A year after disruption due to an attempted coup, festival returns with panache.
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The electronic music event attracted 20,000 music fans - including 4,000 from abroad - amid an "unprecedented security operation"
By James Hanley on 14 Nov 2023
Uganda’s Nyege Nyege festival has provided a $10 million boost to the country’s economy despite international visitors being warned to stay away due to a heightened terror threat.
The US, UK and Irish embassies all urged citizens to avoid the electronic music festival, which was held in Jinja from 9-12 November. But promoter Talent Africa reports the event still attracted more than 20,000 festival-goers – including 4,000 foreign attendees – making it East Africa’s “largest tourism experience”.
Dubbed the “Tomorrowland of Africa”, Nyege Nyege featured acts such as Sho Madjozi, Vigro Deep, Eddy Kenzo, Aunty Rayzor, DJ Kampire, Boutross, Bushali, DJ Diaki, Top Klas, De Schuurman, Afrorack, Chovu, Muovipussi and Yuri.
“This year’s Nyege Nyege festival was the most spectacular ever, with more than 20,000 people – mostly Ugandans –gathering in Uganda and others from around the world to listen to more than 300 artists,” say Nyege Nyege’s Derek Debru and Arlen Dilsizian. “Most importantly at this time when there is so much suffering and war occurring in the world, it was an event that celebrated peace and joy and enabled people to share understanding and kindness together.”
The British High Commission had advised against all but essential travel due to the “growing terror threat in Uganda, including the targeting of foreigners”, while the Irish Embassy also issued a warning, with reference to “music and cultural festivals in Uganda”. The US Embassy, meanwhile, encouraged individuals to “reconsider attendance at upcoming large public gatherings”, citing “increased terrorist activity”.
“People were given a chance to share a special experience in Jinja – and to do so in a safe and secure environment due to the effective security provisions”
The warnings followed a number of deadly attacks in recent months in Uganda, attributed to Democratic Republic of Congo-based rebels. Three people died in an attack in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Western Uganda on 17 October, while 42 people, including 37 pupils, were killed at a secondary school in June.
Organisers say an “unprecedented security operation” ensured Nyege Nyege’s eighth edition was “the safest yet staged”. In a break from the norm, accommodation at Nyege Nyege was not provided on site, but via secure campsites set up by partnering hotels.
“For four days, people were given a chance to share a special experience in Jinja – and to do so in a safe and secure environment due to the effective security provisions that had been put in place,” they add. “People came from all over the world to party together and the result was a beautiful experience as they heard some of the most exciting musical talents not only from Africa but globally. We look forward to doing it all again next year.”
The Ugandan parliament banned the festival last year, accusing it of “promoting immorality”, but later reversed the decision. This year’s event has also been credited with the creation of 2,000 jobs directly through the festival and a further 2,000 jobs through the springing up of businesses to help facilitate visitors.
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