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Saturday, 8 September 2012

Uganda police arrest bar owner for staging ‘gay’ play

Kampala police take action over ‘banned’ play, The River and The Mountain, which features gay plotline 07 September 2012 | By Omar Kuddus A bar owner has been arrrested in Kampala, Uganda for staging a play with a gay storyline. Police have arrested a Uganda bar owner for staging the play The River and The Mountain which features a man coming out as gay. David Cecil, owner of Tilapila Bar in Kampala was accused of showing a ‘gay themed play’. Another bar has also shown the play previously and it is been confirmed that the owner there has also been questioned by the Kampala police. But while Cecil was Ugandan, the other bar owner is an ex-pat from a western country, and therefore less likely to be harassed by police, according to activists. The River and the Mountain features a storyline about a gay businessman living in a homophobic country. The play is advertised as: ‘A Ugandan comedy drama that tackles the intersection of religion, politics and sexuality.’ It had originally been scheduled to show for the National Theatre of Uganda but performances were cancelled after government officials objected to the gay theme and regulators intervened. Some shows went ahead at two smaller venues. UK newspaper The Guardian reported that the play, by British playwright Beau Hopkins, ‘has provoked controversy not only for its sympathetic portrayal of gay people, but also because it suggests that much of the anger and hatred has been whipped up by politicians and religious leaders for their own purposes.’ It quoted Hopkins as saying: ‘The local media seem to have agreed not to talk about it, which is disappointing. We’re also particularly disappointed that it won’t be staged at the National Theatre, as there it would have reached more Ugandans.’ He said the play was not intended to promote a specific agenda, but rather to add to public debate. ‘We’re actors, not activists,’ he said. ‘The play is there to inspire discussion in the community and to get a reaction from people. We want it to open up a dialogue.’ ‘We are all disappointed but not surprised that we could not perform at the National Theatre,’ said the actor Okuyo Joel Atiku Prynce, who plays the gay character at the center of the story. ‘What is surprising is the fact that we have received no clear reason. No one is taking responsibility for this decision.’ Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the leading LGBT campaign group in the country, told Gay Star News the play was about much more than just gay issues. A SMUG spokesperson said: ‘The gay part in the play is really very small and it tackles so many other issues, including corruption, politics and health.’ Uganda has a reputation of being a deeply homophobic society, and its parliament introduced a ‘kill the gays bill’ in October 2009. The bill proposed severe penalties, including death, for those found guilty of having same-sex relationships. While debate on the bill sometimes resurfaces, it has been temporarily shelved. Uganda gay rights activist David Kato was murdered in January 2011 shortly after a local newspaper published images of him and other gay people under a headline urging readers: ‘Hang them.’ Despite this, Uganda’s LGBT community recently held a weekend of gay pride events, including the country’s first LGBT pride march.

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