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THE LAST WORD: On Museveni and Stella Nyanzi

How the detention and trial of a Makerere academic exposes the moral bankruptcy of Uganda’s elites

By Andrew M. Mwenda

Dr. Stella Nyanzi, an academic at Makerere University, has been jailed for using foul language to criticise President Yoweri Museveni and his wife, Janet. It is permissible to call the president a dictator or corrupt. I find it morally reprehensible for Nyanzi to refer to their sexual organs in a vulgar way to express her frustration with their power though I disagree that such language should be criminalised. Mrs Museveni responded to Nyanzi’s insults with grace and dignity. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity for a policy debate, Nyanzi used (and abused) it to hurl even worse sexually lurid insults at her.

Support and condemnation of Nyanzi has followed partisan lines. This shows a lack of basic values around which current governance and opposition to it are organised. There is also a lack of a common agreement on basic national goals. This indicates that we can change government not governance. Those in power mismanaging state institutions and/or stealing public resources and those in the opposition battling them, are fighting over power not values.

Let us begin with Museveni and his government. Nyanzi has been using vulgar language to criticise others. She was only jailed because she used them against Museveni and his wife. Hence state institutions have been employed to protect a pecuniary interest i.e. the prestige of the first family. Her prosecution is, therefore, not a defense of our nation’s moral standards and values. In fact, it is an abuse of power. This selective and selfish use of state power strips such actions of legitimacy.

Museveni is now caught in a Catch 22 situation: If he keeps Nyanzi in jail, she will become a prisoner of conscience and an international issue. If he releases her without inflicting a high cost on her, many others will see this as weakness and begin using worse language to criticise him and his wife. If this is allowed to flourish, it will diminish the prestige and aura around them that is essential for the Musevenis to hold and retain power and command respect and obedience.

This brings me to opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye and his cohorts. He went to visit Nyanzi in jail, which is ok. But he did not condemn her language, which implies he approves of it. Would Besigye treat it as acceptable if someone criticised his wife in similar language? Besigye would have shown political maturity if he said that although he shares Nyanzi’s criticism of government, he condemns the language she used to criticise the president and first lady of Uganda. But he lacks the courage to look beyond petty partisanship and project a moral vision.

Besigye could retort that Museveni would not take such a high moral stand if the insulted person were his (Besigye’s) wife. Why should he uphold a value that Museveni would never reciprocate? Here, I follow the standard set by the philosopher, Emmanuel Kant. According to Kant, the moral worth of an action consists not in the consequences that flow from it, but the intentions from which it is done. What matters is the motive i.e. doing the right thing because it is right, not because of some ulterior motive. To Kant therefore, we should do the morally right thing out of duty to act correctly rather than convenience or usefulness.

23 comments

  1. ejakait engoraton

    Very confused and confusing article.
    So much about nothing.
    Do you know the 2 cardinal rules about public opinion?
    1) Always listen to public opinion.
    2) Never listen to public opinion.
    The reason you made and wrote an apology is because you said something while in a state of anger, in a state when your senses were on leave. Nyanzi was in no such state, she was fully aware of what she was saying and stands by what she said and will not make a fake apology to buy her freedom.

  2. ejakait engoraton

    Mwenda, you operate under what we call ” licence”.
    You are allowed to say and do certain things.
    Your insult of and apology to M7 was stage managed.
    This was all meant to make M7 appear to be good, because everybody will say ” look, M9 insulted M7 moreover live on air and he is walking the streets”.

  3. ejakait engoraton

    You, just like John Hubbard, knew where the money was.
    You crave/d publicity. Writing articles was not enough. You went by the Basoga Nsadhu syndrome where you become the biggest critic in order to attract attention.
    Being seen to criticise and insult the person of the president, albeit all stage managed, raised his stock.
    And one needs no PhD to realise that this was the stage when the transformation from Saul to Paul started.
    The rest, as they say, is history

    • My brother ejakait, it is only the devil who has no remorse because evil is his good (read John Milton’s Paradise Lost) surely you too,human as you are, have made a rash remark severally to many people including your kids,wife.parent and later regretted it. Mwenda,despite courting,craving for and seeking for publicity still had remorse. You have been unkind to him in this column by stating different from what he says he felt. While you are capable of guessing,inferring,concluding and suspecting something, you will agree with that it is impossible to see inside the human mind. So what Mwenda says he felt and the motive that caused the feeling are true testimony of a man who is attempting to convince a skeptic public. So ejakait my brother apologise to Mwenda and it will not diminish you one iota. As for Nyanzi, she will soon enough break down either positively wailing and asking for forgiveness or running like all mad people we see around whichever Power claims her first between devil and Creator. I can authoritatively conclude that she is not in her right state of mind.

