Nairobi (AFP)

Kenyan authorities on Thursday banned the screening and broadcast of a documentary telling the story of a gay couple, calling the film "unacceptable and an affront to (the) culture and identity" of this country deeply Christian who criminalizes homosexuality.

Kenyan director Peter Murimi's "I am Samuel" tells a love story between two men living in Nairobi.

The film has angered the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), the classification body, which believes it promotes "gay marriage as an acceptable way of life".

In a statement announcing the film's ban, the KFCB believes that the documentary "propagates values ​​that are in dissonance with our Constitution, our cultural values ​​and our standards."

Worse, underlines Christopher Wambu, the boss of KFCB, the film shows this couple simulating a religious marriage, an act which he describes as "blasphemous".

The KFCB therefore prohibits "showing, distributing, possessing and broadcasting" the film on Kenyan territory.

Homosexuality is taboo in most African countries, where homosexuals often face discrimination and even persecution.

In Kenya, recent attempts to overturn laws prohibiting homosexuality, inherited from British colonial times, have failed.

Homosexual relations remain a crime there which, according to the law, can carry a sentence of up to 14 years in prison, but trials are rare.

"I am Samuel" is the second Kenyan film to be controversial on this theme in recent years.

In 2018, Wanuri Kahiu's "Rafiki" ("friend" in Swahili), a lesbian love story that was the first Kenyan film screened at the Cannes Film Festival, was also banned.

After a legal battle, Rafiki was finally screened for a short time in Nairobi, in packed theaters.

Peter Murimi said in an interview with AFP in October 2020 that he expected the documentary not to be well received by Kenyan censors.

However, he describes his film as "very nuanced, very balanced, it is the story of a family which fights against this problem, to have a gay child".

"We'll just do our best and hopefully the Kenyans will see it," he said.

The documentary, screened at several festivals and available for rental online, also received support from Wanuri Kahiu.

"Censorship reflects a society's lack of self-confidence," the director wrote on Twitter after the film's ban was announced.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the "discriminatory" ban which, according to the NGO, violates the rights of Kenyan citizens.

"Once again, the Kenyan government has denigrated its LGBT citizens by banning a documentary aimed at humanizing an ordinary Kenyan gay couple," Neela Ghoshal, deputy director of HRW's LGBT division, told AFP.

"The KFCB can continue to violate freedom of expression by silencing gay Kenyan voices, but cannot suppress them," she added.

© 2021 AFP