A British producer of the first ever Ugandan gay play has been arrested and could be jailed for two years.
David Cecil, who has been living in the county for three years, put on the play The River and the Mountain at the small cultural centre in Kampala that he runs with his girlfriend.
The play deals with the challenges of being gay in Uganda, where homosexuality is banned and politicians have called for punishment to include the death penalty.
Cecil was told in a letter from the Ugandan Media Council that it was considering whether to grant the play clearance to be performed and was warned that “in the meantime this play is not to be staged in any theatre or public place in Uganda”.
Cecil, who claims that he didn’t realise that putting on the play could lead to criminal charges, ignored the letter and went ahead with the production, which ran from 17 to 23 August.
After the run, the council went on to formally ban the play, claiming that it “implicitly promote homosexual acts”, which “are contrary to the laws, cultural norms and values of Uganda”.
Cecil has now been charged with disobeying an order from a public authority. If found guilty, he could be jailed for two years.
“I really didn’t mean to insult anyone, and I am not a rights advocate. I only wanted to open up dialogue,” Cecil told Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
He said that the Ugandan authorities were determined to present homosexuality as an abomination that is being imported by Westerners like himself. “This is ironic because it is exactly the theme of our play. This, again ironically, shows that our play contains some kind of truth.”
The River and the Mountain was set to be produced at the National Theatre but the run was cancelled after it was banned. There are reports that the play was performed at another small venue in Kamala, which could also be charged.