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Brian S. Brown, President of the World Congress of Families

The World Congress of Families is Expanding its Homophobic Agenda into West Africa

The far-right organization recently held a regional conference in Accra.

Last year, Ghanaians took to the streets to protest against laws criminalizing homosexuality. The protests were primarily in response to a 72-page report published by the Human Rights Watch which detailed how violence towards members of the LGBT community by mobs or their own family members was on the rise. Scores of protesters insisted that the country's Penal Code was not only a dated colonial-era relic but that it led to LGBT Ghanaians being treated as second-class citizens without basic human rights. While countries such as Botswana and Angola made huge strides this year and decriminalized homosexuality, Ghana's discriminatory laws have remained and lives continue to be affected because of it.

On November 1st, the World Congress of Families (WCF), a far-right organization that has been pegged a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, hosted a regional conference in Accra, Ghana. The two-day gathering included Ghana's political and religious leaders who subscribe to the conservative "pro-family" and "natural law" ideologies which condemn homosexuality, Islam, abortion and other reproductive health rights. There is increasing concern among members of the LGBT community, activists and allies, that LGBT people will experience even more targeted violence not only in Ghana but other African countries where homosexuality has still not been decriminalized.


You'd be forgiven for not knowing who the WCF are and what they're about. Davis Mac-Iyalla is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa. The organization "builds bridges across all religions or faiths" with the ultimate aim of changing attitudes towards LGBT people. In a statement to OkayAfrica, Mac-Iyalla says that, "Their footprint in promoting and sponsoring anti-LGBT laws in West Africa is known but the wider general public doesn't know much about them and their agenda." He continues, "That's why they mostly target influential politicians and religious leaders as their entry points." According to Mac-Iyalla, numerous Ghanaian government officials including former president Kufuor Mahama and speakers of parliament are giving the WCF considerable attention.

LGBT rights organization OutRight Action International has also spoken out about the WCF's expanding homophobic agenda in West African countries. Jessica Stern, the Executive Director of the organization, says in a press release that, "This is not the first instance of American Evangelicals and organizations exporting homophobia and transphobia around the world." Stern adds that, "Their agenda stands in stark contrast to basic human rights standards, instead openly inciting attacks on human dignity, and promoting a long out-dated world of religious domination and stark gender inequalities." She ends off by saying that, "We have to work across civil society and state boundaries to support activists in West Africa and ensure that an already hostile environment for LGBTIQ people and women does not become even more so."

Explaining how activists on the ground and lobby groups plan to counter the resource-backed efforts of the WCF, Mac-Iyalla says that, "We have monitored and documented their activities properly. In the coming weeks to months, we will develop strategies to resist and counter their activities. Ours is to expose their homophobia and discrimination in West Africa." He ends off on a hopeful note and says that, "We are creating awareness and educating our people on the real Africa Families and Values which is not only based on biological ideas but on love and compassion."

While the WCF did not respond to our attempts to contact them for comment at the time of publishing, in a report entitled A Call for Civil Dialogue and Constructive Engagement, the organization defends itself by saying that it "stridently condemns any violence against homosexuals and would never support any legislation that would advocate such" and that "[WCF] has never taken a position on the criminalization of homosexuality."

Interview
Photo: Shawn Theodore via Schure Media Group/Roc Nation

Interview: Buju Banton Is a Lyrical Purveyor of African Truth

A candid conversation with the Jamaican icon about his new album, Upside Down 2020, his influence on afrobeats, and the new generation of dancehall.

Devout fans of reggae music have been longing for new musical offerings from Mark Anthony Myrie, widely-known as the iconic reggae superstar Buju Banton. A shining son of Jamaican soil, with humble beginnings as one of 15 siblings in the close-knit community of Salt Lane, Kingston, the 46-year-old musician is now a legend in his own right.

Buju Banton has 12 albums under his belt, one Grammy Award win for Best Reggae Album, numerous classic hits and a 30-year domination of the industry. His larger-than-life persona, however, is more than just the string of accolades that follow in the shadows of his career. It is his dutiful, authentic style of Caribbean storytelling that has captured the minds and hearts of those who have joined him on this long career ride.

The current socio-economic climate of uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrusted onto the world, coupled with the intensified fight against racism throughout the diaspora, have taken centre stage within the last few months. Indubitably, this makes Buju—and by extension, his new album—a timely and familiar voice of reason in a revolution that has called for creative evolution.

With his highly-anticipated album, Upside Down 2020, the stage is set for Gargamel. The title of this latest discography feels nothing short of serendipitous, and with tracks such as "Memories" featuring John Legend and the follow-up dancehall single "Blessed," it's clear that this latest body of work is a rare gem that speaks truth to vision and celebrates our polylithic African heritage in its rich fullness and complexities.

Having had an exclusive listen to some other tracks on the album back in April, our candid one-on-one conversation with Buju Banton journeys through his inspiration, collaboration and direction for Upside Down 2020, African cultural linkages and the next generational wave of dancehall and reggae.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

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