By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
KAMPALA, Uganda – British producer, David Cecil, is facing at least two years of imprisonment in Uganda for staging a play that dealt with homosexuality.
“The River and the Mountain” ran from August 17 to 23 in a small cultural center in Kampala managed by Cecil and his girlfriend. The play was initially scheduled to be held in the Uganda National Theater, but was transferred to a different venue out of fear of a police raid.
“The River and The Mountain” by British playwright Beau Hopkins, tells the story of Samson, a gay Ugandan businessman, who faces violent reactions from his family and colleagues after he comes out at a party following a promotion. His mother contracts a Christian pastor and a witch doctor to try to “cure” her son. Samson is eventually killed by his colleagues.
The play was intended to further dialogue about homosexuality and homosexual acts. Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda and draw condemnation from church pastors and politicians.
Cecil was charged for ignoring an advance warning from the Uganda Media Council that the play was not to be staged until they obtained official clearance. The Media Council issued the warning on August 16, the day before the play premiered. On August 29, after the shows had ended, the Media Council ruled that the play was not to be staged because parts of the production “implicitly promote homosexual acts” which “are contrary to the laws, cultural norms and values of Uganda”.
Cecil said he, along with British playwright Beau Hopkins, Ugandan director Angella Emurwon and the Ugandan actors, decided to go ahead with the staging because the Media Council’s warning letter “in no way” made reference to any potential legal consequences. “Even my Ugandan lawyer read the letter and said: ‘It does not clearly constitute a legal order,'” Cecil explained.
However, Cecil was contacted by the police and subsequently charged for disobeying an order from the Media Council – a public authority in Uganda. The law enforcers asked Cecil, who has been living in Uganda for three years, to surrender his passport. A police bond was also issued for him.
The Ugandan ethics minister Simon Lokodo condemned the play. Lokodo explained, “This play is justifying the promotion of homosexuality in Uganda, and Uganda does not accommodate homosexual causes. We will put pressure on anyone saying that this abomination [homosexuality] is acceptable,”
As a conservative, dominantly Christian society, many Ugandans regard homosexuality as contrary to both African traditions and their faith. Homosexuals are often harassed and even killed in the country.
The Ugandan parliament is due to debate a 2009 bill that threatens the death penalty for what was termed “aggravated homosexuality”.
For further information, please see:
The Telegraph – British Theatre Producer Jailed for Putting on Gay Play in Uganda – 13 September 2012
BBC News – Uganda Charges British Producer David Cecil over Gay Play – 13 September 2012
The Huffington Post – Producer of Play about Gays Faces Jail in Uganda – 12 September 2012
The Observers – ‘I Play a Gay Man in Uganda, where Homosexuality is illegal’ – 11 September 2012
Radio Netherlands Worldwide – Producer of Uganda’s First Gay Play Could be Jailed – 8 September 2012
International Business Times – Producer of Pro-Gay Play Arrested in Uganda; Faces Two Years in Jail – 7 September 2012