Ugandan documentary on gay love in pre-colonial Africa

Gay rights activists in Uganda have launched a new documentary tracing gay love in pre-colonial Ugandan society.

The documentary, Gay Love in Pre-colonial Africa: The Untold Story of Ugandan Martyrs was premiered in Kampala last week ahead of the June 3 public holiday to commemorate the burning to death of Ugandan martyrs.

Kabaka Mwanga II, widely believed to have been gay ruled Buganda from 1884 to 1897

The Ugandan martyrs were burnt to death between 1885 and 1887 on the orders of Buganda Kingdom’s historical king (Kabaka), Daniel Mwanga for denying him gay sex when they converted to Christianity.

Buganda kingdom which survives into modern day and commands significant influence in today’s Uganda is located in the centre of the country around the current capital, Kampala.

It is ruled by Kings called Kabakas and has a history back to more than 700 years of powerful existence in the Great Lakes Region.

The current Kabaka Ronald Mutebi II has on several occasions been encouraged by anti gay forces to support the passing of the infamous Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009, but to no avail.

The film by UhspaUganda interviewed people from inside the Kabaka Mwanga palace, where traces of tolerance to homosexuals is still preserved today. It is the first to film from inside courtyards of former Kabakas pertaining to finding traces of gay love.

UhspaUganda director, Kikonyogo Kivumbi said at the first screening that the film will add a new persepective to gay rights demands in Uganda.

In sharp contrast to anti gay sentiments that homosexuality is a western imposition on Africa, Men and Women in same sex relationships made traditional convenants referred to as okutta omukago (making covenants) to cement their gay and MSM relationships. They would make love during hunting expeditions, and were never persecuted.

The documentary, of which copies are now out for sale, will be screened across the country and at various film festivals. It also profiles gay love in various communities in Uganda.

No traces of killing or persecuting homosexuals have been profiled, although anti gay elements in Uganda have been arguing that homosexuality is unAfrican.

In another study conducted by independent researchers from Makerere University’s department of Religious Studies due for publishing next month, Ales Nkabahoona also notes in the film that there was indeed gay relations in pre-colonial Ugandan society. His study is based on study carried out in 22 districts across Uganda.


  1. Bill Drayton says

    Recently I viewed a shocking BBC documentary on the life of gays in Uganda. It was very disturbing to see most people “on the street” say that homosexuals were like aliens and should all be killed. Even young students were expressing such diabolical views – my use of the adjective is deliberate! And all the “gay-bashers” cite the “fact” that homosexuality is a Western import into the traditional fabric of Ugandan society. So now we know that this is completely untrue.
    What makes me sick is that some on the extreme wing of the evangelical Christian “movement” (particularly from the USA) are fomenting this killing spree against people who just want to get on with their lives and happen to be gay.
    I have to temper my opposition to the anti-gay lobby because I too used to be an evangelical Christian who attacked homosexuals for acting against supposed biblical teaching.
    Before I came out last November, I had no inkling just how virulent the opprobrium against the lgbt community is out there. Now I know – and have been on the receiving end! But of course, by no means on the scale that my brothers and sisters have to endure in places like Uganda.

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