NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 17 – The High Court has lifted a ban on the controversial play ‘Shackles of Doom’ by Butere Girls High School saying the move by the government was unlawful.
Justice David Majanja ordered the government to urgently resolve the issues that led to its ban and ensure that it is staged at the ongoing Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama festivals in Mombasa.
Justice Majanja directed the playwright Cleophas Malala, the school and the Ministry of Education to ensure that they reached a consensus by Thursday morning otherwise the court would give further guidance.
“The play must be shown because the Constitution does not allow a ban and it is not enough for the ministry to ban it without reason. If they (playwright, school and Education Ministry) do not consent, the court will give direction,” he ruled.
The government had halted the play claiming that it contained heavy ethnic undertones.
The playwright however argued that the ban was a political manhunt because he had written other plays depicting tribalism yet they hadn’t been prohibited.
Malala maintained that the play was a work of art that adequately captured national ills of nepotism and tribalism. He however said that he was willing to review any items that would appear as if they were promoting the social ills.
“How do you ban a play that you’ve not watched? How do you ban an artistic piece out of rumours and allegations?” he asked in a past media interview.
The play was allegedly banned by the Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival Executive Secretary Patrick Sirengo Khaemba.
Ironically, education officials in Butere did not pick out any elements of tribalism when they watched and cleared the play, which topped at the zonal, district and county levels before its bid to the national level was frozen.
The suit was filed by human rights activist Okiya Omtatah.
The Permanent Secretary for Education George Godia and Attorney General Githu Muigai were listed as respondents.
“The play was banned yet the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. It is only the courts that have the power to supervise the enjoyment of rights and fundamental freedoms,” argued Omtatah.