monjeza, were arrested on December 27 last year after performing a public engagement ceremony at a lodge the former was working on the outskirts of Blantyre, Malawi’s business hub.

The couple’s arrest turned them into poster boys for persecution of homosexuals on the African continent. The couple quickly became an instant media sensation as the world media feasted on any fine detail of their case.

A Blantyre magistrate convicted the two on buggery and gross indecency charges and handed them what he famously called a "scary" 14-year sentence, the maximum both charges could attract under Malawi laws.

CEDEP, alongside other local and international human rights organisations like the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRRR) and Outrage! of leading London-based gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, campaigned for the release of the couple by lobbying Malawi's donors and holding demonstrations.

The government of the United States of America, Norway and Great Britain, among others, and multi-laterals like the European Union and the African Development Bank (ADB) urged Malawi to tread cautiously on the issue, saying the couple human rights were violated. They warned that Malawi's image may be tainted abroad because of its handling of the issue.

However, for five months - amid the growing pressure on his administration - Pres Bingu wa Mutharika held out, calling the "acts of those two boys in Blantyre" as alien and unacceptable. But United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon prevailed on Mutharika who pardoned the couple.

After their release Chimbalanga remained unrepentant saying he would rather quit Malawi and live in a country where his status would be acceptable. But his partner, Monjeza, immediately renounced his gay status. He severed ties with Chimbalanga and announced he had got himself a female lover, 24-year-old Blantyre woman Dorothy Gulo.

But while Chimbalanga's star seems to be shinning even brighter, Monjeza has fallen on hard times. His fairy-tale affair with Gulo ended in disappointment after she walked out on him. Adding salt to injury, a Blantyre court a fortnight ago slapped him with a suspended sentence after being convicted of stealing a cell phone belong to a drinking mate.


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