By Sahr Kai
What do you do when your pursuit of life, liberty and happiness are threatened for being gay in a country or place where religious or cultural considerations are given preference over personal well-being and safety?
Well, you find a place that is not only conducive to but also protects you, anywhere.
With the exception of South Africa and Cape Verde, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Africa are limited in comparison to Western Europe and much of the Americas and Oceania.
Out of the 54 states recognised by the United Nations or African Union or both, the International Gay and Lesbian Association stated in 2015 that homosexuality is outlawed in 34 African countries.
In Uganda, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone, offenders can receive life imprisonment for homosexual acts.
A people dominated by the Islamic faith, Sierra Leoneans are mainly anti-gay. The attack on the teenager, Hamidu Jalloh by his uncle and family members, with full support from the Sierra Leone Police, is a clear case study of how dangerous it is to be gay in Sierra Leone.
Jalloh is of the Fullah stock, a predominantly Muslim people with strong family and cultural ties to their people scattered all across West Africa, and the world. This reality puts Hamidu’s life in danger wherever he finds himself among other Fullah people.
Narrating his story, Hamidu said his uncle, who happens to be no less that the Chief Imam of the Kingtom Bridge Mosque, Sheikh Alphajor Jalloh, is so against him being gay that he has vowed to kill him were ever he lays hands on him.
Apart from that reliable sources at the SLP say Hamidu’s case is an active case file because of the humiliation and shame he has brought on his very conservative Islamic family by being openly gay.
“His uncle is still pursuing the matter. He even pays to keep the file active so that whenever Hamidu is located, He will probably be the first to prosecute Him,” the police source said.
Every now and then community mobs organised by Sheikh Jalloh patrol the community and the homes of suspected homosexuals in search of Hamidu.
But where is Hamidu Jalloh? He is presently on the run for his life and safety. His personal exile is a testament to the dangers that lurk for LGBT people in Sierra Leone, where depending on which family you come from, could lead to either your physical assault, incarceration, alienation, or all.
Narrating his ordeal in 2019 Hamidu said on Sunday 5th May 2019 he was surprised with a special party by his boyfriend at him Sheriff Drive, Lumley residence in appreciation of their long-standing and unbreakable relationship.
An hour into the party, Jalloh said a group of armed police officers, his uncle, family members and the community people crashed the party, attacked and mercilessly assaulted them. Some were even sexually molested and fell brutally ill after their ordeal.
Two of Hamidu’s friends ended up fracturing their legs trying to jump from a 12ft fence. They are permanent disabled from sustaining internal pains from the thrashing they received while also trying to scale the fence.
One of the invited guests, Yusuf, had said that his surprise arrest and subsequent questioning had left him so scared that he informed the police where the party was to be held. With such gatherings illegal in Sierra Leone, the police, acting at the behest of Sheikh Jalloh, stormed the premises with a gathered mob.
Speaking in 2019, Sheikh Alphajor Jalloh had said that it’s against the beliefs of Islam to practice homosexuality, and an abomination and disgrace to his family. “I’m a practical Muslim and he knows that coming from a practical Muslim home his way of life is intolerable and disgrace,” he had said.
Hamidu is still a wanted man in Sierra Leone, where arrests and detentions can be paid for and those held made to spend years in jail without trial. People get forgotten in jail in Sierra Leone. With his uncle and community wanting him dead or alive, maybe it is ok for him to be on the run.