Ugandan government cancels music festival over claims of nudity and gay sex, then backtracks after backlash

Ugandan government cancels music festival over claims of nudity and gay sex, then backtracks after backlash

Uganda’s Nyege Nyege international music and arts festival, sponsored by telecom giant, MTN, has been reinstated Wednesday following a public outcry after the country’s ethics minister banned it as an orgy of homosexuality, nudity and drugs akin to “devil worship”.

Ethics and integrity minister Simon Lokodo, a fervent Christian and prominent homophobe, on Tuesday declared the cancellation of the popular Nyege Nyege music festival.

The annual four-day party on the edge of the Nile in the southern town of Jinja brings together artists from across Africa to entertain around 10,000 revelers and has been held for the last three years.

However, Lokodo slammed the event as being used for, “the celebration and recruitment of young people into homosexuality”.

“There will be nudity and sexuality done at any time of the hour. There will be open sex,” Lokodo said via a government Twitter account. “The very name of the festival is provocative. It means ‘sex, sex’ or urge for sex.”

Simon Lokodo

In the local Luganda language “nyege nyege” in fact means an irresistible urge to dance, however in other languages in the region it can have a sexual connotation.

“Let foreigners not come to Uganda for sex. We shall save the image of this country,” said Lokodo, who said the festival was “close to devil worshipping”.

The decision shocked organisers just days before the event which is to start Thursday and last until Sunday, with Ugandans decrying the move on social media.

“Beatings, killing, kidnaps, unnecessary endless taxing, etc. Somehow that is all acceptable and (the festival) isn’t?” wrote one Twitter user.

However, after a government meeting on Wednesday, interior minister Jeje Odongo overruled his colleague and ordered the party back on, however under conditions which he did not detail.

“We are meeting all stakeholders but we have agreed that the festival will go on as planned,” he told AFP.

“The organisers have to meet certain conditions and the details will be availed later.”

The return of the festival was welcomed by many involved. South African artist Sho Madjozi, already in the country for the event, told AFP the cancellation had been “heartbreaking” but it was “good to hear it is on”.

“Hotels and local tourism were going to be affected by the cancellation. It is a relief to many that the festival is on,” said Jinja’s mayor Majid Mutambuze.

Uganda is notorious for its intolerance of homosexuality – which is criminalised in the country – and strict Christian views on sexuality in general. In 2013, Ugandan lawmakers passed a bill that called for life in prison for people caught having gay sex, although a court later struck down the law. The following year, in a BBC interview conducted by British comedian and gay rights activist Stephen Fry, ethics minister Lokodo said heterosexual rape was more “natural” than homosexual sex and threatened to arrest Fry.

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