ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, in an unusually outspoken declaration Sunday, told African leaders assembled at the African Union summit that they must respect gay rights, an issue that is controversial in many African states.
More than 30 African heads of state and government sat silently during Ban’s speech, in which he chastised leaders, saying discrimination based on sexual orientation had been ignored or even sanctioned for too long.
“Let me mention one form of discrimination that has been ignored or even sanctioned by many states for far too long, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Ban said.
“This has prompted some governments to treat people as second-class citizens, or even criminals.
“Confronting this discrimination is a challenge. But we must live up to the ideals of the Universal Declaration.”
Homosexuality is illegal in many African countries — a situation which has drawn increasing criticism from activists and the West.
Several attendees at the summit expressed irritation at what they perceived as outside interference in African affairs.