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Western nations warn citizens to avoid Ugandan music festival

Western nations warn citizens to avoid Ugandan music festival
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At least three Western governments have warned their citizens to stay away from a major music festival in Uganda over fears it may be the target of an attack.

Thousands of revellers are expected to attend the four-day Nyege Nyege festival, which got under way on Thursday in Jinja, a town on the shores of Lake Victoria in southern Uganda.

The warnings from the United States, Britain and Ireland follow several deadly attacks in Uganda blamed on a militia allied with the Islamic State (IS) group based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

But Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has sought to assure citizens and visitors that the event was safe.

The US embassy in Kampala issued an advisory on Thursday directing its staff not to attend the Nyege Nyege festival and added: “Due to security concerns, we advise US citizens not (to) attend the festival.”

On Monday, the British High Commission advised against “all but essential travel to Jinja”, warning of a “growing terror threat in Uganda, including the targeting of foreigners”.

The Irish embassy issued a similar warning, recommending its citizens “avoid large gatherings — including large scale worship, and music and cultural festivals in Uganda”.

Nyege Nyege, an African arts and music festival, attracts partygoers from across East Africa and beyond and is especially popular among Kampala’s large international community.

Uganda is on edge after a spate of attacks by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels, including a massacre of at least 42 people at a school in Mpondwe near Uganda’s border with DR Congo, most of them students.

Last month, two honeymooning foreign tourists and their Ugandan guide were killed in a national park in an attack that was claimed by IS.

The ADF, historically a Ugandan rebel coalition, is accused of slaughtering thousands of civilians in the violence-ravaged eastern DRC.

In a statement on Thursday on X, formerly known as Twitter, Museveni said: “The security forces are guarding the pre-prepared public functions like the controversial Nyege Nyege.”

“The hunt to wipe out the ADF is being intensified,” he added.

Last week, the Ugandan authorities said they had captured the man they claim directed the school massacre and tourist murders in a raid that killed another six ADF suspects.

Established in 2015, the Jinja festival has often courted controversy, with many political and religious leaders condemning it as immoral and calling for it to be banned.

Nyege Nyege means an irresistible urge to dance in the local Luganda language, but it can have a sexual connotation in other languages in the region.

Many Ugandans associate the festival with social and sexual liberalism — including LGBTQ lifestyles — and it is viewed with suspicion in the deeply conservative country, which earlier this year adopted harsh anti-gay legislation.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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