Uganda’s Nyege Nyege Festival has escaped Simon Lokodo’s grip once more

Uganda’s ethics minister Simon Lokodo announced the cancellation of this year’s Nyege Nyege music and cultural festival in Jinja District in Eastern Uganda based on allegations that it is a celebration of open sex and homosexuality.

Addressing journalists at Uganda Media (UMC) in Kampala on Tuesday evening, Lokodo said he had written to police to ensure that the event doesn’t take place, citing claims that the government has information that open sex, noise, homosexuality, LGBTI will be part of this event he described as an ugly thing and close to devil worshiping.

“I have received credible information from religious leaders, opinion leaders and local authorities that the purpose of this festival, in the last two years has been compromised and accommodate the celebration and recruitment of young people into homosexuality and LGBT movement,” Mr Lokodo wrote. Under the Penal Code Act homosexuality is illegal and “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” between same sexes carries a potential penalty of life imprisonment.

However, UMC executive director and government Spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo posted via Twitter, hours later, that the government had not cancelled the event, and that the organisers should go ahead with preparations for the event.

“Just spoken to Internal Affairs Minister Gen. J. J. Odongo, he states Nyege Nyege organisers should go ahead with preparations for their function. Further review meeting involving all stakeholders is scheduled for 10.00am tomorrow [Wednesday],” Mr Opondo posted on his Twitter handle.

The festival is a four day annual fun-filled event that draws musicians from all over the world. Campsites are set up where food and drinks are served day and night. The organizers also erect tents that are rented by the attendees to sleep.

Nyege Nyege

The much-awaited international music and arts festival is supposed to start tomorrow 6 September and end on 9 September as Odongo has just confirmed that following a consultative meeting this morning between government and organizers, the event has been cleared to proceed. Ethics Minister Fr. Simon Lokodo is expected to issue a statement soon.

If the event was eventually cancelled, both organisers and the tourism industry would count losses for the four-days event that will see 300 artists from more than 30 countries performing at on a six-acre forest on the banks of the River Nile, a kilometre away from the source of the river and Jinja town.

The 2018 edition of the Nyege Nyege Music Festival  is sponsored by telecom firm MTN. Last year, Bell Lager—the first Ugandan brewed beer—by Uganda Breweries Limited sponsored the event.

The Nyege Nyege festival is organised and curated by the Boutiq Foundation, a community based organisation in Kampala, to develop the local arts and culture industry by creating conducive platforms and opportunities for upcoming talented artists. The festival aims to connect underground musicians and producers from around the continent with those working with African music outside the continent.

According to the website, Nyege Nyege is Luganda for feeling a sudden uncontrollable urge to move, shake or dance.  Headling the festival among others will be Orchestre Les Mangelepa (Kenya), JLIN (US), Sho Madjozi (South Africa), Etran de l’Air (Niger), Stella Chiweshe (Zimbabwe), Errorsmith (Germany), Otim Alpha and Leo Palayeng (Uganda).

The event has been annual since its inauguration in 2015 and is considered the most important 4-day international music festival in East Africa.