Ugandan Police Arrest British Producer of Play About Gay Community
September 13th, 2012
Last month, we reported on a pro-gay stage play, “The River and the Mountain,” which premiered at a small theater in Uganda after the government banned its performance at the National Theater. The play’s producer, British citizen David Cecil, has since been arrested on charges that he had the play performed without official authorization. He appeared in court today, charged with “disobeying lawful orders” and was ordered held without bail. If found guilty, Cecil would face a two year sentence:
The Ugandan Media Council sent a letter to David Cecil, producer of The River and the Mountain, on 16 August saying it was considering whether to grant the play clearance to be performed. “In the meantime,” read the letter, “this play is not to be staged in any theatre or public place in Uganda.” The play’s run at the National Theatre was cancelled but it was performed at two small venues in the capital Kampala.
“I was called in by the police and spoken to by several officers from the media offences department of the CID [Criminal Investigation Directorate],” said Cecil. “They said that by staging the play I have disobeyed the Media Council, which is a public authority. I’ve been charged with that offence and they are now considering whether to press on with the case. But I had only taken their letter to be advisory, not the law.”
The Guardian’s report last week indicates that Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo is behind the ban:
Ugandan ethics minister Simon Lokodo said the play was not granted clearance because “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.”
Lokodo, a defrocked former Catholic priest, has led raids against two conferences to discuss human rights for LGBT people. He also announced that he would try to ban thirty-eight NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) for “receiving support from abroad for Uganda’s homosexuals” so that LGBT people in Uganda could “”recruit” young children into homosexuality.
A report with Radio Netherlands provides this timeline:
‘The River and the Mountain’ ran from 17 to 23 August in a small cultural centre in Kampala managed by Cecil and his girlfriend.
On 6 September, Cecil was charged for ignoring an advance warning from the Uganda Media Council that the play was not to be staged until official “clearance” was obtained. The warning was issued on 16 August, the day before the play premiered. On 29 August, after the showings 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 says he and British playwright Beau Hopkins, together with Ugandan director Angella Emurwon and the Ugandan actors, decided to go ahead with the staging because the Media Council’s initial warning letter “in no way” made reference to any potential legal consequences. Cecil says: “Even my Ugandan lawyer read the letter and said: ‘It does not clearly constitute a legal order’.”
Cecil said that if the original warning was clearer, he probably would not have staged the play. The British citizen also says he has “fallen into the trap” of local politicians who regularly charge that homosexuality is “un-African” and is being “imported” by Westerners.