Ugandan ex-gay recants, says Ssempa paid him to say he changed

Not sure how I missed this one, but yesterday Josh Kron reported that one of Martin Ssempa’s poster children for gay change recanted his story saying that Ssempa paid him to claim change.

George Oundo said he had changed orientation and that Uganda’s Parliament should pass David Bahati’s antigay bill at a news conference reported by the Parliament.

However, within a short time, he met with Kron and recanted everything saying Ssempa had paid him well to tell a false story.

“I used to call myself the Queen Mother and Lady of the City,” Mr. Oundo said. “I was recruited into homosexuality many years back, when I was 12.”

“When I joined Mr. Ssempa, I told him all my problems,” he said. “I had to come out and join the struggle.

“Please help us; let the bill pass,” he said.

But an hour later, in a quiet hotel, Mr. Oundo recanted much of what had been said at the meeting.

“David Kato was murdered; it was a plot,” Mr. Oundo said. “I don’t support the bill.”

As for being a “former homosexual,” that, too, was not true.

“I’ve always been gay,” Mr. Oundo said, in a timid but growing voice. “I didn’t choose it.”

“David Kato was the first one who taught me to protect my human right,” Mr. Oundo added.

Mr. Oundo said that his presence alongside Mr. Ssempa at Parliament had been to “protect” himself and that he had been contacted only that morning by Mr. Kagaba about the meeting and offered about $42 to attend. He said Mr. Ssempa had offered him about $2,000 in 2009 to repent and switch sides in the debate, but later reneged. Either way, Mr. Oundo became a poster-child for Mr. Ssempa’s anti-homosexuality movement.

Not sure how Oundo is doing right now, I suspect he may have trouble finding friends at this point. However, whatever is going on, the situation as laid out by the NYT is about what I have been reporting here. After some possible signs of life after the election, the clock will probably run out barring a signal from the govt that they want to move it.

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  • David Blakeslee

    Frightening vulnerability for this man…

  • Richard Willmer

    Indeed. Oundo is in a very difficult position – a position that is emblematic of so many of the challenges facing LGB and transgendered Ugandans.

  • Richard Willmer

    Oundo’s situation is also a ‘window’ into the deep internal contradictions of that most troubled of human persons, Martin Ssempa. (We all have ‘internal contradictions’, of course – such is part of the ‘human condition’.) It also shows what can happen to people when human ideology and culture (of any kind) are allowed to become our idols.

  • Jet

    Warren, I doubt that story in the NYT. It is just done to beef up the gay rebuttals. Josh the story writer can not be trusted for this. Oundo is a very unpredictable guy who can lie to get anything he wants. The gay and straight community in Uganda knows this. Every journalist that lives the west to Uganda comes back with a distorted story of events there. They never give us accurate information. It’s just a ploy to destroy Uganda and her moral leaders.

  • Richard Willmer

    Ssempa is also something of a ‘maverick’. My UG contacts do believe that Ssempa could have done this spot of ‘recruiting’.

    Oundo has indeed appeared to ‘change sides’ more than once. Don’t forget that he was on the Rolling Stone UG ‘Hang Them’ list last autumn, so I suspect it was a mixture of threats and cash that has brought him back into Ssempa’s camp.

    As I type, a lively discussion on this is developing on Ugandan blogs I frequent. I have also told the Monitor, and the moderator has appended my comment (and this link) to the original article about Ssempa’s trip to Parliament earlier this week.

  • Richard Willmer
  • Every journalist that lives the west to Uganda comes back with a distorted story of events there. They never give us accurate information. It’s just a ploy to destroy Uganda and her moral leaders.

    Jet, you were almost believable until this last sentence.

    Generally speaking, the West has no interest in destroying “Uganda’s moral leaders” — however, many of Uganda’s moral leaders seem to be very interested in blaming all of their problems on a plot by outsiders.

  • Richard Willmer

    Indeed, Throbert. Not sure that having a seriously messed-up guy like Ssempa (or a vicious, ambitious lunatic like Bahati*) as a ‘moral leader’ is a good thing anyway! And UG’s real moral leaders, e.g. John-Baptist Odama, don’t tend to engage in anti-western and homophobic rhetoric.

    * Bahati’s main interest is probably in destroying political rivals, I reckon – especially after a long chat I had yesterday with a ‘contact’. But he may have ‘overreached’ himself …

  • My take on “moral leaders”:

    When leaders are asking you to look at your own life and improve, they are moral leaders.

    When leaders are asking you to look at others and blaming them for the world’s problems, be it The West or homosexuals or the church down the street, it’s time to be suspicious.

  • anteros

    this must be the second or third, possibly fourth young man to expose ssempa’s recruitment tactics… why is ssempa getting away with this kind of nonsense? this is the same man who is responsible for several public (this includes minors) screenings of hardcore pornography…

  • Richard Willmer

    I was talking with a UG contact today. Ssempa’s immediate following is of course among educated middle-class people, and they seem to be looking askance at his antics. Better still, Ssempa’s behaviour is discrediting homophobia generally. The important thing for us to do is to make sure that potential Ssempa followers are kept fully informed of his activities.

    Maybe best to keep up the flow of information and let Ssempa hoist cause by the petard of his bizarre behaviour. Obviously, one should be concerned about Oundo’s safety and well-being; it would not surprise me if the most intense pressure is being applied to him to retract his retraction. Let us not forget that Oundo was featured in the notorious ‘Hang Them’ edition of the UG Rolling Stone; Ssempa seemed content to be associated with that same edition. Here are two excepts below …

  • Richard Willmer

    Apologies, the first sentence of the second paragraph should have read thus:

    “Maybe best to keep up the flow of information and let Ssempa hoist his cause by the petard of his bizarre behaviour.”

  • Richard Willmer

    I would add that anyone considering letting Ssempa be their ‘pastor’ might pause for thought over his treatment of Oundo. After all, what ‘pastor’ in his right mind would allow himself to be associated with a publication that advocates the murder of one of his supposed ‘flock’?

  • Richard,

    I think that any congregant who will sit through their pastor showing them scat porn isn’t going to find about anything their pastor does to be unacceptable.

  • Richard Willmer


    I suppose you are right. However, Ugandan culture is changing, and changing fast. There is a growing willingness to question ‘authority’ and to make objective moral judgements about the behaviour of, say, a pastor.

    The porn shows were indeed morally suspect, to say the least; much more worrying in my view is Ssempa’s apparent willingness to sacrifice for the sake of human ideology the true well-being of those to whom he purports to minister. This is totally indefensible, and I’m sure that there are Ugandan Christians who would refrain from supporting him on these grounds.

    Anyway, here’s some more commentary on the Oundo-Kagaba story: