British actor thrown into Ugandan jail after appearing in play about homophobia

Keith Prosser starred in The River and the Mountain about a gay businessman in the African country where homosexuality is still illegal

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The Independent Culture

A British man is being in held in a prison in Uganda after appearing in a play which exposed the plight of homosexuals in the country.

Keith Prosser was arrested by Ugandan police and thrown into a cell following his appearance in the play The River and the Mountain, in which a group of Ugandan employees kills their own boss when they learn he is gay. He has been held in a Kampala detention centre for the past eight days.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and the authorities had tried to block the play, which was staged in Kampala. David Cecil, another British citizen who produced the play, was also arrested.

Mr Cecil, 35, was deported on Monday as an “undesirable immigrant” after spending five days in detention at a Kampala police station.

Now back in London, Mr Cecil said he was concerned for Mr Prosser, a part-time actor who worked as an administrator at Uganda’s Cavendish University, and is also now facing deportation. “Keith is not in the best of health, he is vulnerable,” said Mr Cecil.

In the play, staged twice last year, Mr Prosser played an evangelical Pastor who “spreads the gospel of homophobia,” Mr Cecil said. Mr Prosser was arrested for a visa irregularity but the motivation behind his detention was the anger caused by the play, the producer claimed.

“He would have been given a small fine but a call came through telling the immigration office that he was involved with me and the play and that he was not to be released under any condition. He was to be deported,” Mr Cecil said.

Friends of Mr Prosser, who lived in Kenya before moving to Uganda, are raising funds to pay for the flight to London which will secure his release.

In his 50s, Mr Prosser, who was due to appear in a production of Macbeth at the Uganda National Theatre next month, is said to be in a frail condition. He was forced to share a crowded detention cell with no beds.

Mr Cecil was first imprisoned when Uganda’s media council said it had not authorised his play. A court threw the case out, citing a lack of evidence.

He was re-arrested last week as the Ugandan parliament prepares to debate a strict new anti-homosexuality bill, which would criminalise the promotion of homosexuality and failure to report it.

Mr Cecil plans to appeal against his deportation in Uganda’s high court. He was imprisoned and expelled without being able to say goodbye to his partner Florence Kebirungi and their two young children. “It’s very distressing for my partner. I don’t know when I’m going to see my children again,” he said.

But he has no regrets over staging the controversial play, which examines the interplay between religion, politics, and sexuality in a society where homosexuals are forced into secrecy and activists receive death threats.

Mr Cecil said: “A wide range of people came to see the play and there were only two walk-outs. Uganda is not a violently homophobic society but the conception is distorted by a handful of politicians and pastors who are doing immense harm to the country. Our arrests were the result of bureaucratic careerism within the authorities.”

The Foreign Office has expressed its concern over the treatment of the two Britons to the Uganda High Commission, Mr Cecil said. Mr Prosser has no family in the UK and would have nowhere to live, Mr Cecil fears.

He described his own five days in prison as “pretty horrendous”. Mr Cecil said: “I was put in a tiny holding cell with Ugandan criminals, some of them murderers and rapists. There were 42 of us in two rooms, four metres by four metres.”