Despite general opposition from the population, Anita Among, Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament has insisted on banning Nyege Nyege the music festival that many government officials and religious leaders associate with debauchery.
Nyege Nyege, a festival established by two expatriates, Derek Debru and Arlen Dilsizian first came into being in 2015, to give artists a platform to display music with African beat origins. Until 2019, it was an annual event, but the organizers took a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic and 2022 was supposed to be the year when the fête fully returns with people attending physically.
Hosted at Nile Discovery Resort in Jinja, which is located over 70 kilometres east of the capital Kampala, Nyege Nyege has overcome its initial years of struggle, when the organizers struggled to get attendees, to become a premium event that attracts youthful members of Uganda’s upper middle, wealthy and expatriate classes.
However, the success of Nyege Nyege has since 2018 attracted calls to have it banned by religious types. The term Nyege Nyege was coined from the word Ekinyegenyege, which in Luganda, one of the local languages in central Uganda means an uncontrollable urge to be excited and to dance.
Albeit unintentionally the festival has built a reputation, instead of being immoral, associated more with horny the Swahili translation for Nyege. It is the reputation, as a space for uncontrollable sexual activity that saw Parliament direct the executive arm of government to ban the event that is set to take place from September 15 to 18, 2022.
Following the directive on September 6 by Parliament to have Nyege Nyege banned, Rose Lilly Akello, Minister of State for Integrity agreed to ban the event.
Ms. Akello’s agreement to ban the fête prompted an avalanche of opposition from members of the public who pointed out that Parliament, and in particular, Sarah Opendi who moved the motion to have the event banned and the Speaker had no right to police Ugandans, as both had skeletons in their own cupboards.
For Ms. Opendi, social media users highlighted her decision, to get her husband out of the Covid-19 quarantine, when poor and more impoverished Ugandans were forced to endure the high fees charged by hotels to host international travellers coming into the country in 2020 when President Yoweri Museveni had just announced a countrywide lockdown.
For Ms. Among, social media users highlighted her alleged decision to buy a brand new luxury Mercedes Benz for herself and her deputy in the middle of the current economic downtown, when some Ugandans are dying from hunger and malnutrition as one of her sins.
Other alleged immoral acts as highlighted by social media users include Ms. Among bleaching to change her skin colour and the fact that she recently married Moses Magogo Hassim, President of the Federation of Uganda Football Associations.
Ms. Among says she is Roman Catholic and was recently in Rome where she met Pope Francis, but she also married Mr. Magago in August. Unlike the Speaker, Mr. Magogo who is also a Member of Parliament is on record marrying other women, as he is a Muslim and within his rights to have a maximum of four spouses.
Following the social media outrage, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja held a morning meeting on September 7, with the organizers of Nyege Nyege and several government ministers including Ms. Akello, where it was agreed that the fête would go on.
Among the reasons given by Ms. Nabbanja for allowing Nyege Nyege to take place as had been scheduled is the fact that several international attendees had already paid. The organizers of Nyege Nyege also pointed out that they had already invested Ush700 million ($182,244) in infrastructure for the venue, as the fête is scheduled to move from Nile Discovery Resort to an island next to Itanda falls.
Located on the River Nile, Itanda falls has in recent years become a kayaking destination for tourists and having Nyege Nyege is expected to improve the popularity of this area. While the appeal by the organizers got the executive to support Nyege Nyege, Ms. Among wasn’t moved. Every day since Parliament announced the ban, the Speaker and her supporters have maintained their position to stop Nyege Nyege.
According to Ms. Opendi, not only will Nyege Nyege expose Uganda to an outbreak of monkeypox, as international guests are expected, but it will also corrupt citizens who are expected to spend days drinking, dancing, and partying.
Ms. Among has since met the Prime Minister over the matter but she remains unmoved. Speaking to Members of Parliament on September 8, the Speaker insisted the ban on Nyege Ngege was still in place. In addition, Ms. Among says the executive arm of government would have to implement Parliament’s ban.
“One thing that I want to remind this house of is that nobody will ever run this house for as long as I am Speaker. If you think you are going to overrun the Parliament of Uganda, you will not do it. I am elected by 415 members of Parliament, and the decision of this Parliament on Nyege Nyege stands. The executive should do its part,” said Ms. Among in her address to fellow Members of Parliament.
Parliament is not the first institution to call for the banning of Nyege Nyege. In 2018, Father Simon Lokodo, Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity at the time attempted to ban Nyege Nyege.
Father Lokodo who has since died had established a reputation as someone who focused on ridiculous ideas policing the sexuality of Ugandans. Among other things, he backed a law to punish women who wear miniskirts, he then promised to buy a machine that would allegedly block access to pornographic sites on the internet. Since he had already come up with so many ideas to police sexuality, Ugandans trolled the priest and as result, the rest of the government failed to back his decision to ban Nyege Nyege.
A year later in 2019, it was religious leaders calling for the ban of Nyege Nyege, but those too were ignored. It now remains to be seen whether Ms. Among’s insistence will lead to the banning of Nyege Nyege.