One of Kenya’s hottest singers, Willis Austin Chimano, has come out publicly as gay and thrown his weight behind the country’s fight for LGBTIQA+ rights.
Chimano, a member of hit boy band Sauti Sol, this week boldly announced that he is gay.
His announcement has been celebrated by the Kenyan queer community online.
Chimano said that his main reason for coming out was that he no longer wanted to live a lie.
Sauti Sol is one of Africa’s biggest boy bands, taking out the MTV Africa Music Awards in 2016.
Chimano has wasted no time in lending his voice to queer activism, supporting this week’s public protest of the Kenyan government’s attempt to ban gay students from boarding schools.
“Our rights are human rights,” he tweeted.
“We’re here, always been here, we’ll stay being here!”
Jared Chaboto, a Nairobi-based gay activist, said that Chimano’s coming out was a big inspiration to the Kenyan LGBTIQA+ community.
“His bold move is an encouragement to many others out there who are still living in fear,” said Chaboto.
“Being the star he is, his coming out is and will remain a big boost to the community.”
Chimano joins the growing list of openly LGBTIQA+ Kenyan celebrities.
Former BBC journalist Makena Njeri, who has been an active defender of the community, is also among the celebrities who have publicly come out.
Chimano’s coming out attracted a huge debate within Kenya’s social media spaces, with opinion divided as usual in the conservative society.
Some praised Chimano for being himself and coming out, while others accused him of being a bad influence on society.
As in many parts of Africa, the LGBTIQA+ community is still widely stigmatised in Kenya, where homosexuality remains illegal.
Since coming out, Chimano has been spotted this week with his boyfriend enjoying a vacation in Kenya’s coastal region.