David Cecil (Pic: Mark Schenkel / Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

The British man who could be jailed for putting on a gay play in Uganda says that pressuring the Ugandan government on gay rights could backfire.

David Cecil produced The River and the Mountain, about a gay man who is killed because of his sexuality, in August at the small cultural centre in Kampala that he runs with his girlfriend.

Because the play had been banned, he was arrested and jailed for four days before being freed on bail. If found guilty of disobeying an order from a public authority, he could be imprisoned for two years.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Cecil, who has lived in the country for around five years, said that it would be “quite crazy” if he was sentenced to jail for offering a “modest contribution to Uganda’s theatrical scene”.

“I haven’t been tipped off that I’m definitely going down or that I’m going to be deported, so it’s hanging in the balance at the moment,” he said.

He went on to warn of too much interference by Western governments or groups on the issue of gay and lesbian rights in Uganda.

“I would say it’s not always helpful for organisations to try and bring pressure on the government,” he said.

“If you imagine Ugandans were attempting, using some kind of leverage, to force Britain to criminalise homosexuality, you can imagine the uproar so people need to be careful to respect the sovereignty of Uganda.

“Within many people’s lifetimes here Uganda was a colonised country so I think it needs to find its own way and any overt attempt to influence policy here is misplaced, can backfire and does backfire.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. Both the British and American governments have suggested that they could halt aid to Uganda if it goes ahead with plans to impose additional measures, including possibly the death penalty, against gays and lesbians.

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