  4. Why is everyone undermining the first family?mmmmmmmmmmm,i remember.Its bse M7 has lost legitimacy in the last elections,he lost to Dr K B.If people protest on streets,police and army.

  5. 1.Uganda has become a country of mourning.
    2. Africa’s strength in the social media are her social problems like disease,famine and ill conceived elements of democracy. When the international press focuses on these issues,any activists willl clling on these social problems and open an NGO to earn cheap popularity and some bucks no one ever talks about the good side of Africa coz it does not pay.
    3.The international press has to exaggerate Africa’s social problems so as as to get adverts from Organizations like Ox farm,UNDP,UNICEF how often do you see companies advertising on Aljezeera or BBC their Businesses?
    4.Primitivty is when an elite fails to say simple words like sorry or i love you.
    5.During the Defense of a Research Proposal ,supervisors have the digression to either request you to review your topic or pick a new topic that will help the galaxy. i dont even know how she presented her concept paper to justify her PhD studies.Stella Nyanzi ‘s PhD thesis was on Sex yet most Ugandans are already fucked up.
    6. Stella Nyanzi is a Muganda by tribe and this tribe is well known for exaggerating and dramatizing sex they even have tutorials for sex .Climaxing during sex is a reflex action that’s why most people say so many words especially women while climaxing e.g Kuliika orugendo/journey basically such words cant be said when one is in their normal senses except Stella.
    5.By now they should have frog matched her to Butabika for a mental check up.
    6.Stella is heading for double tragedy if she does not apologize i.e she will lose her little job at MUK after being declared mad by Doctors in Butabika. In law when one is declared insane that’s the end them that’s why when one commits certain crimes the presiding judicial officer requests for a mental check coz we lawyers are too learned and dont have time to entertain nonsense.

    • Winnie, Don’t you think it is better to take all those who have swindled our money to Butabika. If simply being obscene makes somebody being baptized as mad. Then all the corrrupt are supposed to have found Butabika their safe haven.

      • Paul ,corruption is a premeditated act which pays highly while hurling obscene words generates no bucks its meant for improving the sex life of mankind.Now that Stella has been released from jail she is now enjoying watching the Pyongyang missile coz it looks like what she loves talking about.

  6. ejakait engoraton

    Fake news, fake lawyers, we have it all.
    Winnie, insanity is a defence almost exclusively used by the defence rather than the prosecution and even then only used in ” mens rea ” cases.

    Presently it’s only used in murder cases, so I really don’t know what you are talking about.
    Stick to matters of SEX.

  7. ejakait engoraton

    Rwasubutare, my brother, nice to hear from you.
    You contradict yourself in the space of one sentence.
    You say that ” it is impossible to see inside the human mind….” yet you go on to say that “what M9 felt……..” so are you now able to see int the human mind or is it only Mwendas?

    • no ejakait, I meant to say that Mwenda is sincere in his narration. You will admit that even a non-working clock(dead in our lingo) is right twice a day. So agree with me this once at least that Mwenda is sincere and means it. He was truly apologetic.

      • ejakait engoraton

        Bwana Rwasubutare, with all due respect, whatever it is you say Mwenda said, by your own admission and what all of us know, you are not in a position to tell whether M9 s apology was sincere or not. Likewise even if I made one as you demand or Stella made one as is demanded by all n sundry, who is to say if it’s sincere or not.
        That simply is my beef with you.

  8. Who is the champion of insults among the two? Museveni once asked the late suleiman kiggundu whether he had ants eating his anus simply because the late governor had waited for him at state house whole day without meeting the president and therefore wanted to leave. Remember Museveni’s famous “go and eat your mother’s something something,calling his predecessors swines,the recent leopard’s anus. All these are from the head of state who is always quoted and recorded.
    Andrew Mwenda,dont you think stella could have taken a leaf from Museveni on these insults?

  9. By jailing Stella Nyanzi,Museveni ,makes it worse as his critics,in their tens of millions who are fed up with his reign will take it as dictatorial tendency. I recall the philipine president Duterte calling US president at the time “son of a prostitute” moreover during an asian summit despite the fact the US is the former’s biggest ally and largest donor both financially and millitarily.When asked about his response to the insults,Obama,though was not amused refered to it as a “colourful language” and cancelled his scheduled meeting with Duterte and that put the mad man in his place. Duterte,like stella nyanzi have similar behaviours and the gentleman in Museveni would have ignored her. Once you are a president,you subject yourself to all sorts of insullts as is seen around the world. Ex British premier John Major was insulted so much that one of critics hit his face with a raw egg shattering his spectacles and injuring his left eye.we did not hear of any jail term for the protester. Museveni would have let his wife janet kataha deal with stella through legal means and that would have tamed the nnalongo. Sukng her such insults with heavy penalties would have silenced that mad woman. My strong belief is that Janet is the one who ordered Nyanzi’s arrest,hidding behind the presidench for stella’s insults of her tiny something something. These are not museveni’s hands. Our dictator only arrests when someone is trying to play with his power stool and is known to stomach worse insults compared to “pair of buttocks”.

