Parliament has on Tuesday September 5 sought to stop the ‘Nyege Nyege’ festival, an annual social event scheduled to take place next week in Jinja over its affiliation with the LGBT community and attraction of tourists.
The Speaker of Parliament Anita Among told Members of Parliament during the Tuesday plenary that: “we will not permit the event to take place.”
“We are talking about morality of this country; we are talking about our children. You are trying to promote tourism at the expense of our children? We are not going to allow this function to take part,” Speaker Among said.
Uganda Parliamentary Women Association chairperson and Tororo Woman MP Sarah Opendi also said the event is a breeding ground for sexual immorality.
The weeklong annual festival was set to take place in Jinja from September 15 to 18th.
“Nyege Nyege is an event that promotes immorality which is not wanted in our country,” State Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Rose Lilly Akello, explained, backing government’s blocking of the event.
Efforts by the Minister of State for Tourism Hon Martin Mugarra to defend the event as a hub of tourism met resistance from the House. Mugarra said over 8,000 foreigner tourists have already booked tickets for the event.
Nyege Nyege was founded in 2013 by expats Arlen Dilsizian and Derek Debru.
In addition to organizing ongoing parties and an artist residency, the collective runs two record labels and a multi-day annual festival.
Its name refers to a Luganda word describing “a sudden, uncontrollable urge to dance.”
Debru was born in Burundi but grew up in Belgium, moving to Uganda in 2010 to teach at the Kampala Film School.
Since 2015, the collective has organized the Nyege Nyege Festival, a multi-day, multi-stage event at an abandoned riverfront resort in Jinja.
South African telecom company MTN has sponsored the festival since 2017, with the name changing officially to MTN Nyege Nyege.
At 10,000 attendees, it is the biggest electronic music festival in East Africa.
In 2018, Uganda’s main tourism trade group named the festival the best overall tourism event of the year, repeating the award in 2019.
Resident Advisor and FACT have named it one of the world’s best electronic festivals.
The lineup focuses on East African artists, many affiliated with Nyege Nyege Tapes. It also includes performers and DJs from outside the continent, including Juan Atkins, Suzi Analogue, and DJ Scotch Egg, whose music is influenced by African sounds.
British online radio station NTS brought a contingent of DJs to the 2017 festival, and streaming platform Boiler Room has hosted a stage since 2018.
The festival has received backlash from Uganda’s religious right over its affiliation with the LGBT community and attraction of tourists.
Efforts by the Minister of State for Tourism Hon Martin Mugarra to defend the event as a hub of tourism met resistance from the House. Mugarra said over 8,000 foreigner tourists have already booked tickets for the event. #PlenaryUg pic.twitter.com/F5xGa9hq6I
— Javira Ssebwami (@Jssebwami1) September 6, 2022
Locals distributed pamphlets condemning the event in 2016, and in 2018, Uganda’s minister of ethics attempted to cancel that year’s edition, claiming the event would “compromise national integrity” and put citizens “at risk of deviant sexual immorality” but was overruled by the minister of the interior.