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Posts for February, 2013

Uganda Considers Deporting British Pro-Gay Play Producer

Jim Burroway

February 8th, 2013

David Cecil at a court appearance in September

The Guardian has confirmed that David Cecil, the British National who had been arrested for staging a pro-gay play in the Kampala, Uganda, suburbs, is back in police detention and facing possible deportation.

Cecil was arrested last September after successfully staging the play, “The River and the Mountain” in a couple of small Kampala-area theaters. The play, about a gay businessman and his mother who tries various schemes to make him straight, was staged after the Uganda Media Council banned the play’s performance at the National Theatre. Cecil was subsequently arrested for staging the play “against lawful orders,” but Ugandan court dismissed those charges in January.

In the latest developments, The Guardian reports:

Immigration officers took Cecil from his home in the outskirts of the capital, Kampala, on Thursday to Jinja Road police station, where he is being held. Fridah Mutesi, a human rights lawyer in Uganda, said the government did not disclose the grounds on which Cecil was being deported, but that it had the power to deport individuals deemed “undesirable”.

…Cecil, who has a partner and young family in Kampala, said he would appeal against the deportation order, either from Uganda or from the UK. He said the arrest was “political, not legal”.

British Pro-Gay Gay Producer’s Charges Dismissed By Uganda Court

Jim Burroway

January 2nd, 2013

David Cecil case dismissed, happy birthday David Cecil it must be a good birthday present

David Cecil at a court appearance in September

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) Executive Director Frank Mugisha tweets the happy news. David Cecil was arrested in September after successfully staging the play, “The River and the Mountain” in a couple of small Kampala-area theaters. He staged the play, about a gay businessman and his mother who tries various schemes to make him straight, after the Uganda Media Council banned the play’s performance at the National Theatre. He was subsequently arrested for staging the play “against lawful orders,” but Ugandan court today has dismissed those charges.

David Cecil shared the following statement on his Facebook page from his lawyer:

A win for freedom in Uganda! A case against a British script producer, David Cecil (accused of staging a “homosexual play”-The Mountain and the River and disobeying “lawful” orders) has been dismissed for lack of evidence by the Magistrates Court at Makindye. We can now sue the State for the malicious prosecution. This is the type of work I’m willing to do for the rest of my life. No man should be arrested, detained, charged and imprisoned arbitrarily for expressing himself. Rights and Freedoms are inherent and not granted by cultural and religious beliefs/institutions, families, parents, the Government or the State.

This win is only the latest court victory for LGBT people and their allies in Uganda. In 2011, the High Court ruled in favor of LGBT advocate David Kato and two other LGBT advocates who had sued the tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name) after its notorious outing campaigns. (Three weeks later, Kato was found murdered in his home.) Ugandan LGBT advocates are currently suing Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo, a defrocked former Catholic priest, who led raids against two conferences on human rights for LGBT people.

Uganda Court Grants Bail for Producer of Pro-Gay Play

Jim Burroway

September 17th, 2012

David Cecil (AP)

David Cecil, a British theater producer jailed last week by Ugandan authorities for staging a pro-gay play, has been granted bail and released. He was freed on bail of 500,000 shillings (US$200) and was ordered to surrender his passport.

Cecil was arrested and charged last Thursday with “disobeying lawful orders” which carries a two-year sentence. He was remanded to Uganda’s notorious Luzira maximum security prison pending today’s hearing. The charges stem from his staging of the play “The River and the Mountain” at two small venues in the Kampala suburbs after the Uganda Media Council banned its performance at the National Theater.

The Uganda Media Council reportedly determined that the play, which depicts a gay business man who experiences harassment by the friends, family and government and is murdered by his employees, was “obnoxious.” According to Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper:

According to the Council after sampling some of the excerpts of the play, it branded it ‘obnoxious’, the play has dangerous excerpts as has violence towards persons of homosexual behavior and indeed implicitly promotes a deification of such persons.

The Council further states that the play depicts Uganda as a country full of intolerant and violent people who take the law into their own hands as and when it suits their selfish purposes especially in regard to people with homosexual tendencies.

At issue is whether a letter sent by the Uganda Media Council, which regulates media and public performances throughout Uganda, constitutes a lawful ban on the play’s performance elsewhere.

