Connect with us

East Africa News & Stories

Religious leaders in Ethiopia oppose gay travel company’s proposed tour

Ethiopia’s Inter-Religious Council warn tour organisers of impending threats

News Central

Published

on

Religious leaders in Ethiopia oppose gay travel company's proposed tour
(File photo)

Ethiopia’s religious leaders on Monday urged the government to block a US gay travel company from touring the country’s ancient sites, and one group warned visiting homosexuals could face violence.

The Chicago-based Toto Tours, which describes itself on its website as “the only gay tour company in existence” that has been operating with the same ownership and management for almost three decades, told AFP it has received death threats since announcing a 16-day trip to Ethiopia, which includes numerous historical religious sites.

Their itinerary has sparked ire in Ethiopia, which like many in Africa is deeply homophobic and has strict anti-gay laws, punishing homosexual acts with up to 15 years in prison.

“Tour programmes and dating programmes that try to use our historical sites and heritage should be immediately stopped by the Ethiopian government and we urge Ethiopians supporting these sinful and evil acts to desist from their acts,” Tagay Tadele of the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia told journalists.

The council counts seven Islamic and Christian denominations as members.

An influential Ethiopian Orthodox organisation, the Sileste Mihret United Association, also held a press conference Monday to condemn the tour company.

“Homosexuality is hated as well as being illegal in Ethiopia. Toto Tours are wrong to plan to conduct tours in our religious and historical places,” the organisation’s vice chairman, Dereje Negash, told AFP.

“If Toto Tours comes to Ethiopia where 97 per cent of Ethiopians surveyed oppose homosexuality, they will be damaged, they could even die,” he said.

Dan Ware, the president of Toto Tours, said the company had been “terribly misunderstood”, in an email to AFP.

“Our company is not aimed at spreading values contrary to local cultures when we travel around the world. We are simply an organization where like-minded people can travel comfortably together to experience the world’s most precious wonders.

“We come with only the greatest respect and humility.”

He said the tour had been advertised on the company’s social media pages and spotted within Ethiopia, leading to “death threats”, and called for protection for the tour group from both the US State Department and the Ethiopian tourism ministry.

“This is terrible discrimination, and when word of this spreads internationally, as it is most likely to do, it will have a negative impact on the important tourism industry in Ethiopia.”

He said that by the time the tour takes place in October “the eyes of the entire world will be on the people of Ethiopia to see what happens to us.”

Twenty-eight out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws penalising same-sex relationships, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Some countries, like Angola, Mozambique and Seychelles, have moved to scrap anti-gay laws.

However, Kenya’s high court earlier this month refused to do so, in a major blow to gay activists on the continent.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

East Africa News & Stories

DR Congo military kills 16 militiamen in northeastern region

A spokesperson for the military said militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one

Published

on

DR Congo military kills 16 militiamen in northeast region
Soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

The military in DR Congo said on Tuesday that sixteen militiamen have been killed in the northeastern part of the country, an area where ethnic violence has left at least 160 dead and forced hundreds of thousands to flee in the past two weeks.

A spokesperson for the military said militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one.

“At the moment, operations are concentrated around the Kpadruma locality where there is violent fighting,” Lieutenant Jules Tshikudi, a provincial army spokesman, told reporters.

He said;

“The soldiers of the armed forces of the DRC have chased attackers from several localities which they were occupying and sowing insecurity.” 

He also added that four AK47 rifles were recovered.

Lieutenant Tshikudi did not reveal the name of the group that was targeted, but there have been repeated outbreaks of violence between different ethnic groups in that area.

Between 10 and 12 June, there was a flare-up in violence in the Djugu region in DRC’s volatile Ituri Province which led to the deaths of at least 160 people, local authorities said. Earlier death tolls put the figure at somewhere between 50 and around 70.

The UN refugee agency has voiced deep concerns over the developments, which it said had seen “multiple attacks” involving the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups since early June.

The agency has said the recent wave of violence in the area has forced more than 300,000 people to flee their homes, with “large-scale displacement” reported in three of Ituri’s five administrative territories, with people fleeing unrest in Djugu territory especially.

The region which is known to be rich in gold, has experienced extreme violence before, with deaths numbering tens of thousands due to clashes between the Hema and Lendu form the periods of 1999 to 2003.

The DRC counts an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people. Ituri and North Kivu province, just to the south, are battling with a major epidemic of Ebola that has claimed more than 1,400 lives since August last year. Both provinces are in the eastern part of the DRC, where the country shares its border with Uganda.

Continue Reading

East Africa News & Stories

Kagame calls out the West’s ‘human rights superiority complex’

Kagame said compared to what it was 25 years ago, Rwanda is now a different country

Published

on

Kagame criticises West's 'human rights superiority complex'
Photo credit: AFP

In an interview with French TV broadcaster, France24, Rwandan president, Paul Kagame has termed criticisms of his country’s human rights record as “rubbish” and “ridiculous”.

Kagame said compared to what it was 25 years ago, Rwanda is now a different country.

He challenged the host of the program to look at what he called Europe’s failing human rights record, particularly the way migrants have been treated.

“[Europe] is violating people’s rights, with this problem of people being bundled and sent back to sink in the Mediterranean and so many being mistreated in your own country”, he said.

He further added that criticisms from the West were tinged with a superiority complex:

“You really need to stop this superiority complex nonsense about human rights.

“You think you are the only ones who respect human rights, all others are about violating human rights. No, we’ve fought for human rights and freedoms for our people much better [than] you people who keep talking about this nonsense.”

Continue Reading

East Africa News & Stories

Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief with national funeral service

The country has been left reeling after Saturday’s violent foiled coup plot

Published

on

Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief with national funeral service

Ethiopia on Tuesday held a funeral service for its army chief who was assassinated by his bodyguard over the weekend, an incident believed linked to an alleged coup bid in northern Amhara state.

Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed wept and mourners wailed as the coffin of Seare Mekonnen, draped in the Ethiopian flag, was carried to the front of a room filled with soldiers in military fatigues, in footage carried by state media.

Related: Police in Ethiopia kill suspected coup plotter

Ethiopia has been left reeling after this weekend’s violence, a massive blow to Abiy who has embarked on an ambitious project of economic and political reforms in the nation.

However, his efforts have unleashed ethnic violence and turmoil as different groups jockey for resources and power.

On Saturday, what the government described as a “hit squad” entered a meeting of top Amhara officials and opened fire, killing regional president Ambachew Mekonnen, his top adviser and the state’s attorney general. 

A few hours later in Addis Ababa, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) away, army chief, Seare was shot dead by his bodyguard. A retired general visiting him was also killed.

Related: Ethiopia mourns death of army chief, top officials after failed coup attempt

The government said he was coordinating the response to the “attempted coup” at the time. 

Abiy’s office also said it appeared to be a “coordinated attack” without giving more details.

Ethiopian authorities have pinned the blame on Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige, who was gunned down by police while on the run on Monday.  

Asaminew was only released last year from almost a decade in prison over a 2009 coup plot, under a mass prisoner amnesty that began under former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn and continued under his reformist successor Abiy.

Related: Ethiopian army chief, regional president shot dead in Amhara coup attempt

Analysts describe him as a hardline Amhara nationalist who was likely facing removal from his job over efforts to form a militia and rhetoric pushing for territory in neighbouring Tigray to be reclaimed.

The motives of Seare’s assassin meanwhile, are completely unknown.

Internet services were down on Tuesday across Ethiopia for a fourth consecutive day.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Newsletter

Trending