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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 15:36 GMT
Gays 'fearful' in Namibia
President Sam Nujoma
Nujoma considers homosexuality a foreign influence
Homosexuals in Namibia have said they are afraid for their safety after President Sam Nujoma ordered the country's police to arrest them.


Police are ordered to arrest you, and deport you and imprison you too

President Sam Nujoma
Mr Nujoma has criticised homosexuality in the past, but in a speech on Monday he appeared to order police involvement for the first time.

President Nujoma was addressing students at the University of Namibia when he said that: "The Republic of Namibia does not allow homosexuality [or] lesbianism here.

"Police are ordered to arrest you, and deport you and imprison you too."

Members of Namibia's gay community say they are "appalled by the malicious and hateful comments made by the president".

It is not a crime to be gay or lesbian in Namibia, but sodomy is against the law.

It is unclear, however, what action the police can actually take.

Fears

The office of Namibia's only gay and lesbian organisation was inundated with phone calls from its members on Tuesday.


The Rainbow Project is appalled by the malicious and hateful comments made by the president

Press statement
Ian Swartz, co-ordinator for the Rainbow Project, told BBC News Online that the gay community was "fearful".

He said that many of the callers wanted to find out about the possibility of emigrating.

He added, however, that he had not heard of any arrests.

Mr Swartz said that the Rainbow Project had about 1,000 members but there are many more Namibians who are afraid to reveal their sexual orientation.

Attack

The president's comments follow on from remarks last year by Namibia's Home Affairs Minister Jerry Ekandjo.

State television reported then that he urged newly graduated police officers to "eliminate" gays and lesbians "from the face of Namibia".

In a speech in December 1996 President Nujoma said that "homosexuals must be condemned and rejected in our society".

Article 10 of Namibia's constitution outlaws discrimination but makes no specific mention of sexual orientation.

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See also:

02 Oct 00 | Africa
Namibia gay rights row
23 Oct 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Fighting for gay rights in Zimbabwe
12 Aug 98 | Crossing Continents
Homosexual and hated in Zimbabwe
03 Nov 99 | Africa
Gay doctor flees Uganda
31 Jan 99 | Africa
Gay rights win in South Africa
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