1 Oct 2012

Uganda gay play producer case ‘hangs in balance’

Exclusive: David Cecil, who faces two years in a Ugandan prison for producing a play about homosexuality, tells Channel 4 News sending him to jail would be “quite crazy”.

David Cecil’s play – The River and the Mountain – was shown to private audiences at two venues in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, without authorisation from the authorities.

It tells the story of a gay businessman who is eventually killed by colleagues after revealing his sexuality.

Mr Cecil was questioned about the production and spent four nights in Luzira Remand Centre before being granted bail. He is due back in court on 18 October and faces up to two years in prison if found guilty.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, and the country’s parliament is considering introducing harsher penalties for homosexual acts.

A modest contribution to Uganda’s theatrical scene, which is what we offered, shouldn’t be punishable by two years in prison – it’s quite crazy. David Cecil

Speaking from Kampala, David Cecil told Channel 4 News he is “confident and hopeful” that justice will be done: “There’s no law in Uganda that says you can’t feature a homosexual character in a play, film or picture.

“It’s not a crime to talk about homosexuality, otherwise all of these politicians who have been leading the anti-homosexual campaign would be locked up. So a modest contribution to Uganda’s theatrical scene, which is what we’re offering, shouldn’t be punishable by two years in prison – it’s quite crazy, really.

“I haven’t been tipped off that I’m definitely going down or that I’m going to be deported, so it’s hanging in the balance at the moment.”

He says the production does not promote homosexuality and those who claim it does are “speaking from a position of ignorance”.

‘Ugandan production’

The majority of the cast and crew are Ugandan, and Mr Cecil, who has lived in Uganda on and off for five years, insists the play should not be portrayed as a western attempt to bring homosexuality to the forefront. “I haven’t just flown in from the UK and put on a gay play,” he told Channel 4 News.

His case has attracted international media attention, and several high-profile British names, including Stephen Fry, have signed a petition calling for the Ugandan government “to stop the prosecution of David Cecil and uphold the fundamental right to freedom of expression”.

Mr Cecil told Channel 4 News it took him by surprise that so many people in the UK were concerned and that he was “grateful and flattered”.

But he warned against too much interference by the west when it comes to Ugandan policy on homosexuality.

“I would say it’s not always helpful for organisations to try and bring pressure on the government.

“If you imagine Ugandans were attempting, using some kind of leverage, to force Britain to criminalise homosexuality, you can imagine the uproar so people need to be careful to respect the sovereignty of Uganda.

“Within many people’s lifetimes here Uganda was a colonised country so I think it needs to find its own way and any overt attempt to influence policy here is misplaced, can backfire and does backfire.”