Listen Download Podcast
  • RFI English News flash 04h00 - 04h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 04h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 04h10 - 04h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/08 04h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 05h00 - 05h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 05h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 05h10 - 05h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/08 05h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h00 - 06h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 06h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h10 - 06h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/08 06h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h30 - 06h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 06h30 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h33 - 06h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/08 06h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h00 - 07h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 07h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h30 - 07h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 07h30 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 12/04 14h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h06 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 14h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 14h03 - 14h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 12/04 14h03 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h06 - 14h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/08 14h06 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h30 - 14h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 14h30 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h33 - 14h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 12/08 14h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 12/04 16h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h06 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 12/08 16h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h03 - 16h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 12/04 16h03 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h30 - 16h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 12/08 16h30 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h33 - 17h00 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 12/04 16h33 GMT
To take full advantage of multimedia content, you must have the Flash plugin installed in your browser. To connect, you need to enable cookies in your browser settings. For an optimal navigation, the RFI site is compatible with the following browsers: Internet Explorer 8 and above, Firefox 10 and +, Safari 3+, Chrome 17 and + etc.
Africa

Ban on Uganda’s critical State of the Nation play has no legal basis, says co-director

media Poster for State of the Nation play Afri-Talent

The co-director of a play banned in Uganda has told RFI he’s concerned about the repercussions of continuing to stage his production. But he believes Uganda’s Media Council is on shaky legal ground. John Ssegawa, co-author of State of the Nation, says the Ugandan authorities are limiting freedom of expression.

“We have legal representation. If they arrest us, then we can talk about the law,” says Ssegawa.

Earlier this week Uganda’s Media Council ordered that performances of State of the Nation, which is critical of the government, be stopped until its content was reviewed.

“It has been on for about a month now. If they wanted to preview it, they would come and do it,” Ssegawa says in response to the ban. The staging of the production was originally timed to coincide with the celebration of Uganda’s anniversary of independence on 9 October. It had been running at the National Theatre in Kampala.

Ssegawa says the production company is willing to discuss parts of the play that are an issue for the government’s media watchdog. However, stopping the production altogether is not an option.

“If there are a few lines, then we can discuss it," Ssegawa concedes. “But we don’t just stop, because we employ a lot of people and we have bills to pay."

State of the Nation charts Uganda’s political history from 1962 up to today. It is critical of the government, Ssegawa admits, but also touches on the government’s achievements. There are characters that could be construed as being government officials as well as the opposition.

“It’s just an abstract form of art,” says Ssegawa, denying that the theatrical production is intended to incite people, has sectarian overtones or aims to ridicule Ugandan officials.

Audio report
Click on the picture to listen to the report

Ssegawa, of the Afri-Talent company, is anxious that this ban could signal the death of theatre in Uganda as well other forms of artistic expression.

“There is a lot of comedy in Kampala,” he says. “The characters that are comic represent a few government officials here in Kampala. So are you going to stop everything?”

Drama is “small-scale” in Kampala, according to Ssegawa. He thinks the authorities should concentrate their efforts on television channels that screen programmes that have a bad influence on young people and radio stations that play “not so good music”.

When asked whether Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni could identify himself in the play, Ssegawa is cautious. Not wanting to bring the Ugandan head of state into the argument, he instead says the ban does not have anything to do with the presidency’s seat of power, State House.

Other activists for freedom of expression are more outspoken in their criticism of the government. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala of the Ugandan Human Rights Network for Journalists, says this latest ban is indicative of a worrying trend.

“Of late, things are becoming tricky,” says Wokulira Ssebaggala. “Journalists have been forced out of their employment, others have been taken to court, they’re facing trumped-up charges. So now the media is done, they’re targeting other avenues of expression."

State of the Nation is the latest play to fall foul of pressure from the authorities. British theatre producer David Cecil was recently arrested for staging a production about gay people without permission. His play The River and the Mountain highlighted the difficulties of being gay in Uganda.

Cecil was released on bail and ordered to surrender his passport. Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda.

“The first one [play] was banned by the media council,” says activist Wokulira Ssebaggala. “It was highlighting the state of the LGBT community, it was portraying how things are in Uganda, how they’re being targeted by the government."

For Ssegawa the Ugandan authorities might be concerned that State of the Nation could help galvanise the opposition movement. Opposition leader Kizza Besigye came to see the play and “liked it”, he says.

Besigye, the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change party, has been detained several times for his walk-to-work protests. Is his attendance at a performance of State of the Nation part of the problem?

“Isn’t he supposed to watch a production,” Ssegawa jokes.

Trailer for State of the Nation play

Related
 
Sorry but the period of time connection to the operation is exceeded.