Kampala – Uganda said on Monday it would allow a popular music festival to go ahead this month, reversing a ban imposed over claims the event promoted sex, homosexuality and drug use.
The four-day Nyege Nyege festival brings together artists from across Africa to entertain 10,000 revellers on the banks of the Nile.
Last week, Uganda’s parliament banned the event for the second time since 2018, saying it “promotes a lot of immorality”.
The move prompted an outcry, with Uganda’s tourism minister among those warning it would have a harmful impact on the economy as the tourism industry recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Monday, Information Minister Chris Baryomunsi said the September 15-18 festival could go ahead, but would be ordered shut if there were breaches of Uganda’s laws or its culture and norms.
“The clearance of the festival was after taking note of the benefits that will accrue from the festival presenting Uganda as a tourism destination of choice,” Baryomunsi told AFP.
He said that under guidelines distributed to organisers, minors would not be allowed to attend and that “sex orgies and nudity are prohibited at the festival”.
“Contraband, narcotic drugs, vulgar language, songs, expressions and gestures are prohibited,” the minister said, warning that if there were serious breaches the police would halt the event and clear the site.
Nyege Nyege means an irresistible urge to dance in the local Luganda language, but it can have a sexual connotation in other languages in the region.
The festival was banned in 2018 by former ethics minister Simon Lokodo, a fervent Christian and outspoken homophobe, who described it as an orgy of homosexuality, nudity and drugs akin to “devil worship”.
But he was forced to lift the ban barely a day later, following outrage on social media.
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.