Cecil will return to court on October 18.

Ugandan Gov’t Web Site Admits Anti-Gay Laws Are Foreign Imports

Jim Burroway

September 14th, 2012

The recent arrest of British national David Cecil for producing a pro-gay play in the Kampala suburbs has gained significant notice worldwide and inside of Uganda. Cecil, who produced the play “The River and the Mountain” depicting the harsh treatment LGBT Ugandans face in that homophobic society, was charged yesterday for “disobeying lawful orders” for staging his play in two smaller venues around Kampala after the Uganda Media Council banned its performance at the National Theatre. The Uganda Media Council regulates all media and productions inside of Uganda. Cecil faces two years’ imprisonment if he is found guilty of the charges.

One recurrent theme inside Uganda is that Cecil’s arrest is more evidence that homosexuality is “un-African” and is a western import. In an undated post, the Uganda Media Centre, which serves as a press office for the Ugandan government, has picked up that theme and goes further. In an op-ed penned by Joseph Jabo (who has a habit of railing against gay people) and posted on the Uganda’s Media Centre’s web site points out that Uganda’s anti-gay laws are British in origin:

It is ironical that (David Cecil), a British National, would blatantly disregard Uganda’s Anti-Sodomy Laws and go ahead to produce a homosexual play (and have it performed on Ugandan soil) when his British forefathers are the ones who introduced Anti-Sodomy Laws in Uganda in the first place! The still-relevant anti-sodomy laws are based on Christian principles (Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:24-31). Uganda is not the only country where homosexuality is illegal. Homosexuality is illegal in more than 70 countries worldwide and 41 out of 54 countries in the British Commonwealth uphold anti-sodomy laws.

And, of course, Christianity itself, along with Genesis, Leviticus and Romans are all western imports as well.

Ugandan TV Coverage of Gay Play Producer’s Arrest

Jim Burroway

September 13th, 2012

This news report is from NTV, Uganda’s largest independent television network.

YouTube Preview Image

David Cecil was arrested and charged with “disobeying lawful orders” which carries a two-year sentence. The charges stem from his staging of the play “The River and the Mountain,” which this remarkably evenhanded NTV report describes as:

…a theatre performance that paints a picture of brutal treatment of homosexuals in Uganda and the violation of their freedom of expression…

Cecil is charged with staging the play at Tilapia Cultural Centre in Bunga and at Mishmash Cultural Centre in Kololo without permission from the Media Council. He pleaded not guilty today and was remanded to Luzira Prison until September 17.

Ugandan Police Arrest British Producer of Play About Gay Community

Jim Burroway

September 13th, 2012

David Cecil waves from a court cell at the Makindye Court on Thursday in Kampala, Uganda (AFP)

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.”

A scene from “The River and the Mountain,” as posted on the play’s Facebook page.

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.

Pro-Gay Play Staged in Uganda

Jim Burroway

August 20th, 2012

While there continues to be police raids of LGBT meetings in Uganda, there are, also, signs of incremental improvement in the atmosphere LGBT people in Uganda find themselves in. Yet another small sign is in a stage play, “The River and the Mountain,” which premiered last Friday in a little-known theater in Uganda after the government banned its performance at the national theater. So far, and contrary to expectations, police have not raided the venue:

Pepe Julian Onziema, a prominent gay activist in Uganda, praised the staging of the play here as “revolutionary,” saying it could help reduce the stigma suffered by homosexuals.

“I think it’s time that we opened our minds to the things happening in our midst,” Onziema said on Monday.

The play itself reflects the tensions that are very well known in Uganda, but contains elements that many Americans can identify as well:

The main character is a 29-year-old corporate businessman whose mother desperately wants him to get married. The woman pays a Christian pastor to “cure” her son after she learns of his homosexuality. When the cleric fails to achieve her objective, she wants her money back. Then she enlists the services of a private dancer and, finally, a witchdoctor. She never succeeds in her mission.

At his workplace, the gay character’s employees are so shocked to learn he is gay that they wonder aloud, “But he is a good man.” In the end their new hatred for their boss overpowers any affection they previously felt for him, and the play ends as they swing machetes, baying for his blood.