1968 (age 49–50)
Masaka District, Uganda
|Nationality||Ugandan and American|
|Occupation||Pastor, anti-gay activist|
Martin Ssempa (born 1968) is a Ugandan-American pastor and activist and the founder of the Makerere Community Church. He refers to himself as Pastor Doctor Martin Ssempa and first came to international prominence in 2010 after a presentation video he made at his church which showcased his opposition of homosexuality went viral online.
Early life and education
Martin Ssempa was born in Naluzaale of Uganda's Masaka District in 1968 to a single mother. He did not know who his father was. His mother was a teacher and he changed schools often as a child. Ssempa went to Kimanya Primary School in Masaka and St. Peter's Primary School in Nsambya. He then went to Rubaga Boys' Secondary School, before he completed his A level at Namilyango College. During his teenage years he became a celebrity in East Africa as the national break dancing champion. In 1988, Ssempa was admitted to Makerere University.
During his time at the University, both Ssempa's brother and sister contracted HIV. Ssempa sat by their beds as they grew sicker. When they died in 1990, he blamed their promiscuity and feared that his lifestyle would also lead to his death via AIDS; thus, he decided to take action. Ssempa converted to Evangelical Christianity at the Wandegeya Baptist Youth Center. He travelled the country with a drama group that performed in schools in an effort to educate students about AIDS.
Ssempa graduated from Makarere with a Bachelor's degree in Social Science, specialising in sociology. He later received a Master of Arts degree in counselling from Philadelphia Biblical University. In 2006, that same university awarded Ssempa an unaccredited honorary doctorate for his work with people with AIDS. In 2010, it denounced Ssempa for his public policy on sodomy in Uganda.
According to voter registration application submitted on July 6, 2012, Ssempa is a United States citizen.
Ssempa supports the separation of church and state and the use of condoms to prevent HIV contraction, and supports abstinence plus fidelity education in the fight against sexual diseases. Ssempa claims to be leading a crusade to "kick sodomy out of Uganda, endorsing proposed legislation in Uganda that makes certain homosexual acts punishable by life in prison or even, in some cases, death."
Ssempa has advocated a cessation of tribal rivalries and hatred in Uganda. He is a strong advocate of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill that includes the death penalty for gay men and lesbians. Ssempa champions the bill by showing gay pornography, depicting fisting, anilingus, and coprophilia in his church and at conferences, widely publicised and circulated on the internet as "Eat Da Poo Poo". US President Barack Obama has referred to the bill as "odious".
Of the bill, Ssempa has stated the following:
Some people have asked about the rationale of a death penalty mentioned in the Bill. There has been a lot of misinformation about this matter with headlines such as: “Gays face death penalty in Uganda”. These headlines are deliberately misleading. This penalty applies only in special cases termed 'aggravated homosexuality', which include, those convicted of unlawful homosexual rape of a child or handicapped invalid; this is a conviction of paedophilles! As highlighted in the problem of 'virgin rape cures HIV/AIDS' the offender can be a person living with HIV; a parent or guardian of the victim where there is abuse of authority! Finally is the use of drugs to stupefy the child so that they can rape them! Clearly, the intent of this penalty is to protect weaker members of society from being victimized. Please note that for over 15 years Uganda has had the same penalty for persons who have carnal knowledge of minors heterosexually, mainly to protect against sexual abuse of girls by men. This time, this provision intends to provide equal protection of boys, among others.
Ssempa's international influence has been exhibited through his work with a branch of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Because of his involvement in light of the anti-gay bill he backs in his own country, PEPFAR has been labelled by gay and lesbian support groups as promoting homophobia.
In addition to his anti-gay agenda, Ssempa has co-authored Uganda's 2004 "Abstinence and Being Faithful" AIDS policy; this policy is a revision of the previous "ABC Program" – Abstinence, Being Faithful, and Condom Usage. As well, he is a special representative of the Task Force on AIDS of Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni. Ssempa has testified before the United States Congress on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa.
In the past, Ssempa was associated with Rick Warren and Saddleback Church's HIV/AIDS Initiative. During this time period, he served as keynote speaker at Warren's Disturbing Voices AIDS conference; Warren has since distanced himself from Ssempa and completely severed ties with him in 2007.
Arrest and conviction
In October 2012, Ssempa and five other individuals were convicted in Buganda Road Court of conspiring to tarnish a rival pastor's reputation by falsely accusing him of engaging in homosexuality. The guilty verdict stemmed from a May 2009 incident in which Ssempa and the others engaged in a conspiracy to coerce a male church member at Robert Kayanja's Rubaga Miracle Center Cathedral to claim that he had sexual relations with Kayanja. The six individuals, including Ssempa, were sentenced to a fine of one million shillings each (about US$390) and one hundred hours of community service.
- The New Vision, Martin Ssempa turned Saturday night at MUK into prime time
- "Martin's Story". Martinssempa.com. Archived from the original on 25 June 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "New Vision Online : Martin Ssempa turned Saturday night at MUK into prime time". Newvision.co.ug. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "A view inside the Ugandan anti-gay campaign of Martin Ssempa, Dr. Warren Throckmorton". Crosswalk.com. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "Uganda pastor screens gay porn in church". Capitalfm.co.ke. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
- "Martin Ssempa Denounced by Alma Mater". Box Turtle Bulletin. Retrieved on 24 September 2016.
- "Anti-Gay Ugandan Extremist Martin Ssempa is U.S. Citizen; Testimony Sought in U.S. Court Case". ccrjustice.org. Retrieved on 24 September 2016.
- 29 juli 2007. "Frontline/World| Uganda: Condom Controversy | PBS". YouTube. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- Timothy, Aaron (14 August 2009). "Martin Ssempa ~ News: Christians join Muslims to fight Homosexuality". Ssempanews.blogspot.com. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "God and the Fight Against AIDS". The New York Review of Books. Nybooks.com. 28 April 2005. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "Uganda National Pastors' Task Force Against Homosexuality". www.martinssempa.com. 25 December 2009. Archived from the original on 25 December 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
- The Independent, Guest Blog: Tribal Politics: Role of the church in peace building
- "UN rights boss urges Uganda to shelve anti-gay bill". reuters.com. Retrieved on 24 September 2016.
- "Martin Ssempa, Anti-Gay Ugandan Pastor, Shows Church Gay Porn Videos". Huffingtonpost.com. 18 February 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- Ssempa, Martin. "Warren Response". Archived from the original on 25 December 2009. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
- "Rick Warren's Africa Problem". The Daily Beast. 7 January 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "PEPFAR money being used to 'promote homophobia', charges human rights group". Aidsmap. 19 October 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "NOW. Transcript. November 4, 2005". PBS. 4 November 2005. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- Miller, Lisa (29 November 2009). "Pastor Rick Warren Responds to Proposed Antigay Ugandan Legislation". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2009.
- Box Turtle Bulletin: Martin Ssempa Begins Serving Sentence. 17 October 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012