Ibrahim Munkaila: Full Interview
Ibrahim Munkaila originally told his story to us using the pseudonym ‘Kwaku’, which you’ll hear in this recording. He has also written a blog article for us entitled Sexuality and Seeking Asylum.
Interview by Ray Larman
4th June 2019
[Please note: Ibrahim used the pseudonym ‘Kwaku’ during this interview but, as of the time of writing, prefers to go by his real name. We have transcribed the interview as originally recorded, however.]
RL: This is Ray Larman recording for West Yorkshire Queer Stories. It is the 26th of March 2019. I’m here with Kwaku who’s going to introduce himself.
IM: Hello, my name is Kwaku. I’m from Ghana, originally, but I live in Hull, East Yorkshire, and I’m here with –
RL: What’s your date of birth?
IM: My date of birth is 27th June 1976.
RL: And how do you identify?
IM: I’m LGTB [sic], I’m a gay man. I live in Hull. I’m originally from Ghana.
RL: Can you tell me about what it was like growing up in Ghana?
IM: Yeah, growing in Ghana I would say is good and bad, it’s a long story: I grew up in a Muslim family and I attended a Christian school. All along I identified my sexuality as a gay man and that hasn’t gone down well with my own family, so I [have] grown up to be abused by them. So, as a result, when I reached my teenage I got a friend in East Yorkshire who is a gay man – we got in contact as a result of a correspondence, so he extended – invited me to come to UK; so because I’m not getting on well with my family, they don’t allow me to practice my own sexuality – they try to abuse me, the attack me, they report me to the local authorities and it’s illegal to be gay there, so as a result my friend invited me to come to UK and I came to UK as a result. And I’m happy to live in UK where I can openly be gay man and practice my sexuality and live as such and be who I want to be.
RL: So how did you make this friend, was it like online or did you know them in Ghana?
IM: Yeah, I meet him in a gay newspaper called Pink Newspaper, so that’s where I got in touch with him, this is interesting question.
RL: Oh okay, so how long were you like corresponding?
IM: Corresponded with him from 1995 until 1999 when he gave me the first invitation, the first invitation was successful and I came to UK. That was June 1999.
RL: Ah, okay. Did you come to stay with him?
IM: Yeah, I came, I stayed with him and I went home back, when I went home my family wasn’t happy I came to UK to meet an Englishman, so the threat was very bad as a result so he gave me another invitation to come back in 2002, so since then I live with him in Beverley. He was a lecturer at the University of Hull, so we live in Beverley together, a place called [street name], and so we live together in the same house.
RL: So, how do you find being in the UK?
IM: Yeah, interesting, I like it, although you miss your family, you left everything behind, you get culture shock. You don’t see your family again but at long last I manage to cope with it and it’s alright.
RL: So what are the main kind of differences that you see in life here compared to Ghana?
IM: Yeah, the differences you see, everything here is quite good and what is in Ghana in terms of education and in terms of general living standard is better than what I see in Ghana.
RL: But it must be very hard to be away from your family and friends?
IM: Yeah, it was very hard, it was very hard to be with your family, sometimes you feel alone, sometimes you feel like you are cut off from your family for ever and ever, you’re not gonna see them again, but anyway these things has been part of [us?] now so we move on, we accept it.
RL: So when you were in Ghana did people know that you were gay?
IM: Well, people get to know around 1995, yeah, when such of the English people they get to come there and we were try to be more associated with them so, as a result, starts a gay groups; and it’s not something that you can practice openly, so most of the guys at that time they received a lot of threat because some of them, like myself as well, had other friends in the UK here; so they have to contact them for a rescue, we use the word rescue to help them get out of the country, cos even if the police get you, you go to prison for ten years.
RL: So, what was it like leaving, what – did you have to leave suddenly, or it was all – it was planned?
IM: It has to plan and you be careful with yourself, you don’t expose yourself openly whilst you are there, cos if they get to know you in the [unclear] can mobilise and come and attack you and even burn your house.
RL: Have you known that happen to people?
IM: Yeah, it’s happened to people, some people go to jail or they call some people’s animals: how do you practice homosexuality when the government, the presidency and everything is against it? And it’s something completely unacceptable so if they get you, you can even lose your life.
RL: So, now you’re here, in the UK, are there – you come to African Rainbow Family in Leeds; what does that offer? What do you get from African Rainbow Family?
IM: Well, African Rainbow Family they are a voice to some affairs, cos the challenges we have after the trauma and stress we pass through and left the family behind, that itself is mental torture – when you come here, you’re trying to – your sexuality, you try to tell the authorities who’ll give you the document Leave to Remain to be [unclear] in this country, whatever story you tell them, they will tell you you are lying, you are not really gay.
RL: Do they say that to your face – you’re lying?
IM: They are saying you are lying, straightforward, so African Rainbow Family’s really the voice for us who will – it’s a lobby group, who can help us to come out boldly to say, these guys, they are gay, they flee from their own country because of this, it’s not that they are economic migrants; they are quite different from those who flee from war, but this, this is internal problem they are facing. But Home Office, the case workers they will just look at you, just your paperwork, they say you are lying.
RL: What do they want you to give them, like to prove that you’re are gay?
IM: This is very difficult questions, because if I use my personal example, I met an immigration officer who spent eight hour an interview about 470 questions or more, just talking about my sexuality, and I live with gay man in the same house, and is a gay man brought me in this country. They say, there is no record of this man here, never married – we were living together, and I got the evidence that he invite me. All this, and so I say [unclear]… Receive a letter to say, no we don’t believe in you – and what proof do you want me to bring to believe in me also? It’s difficult here; I don’t know what they want. So it is, it’s a difficult question to prove yourself.
RL: Yeah, yeah. So you’ve been here a while now and –
IM: Almost 17 or 18 years now, since stay in the UK.
RL: Oh, okay. So, do you go out to gay places? Like in Hull?
IM: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I do.
RL: Where do you go?
IM: I do go to, there is a club called Polar Bear and there is Propaganda. So I go to these places but all the… so the Home Office says no, this doesn’t confirm it, so they don’t believe in him. I say, ‘What do you want to believe in me!? Do you want to see my sex videos or what? I don’t know what, I can – I can show you to believe in me’; and they land me to African Rainbow Family so they may be able to write me a letter saying… And maybe one from you can also help? And meet inside countries who interview me, who write a letter and say, ‘Look this guy is member of LGTB so what can we do?’ So, that’s the challenges we face.
RL: Is there anything else you would like to say?
IM: No, I think that’s it unless there is more questions you want to ask.
RL: No, I don’t think so, thank you.
IM: Thank you very much.