The Nyege Nyege electronic music festival, one of the biggest in East Africa, was banned on Tuesday by Uganda’s parliament, accused of “promoting immorality”.
The festival, which in previous editions welcomed some 10,000 people, including foreign tourists, was to be held for 4 days from September 15 in the city of Jinja (southeast).
But a few days before the event, which has not been held for several years due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Parliament announced on its Twitter account that it had “banned the Nyege Nyege festival”.
The festival “promotes immorality and we don’t want that immorality in our country,” Ethics and Integrity Minister Rose Lilly Akello told reporters.
His colleague from Tourism, Martin Mugarura, for his part deplored to AFP the banning of the festival, and its negative impact on the economy which is struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“More than 8,000 foreign tourists have already bought their tickets and have been able to stay in the country during the festival, and even after,” he said, hoping that the authorities will back down on this decision.
The festival had already been banned in 2018 by the former Minister of Ethics, Simon Lokodo, a devout Catholic and notorious homophobe. “We will not accept to lose our morale, homosexuality will not be accepted,” he said, arguing that the festival “is close to the veneration of the devil and therefore unacceptable”.
But Mr. Lokodo had to backtrack, due to the controversy announced on social networks.
The expression “Nyege Nyege” means an irresistible urge to dance in the Luganda language, but can also have sexual connotations in other dialects of the region.
Homophobia is held captive in Uganda, where so-called “unnatural” relationships are punishable by life under a law dating back to British colonization. Harassment and intimidation are the daily life of homosexuals in this country where an evangelical Christianity is developing, particularly vehement towards the LGBTQ movement.
Uganda had adopted in December 2013 a new law punishing in particular the “promotion of homosexuality” and making it compulsory to denounce homosexuals. But this law, which had triggered an international outcry, had been annulled for defect of form by the Constitutional Court in August 2014.
In August, the government suspended the main gay rights organization, accused of not being registered with the authorities.