David Cecil, the producer of the first-ever play dealing with homosexuality in notoriously homophobic Uganda, is facing two years in jail for violating the country’s law against “promoting” homosexual acts.
Unable to secure Uganda’s national theater, The River and the Mountain ran at a small cultural center in the capital Kampala from August 17-23. However, the Uganda Media Council issued a warning the day before the play’s premiere prohibiting its production until the Council provided official clearance.
Then on August 29, the Media Council finally decided that the play was not to be staged since parts “implicitly promote homosexual acts…contrary to the laws, cultural norms and values of Uganda.” Cecil, who has lived in Uganda for three years, was formally charged last week and has since been stripped of his passport.
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’.”
Had the warning been clearer, Cecil admits he might not have gone ahead with the production of The River and the Mountain. “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, adding, “This is ironic because it is exactly the theme of our play. This, again ironically, shows that our play contains some kind of truth.”