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Former minister Buturo asked govt to block Nyege Nyege festival citing gay binge

Former Ethics and Integrity minister raised queries about MTN Nyege Nyege Festival, claiming he had reliable sources that had intimated to him that over 4,000 gays had been booked up for the event to 'recruit, facilitate and promote homosexuality'

HUMAN RIGHTS | The government has blocked the 2018 edition of Nyege Nyege festival, just a day before the annual music and cultural extravaganza opens in Jinja.

In its fourth edition, the four-day event at Nile Discovery Beach in the eastern district of Jinja that is home to the Source of the Nile River, has grown to be East Africa’s biggest music and cultural festival attracting a global audience.

But Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda told Parliament Tuesday evening that the Ministry of Internal Affairs was investigating allegations of homosexuality in the upcoming Nyege Nyege Festival.

Earlier in the day, Ethics and Integrity minister Fr Simon Lokodo had sent tongues wagging when he tied the MTN-sponsored festival to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) movement in a letter from him to Interior minister Jeje Odongo circulated on social media.

Lokodo claimed that he had received credible information from religious leaders, opinion leaders and local authorities that the purpose of the festival in the last two years has been compromised to accommodate the celebration and recruitment of young people into homosexuality.

“This letter therefore serves to inform you, as the Minister responsible for Internal affairs, that the underlying motive beneath this heavily advertised event, may compromise the national integrity of our nation,” he said.

Buturo raises concerns

In Parliament, former Ethics minister Dr James Nsaba Buturo tasked government to explain what he said were allegations of homosexuality that has rocked the music and cultural festival.

Buturo said that he had received information from “reliable sources” that people behind the MTN Nyege Nyege Festival are “working to recruit, facilitate and promote homosexuality” in Uganda with his informers intimating to him that Nyege Nyege organisers had lined up over 4,000 homosexuals.

“It is also reported that a lot of unspeakable, despicable and detestable practices such as sex, men having sex with men, women having sex with women, sex with animals and all that will be on the show on the Ugandan soil,” Buturo, also the Bufumbira East MP, said.

The former minister warned that failure to halt the festival would see a lot of unrest spill over in Uganda.

“This is unprecedented, this isn’t acceptable. This moral evasion is one we shouldn’t take lightly simply because it has ramifications on our security, stability, unity and prosperity. And much of the unrest we see today has its roots on the external evasion that we are witnessing,” he said.

In his response, Rugunda confirmed that Government had received reports of the Nyege Nyege festival being shrouded with homosexuality and informed Parliament that the matter is being investigated by the Minister Internal Affairs and asked Buturo to give government time to manage and investigate this matter.

The former Information and Ethics and Integrity minister has left in his trail well documented anti-gay crusade. In 2008, he announced that the government was going to step up its efforts to manage “quality of life crimes” that threatened the integrity and well-being of all Ugandans.

It was also from Buturo’s bonnet that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 was produced as he openly supported the imposition of a death penalty for gays until the United Nations and other foreign governments expressed their outrage and their intent to withhold aid and other support to Uganda.

It is not yet clear if Buturo had furnished Lokodo with the information since the two “moral high ground” ministers appeared to be speaking from similar scripts.

Lokodo had earlier argued that whereas the Anti-Homosexuality Law was challenged in courts of law, the practice of deviant sexual behaviour have never been condoned in Uganda, adding that, as such, it was the responsibility of government to protect citizens against such vices.

“The underlying motive behind this heavily advertised event may compromise national integrity of our nation and put our citizens at deviant sexual immorality,” Lokodo wrote to Gen Odongo. “I urge you to instruct the IGP to stop this event. I also propose we have a meeting with IGP, CID to discuss this matter further.”

Jittery government

The ban comes a time the government appears to be jittery since the August 13 incident in Arua when members of the Opposition, including pop-politician Robert Kyagulanyi, were arrested over compromising the security of the president.

Since then, the State has been vicious in quelling public dissent shown through protests, using soldiers to violently break up any form of protests.

With President Museveni scheduled to address the nation on Saturday — which would be as the festival takes place if it had been allowed to proceed — it became increasingly clear that such a gathering would not proceed, not a time propaganda was circulating linking Opposition activities to LGBT for other foreign hands.

The festival in Jinja attracts thousands of tourists from across the world. It is not surprising that the government would react the way it has, even if the 4,000 foreigners Buturo and Lokodo have singled out are actually real tourists who don’t give a pig’s tail what LGBT does.

No wonder the public has reacted with dismay at the ban, citing lost tourist potential in the MTN Nyege Nyege Festival.

Giles Muhame, editor of one of Uganda’s oldest online news websites, said Nyege Nyege attracts millions of dollars to the economy, creating jobs and opportunities for citizens.

“Such fests are big sources of tourism revenues for Asian countries such as Malaysia and Thailand etc. As we speak, hotels in Jinja are fully booked. Companies have invested millions of shillings in advertisement and promotional materials. Young people will sell snacks and refreshments to showgoers to earn money,” Muhame posted on Facebook.

“Instead of strategising to pull more tourists from all over the world, some people want to block Nyege Nyege! Government should let be people enjoy themselves without restrictions. Let them provide security to enforce law and order.”

Muhame’s sentiments were shared by social media blogger and influencer Edward Nimusiima, who bemoaned that “a four-day festival that draws hundreds and hundreds of people from around the world” was being blocked instead of promoted.

“This is the biggest festival in East Africa and 7th in Africa. Multitudes of people cross oceans to be part of this. Hundreds of locals earn from this festival through accommodation, food, transport, drinks, et al. Rumour has it that hotels in Jinja are booked out,” he said.

“That’s revenue for the locals. A festival that’s so monumental in the country’s tourism sector. Mind, it was started in 2015. Now, give it a few more years and this festival will be the biggest festival in Africa.”

Additional reporting by Jens Mukiibi

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