|David Cecil via Radio Netherlands Worldwide|
By Brody Levesque | KAMPALA, UGANDA -- The British manager of a bar and cultural centre in the Ugandan capital city was arrested last week for staging a play, whose main character is a gay businessman who finally gets killed by his own employees.
David Cecil producer of the play “The River and the Mountain” was warned by the Uganda Media Council that staging the play would be consider unauthorised. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported the play ran from 17 to 23 August in the Kampala venue managed by Cecil and his girlfriend.
On 6 September, Cecil was charged for ignoring an advance warning from the Uganda Media Council that the play was not to be staged until official “clearance” was obtained. The warning was issued on 16 August, the day before the play premiered. On 29 August, after the showings had ended, the Media Council ruled that the play was not to be staged because parts of the production “implicitly promote homosexual acts”, which “are contrary to the laws, cultural norms and values of Uganda”.
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’.” ~ Radio Netherlands Worldwide
Cecil was contacted by the local police and subsequently charged for disobeying an order from a public authority – the Media Council. In a hearing this week Cecil was denied bail. He faces two years in jail if convicted.
Cecil, who has been living in Uganda for three years, has had to hand over his [British] passport.
“The River and the Mountain” has won praise from Ugandan LGBTQ rights activists who said it was "revolutionary" in the way it provoked an examination of common thinking about gays. Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda and LGBT people have faced physical attacks and social rejection.
An anti-gay bill imposing life sentences on those convicted of homosexual acts was re-tabled in parliament earlier this year.
For his part Cecil says he’s not an activist and might have canceled the production if the initial warning had been clearer.
“I really didn’t mean to insult anyone, and I am not a rights advocate. I only wanted to open up dialogue,” he said.
Cecil added that he has become enmeshed in a situation similar to what the play portrayed — anti-homosexuality “anger and hatred [that] has been whipped up by politicians and religious leaders for their own purposes.”
In interviews granted to the press this week he says he has a feeling like he has “fallen into the trap” of local powers that gladly seize any chance 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,” Cecil says. “This, again ironically, shows that our play contains some kind of truth.”