Kenya’s former prime minister and current opposition leader Raila Odinga has called for the acclaimed Kenyan lesbian love story Rafiki to be unbanned.
Last month, Kenya’s notoriously homophobic film classification board (KFCB) blocked the film from being screened in the country ahead of its historic premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, a first for Kenya’s film industry.
While Rafiki’s international debut was met with a standing ovation at the festival, it remains banned from being shown or distributed in Kenya because of “its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law.”
Odinga reportedly addressed the issue in a speech last week Thursday at Oxford University in the UK.
According to well known Kenyan businesswoman, Gina Din, who attended the event, Odinga said he was in favour of Rafiki’s release.
She quoted the highly influential politician on Twitter as saying that, “people should be allowed freedom of expression, as well as the freedom to watch what they like.”
Odinga was prime minister in Kenya from 2008 to 2013. He narrowly failed to secure the presidency in disputed 2017 elections that were marred by allegations of “illegalities and irregularities.”
Rafiki (meaning ‘friend’) is based on the award-winning short story Jambula Tree by Monica Arac de Nyeko. It is a coming of age tale about two Kenyan girls who fall in love and whose desire for each other flies in the face of African conventions.
The film’s director, Wanuri Kahiu, recently revealed that she fears being arrested for making the film when she returns to her home country.
Homosexuality is outlawed in Kenya, with penalties including five to 14 years in prison.