News / Africa

Uganda Jails Brit for Play About Homosexuality

David Cecil, British producer of a play concerning the condition of Uganda's gays, in a courtroom cell, Kampala, Sept. 13, 2012.
David Cecil, British producer of a play concerning the condition of Uganda's gays, in a courtroom cell, Kampala, Sept. 13, 2012.
Andrew Green
KAMPALA — Police on Thursday arrested the producer of a play about homosexuality in Uganda that was staged last month in Kampala.
 
David Cecil, a British national, has been charged with disobeying lawful orders for failing to get official authorization to show “The River and the Mountain,” the story of a Ugandan businessman who comes out as gay and is later killed by his employees.
 
In Uganda, where homosexual activities are illegal, the staging of the play immediately sparked controversy. Government officials forced the cancellation of scheduled performances at the National Theater last month, but it was instead shown at two Kampala locations, including a cultural center that Cecil manages.
 
After requiring Cecil to file a statement last week, police then released the producer. Reporting for a court arraignment Thursday, however, Cecil was denied bail for failure to produce his passport, which police had confiscated.
 
He is currently in jail pending a Monday bail-application hearing. If found guilty, he faces up to two years in prison.
 
Unusual charges
 
According to John Francis Onyango, Cecil’s lawyer, the charges are unusual.
 
“That is a part of our law that is rarely used, but it’s the law," he said. "We’ll have to attend trial and see how it goes.”
 
Clare Byarugaba, the co-coordinator of the Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, says Cecil is clearly being targeted because of the play’s subject matter.
 
“We expected this would happen," she said. "I think the playwriter and the team was trying to talk about issues that the government basically doesn’t want to touch.”

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