By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
KAMPALA, Uganda – Ugandan police raided the premiere night of a new play in Kampala as part of an alleged anti-gay operation abruptly putting an end to the festivities of the premiere.
The evening premiere of ‘Lighting the Shadows’ began on a high note. Enthusiastic audience members gathered outside the theater. Troupe members and visitors posed for pictures. Unlike the archetypal play premiere, however, an unusual number of human rights activists, artists, and foreign diplomats flowed into the theater. All seats in the house were full.
Over a dozen young people performed choreographies of a quality rarely seen in Uganda. One storyline featured a man who dressed differently from the others and was consequently chased by the group, left in isolation and then chained. The play showed men dressed in women’s clothes, and vice versa.
Despite the suggestive themes of the play, the word ‘homosexuality’ was never used.
The mood of the evening had been extremely optimistic. Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha spoke to the crowd, saying that President Obama’s electoral victory in America was a major boost for the gay community worldwide.
The Talented Ugandan Kuchus, the group staging the show, takes its name from the word for ‘kuchu’ which means gay. Although the term usually carries a derogatory connotation, many in the Ugandan LGBT community have reclaimed the term.
The increasing enhusiasm and optimism of the night died out when a voice on the public address system suddenly said “Police has entered the control room and is forcing us to stop,”
Three heavily armed police officers and a man claiming to be a civilian then ordered guests to leave, locking the doors of the theater behind them.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and authorities have recently banned a play called ‘The River and The Mountain’ after only eight performances for ‘implicitly promoting gay acts’.
Ugandan officials have also broken up other previous events that ‘promoted’ homosexuality. Despite this, the organizers were confident that the play would not suffer a similar fate. The premiere was not advertised. Only a select few received an invitation. The organizers further denied that is was promoting homosexuality and said it was simply promoting respect of all human rights.
Ugandan members of parliament passed a resolution earlier this month in support of calls to revive the country’s notorious anti-gay bill.
The bill proposed the death penalty for cases of ‘aggravated homosexuality’, but now the lawmakers are opting, instead, for life imprisonment.
For further information, please see:
Gaystar News – Armed Police Raid ‘Gay’ Play Premiere in Uganda – 8 November 2012
Pambazuka News – Uganda: Anti-discrimination Play Stopped by Police – 8 November 2012
Dunya News – Uganda Prohibits Performance of Pro-Gay Play – 8 November 2012
Radio Netherlands Worldwide – Ugandan Police Storm Premiere of Gay Theatre Production – 8 November 2012