    • Augustine Dr Stella (I hate to call her Nyanzi though unavoidable) is learned,educated and had all the privileges of correct and upright upbringing. It is only that she has been corrupted (read decayed). So when they say she undergo Butabikisation, it is based on that consideration. A clergyman’s daughter does not just leave school and head for the prostitution den without an external factor actively infecting her mind. It is that they want psychiatrists to check…..and if need be examine her in chains. Sex is a temporary respite every adult knows and is not a spectator sport in African, let alone Buganda culture (from which Stella hails) which is known world over for being strict and respectful of elders. I have not heard any Muganda woman, who is not under that influence of some tough drug utter Stella’s words. By the way why not take her blood sample and give the labs in Mulago to check some cocaine? It has been fashionable among the elites for sometime. That lady cannot be in her normal faculties when she is writting these insults. And if Dr Onzivua finds some drug in her blood sample, detox her. Stella can be tamed by love I tell you. It is what she is lacking. I know 3 ladies who can humble her in 3 hours….

  10. Edrisa Kayungirizi

    I always find it fascinating with Mwenda’s articles coz he tend to portray himself as a very clever person yet is just a mediocre journalist who thrives on misintepreted philosophies. Please Mwenda learn to be objective not subjective.

    Stella Nyanzi is 43 years old and how come we just started hearing her obscene language in the last 2 years. Can you have sense to realize that the woman is very fed up and the only way now to express her frustration is to use such language!!!

    This Dictator Museven is always happy to have people like Mwenda whom society think they are the elite but then again cant make critical analysis of the dire circumstances the country is in. Every thing has a bigining and an end, and Museven’s lies with his sycophants is also coming to an end.

    Mwenda do not be a wasted scholar please.

  11. Andrew I loved this piece ; it resonated with my mind and conscience . To be honest I almost have contempt for public opinion . And this tendency was implanted into my conscience by observation and listening .
    I remember very little logic or justice from crowds . By extension I am wary of democracy , especially in backward societies . What is the rationale for equating the voting power of a political science
    professor like Mamdan to the lumpens all over kampala who loot and rape at the slightest opportunity ?

    But the main issue was Nyanzi . Ejakait , with all the eloquence , are you saying insulting the
    president and his wife Publicly is ok,? what’s the point in your opposition to Mwenda’s
    decent disagreement

  12. Andrew , I hope to engage you later with studied responses . But today You touched some of
    my fundamental values . Sometimes I rush through your articles because I think despite
    eloquence , the fundamentals are shaky .
    The core problem of backward societies in my view is moral . You argue a lot as if you are not aware
    of the measure of morality in Uganda and Africa mainly , but world too . Ugandans steal , allow public
    projects to rot — , because of limited moral conscience . Skills may play a part but can be easily
    acquired if the moral standard were sound.

  13. Well said Andrew. As a people we must never lose sight of those values that make us human. I have argued with some on social media that if the object of Stella’s ire was someone else, most of her cheerleaders would find her utterances and style unacceptable. The social media crowd that has come out in full support of her are the same people that believe M7 lost the elections! Their “liberated” and educated minds are quick to sneer at those that think Africa should hold onto some of its core values (the “ignorant” masses). Who defines decency they ask? M7 has been abusing Ugandans in worse ways than Stella, they argue. Well, if what M7 has done is bad, what Stella is doing cannot be good. Any time M7 has abused Ugandans the same people have not held back in their criticism!
    As a country there are certain lines we cannot cross. If we normalize the unthinkable, we must be prepared for the consequences. If we think what Stella says and does is okay and normal – as long as the cause is right, we must be prepared for the same practice in our homes, places of work, in public. We must be ready to accept that it is okay for an employer to use the same language on their employees and vice versa. We must agree that it is okay for such language to be used in our homes! If we are not ready for that, then we say no. Decency is decency and bad manners are bad manners even if they are directed at someone we don’t like.

    • ejakait engoraton

      Respect is EARNED n is a double edged sword. If you want respect, you give respect, as the Swahili say, dawa ya moto ni moto.
      There is no bigger insult than to lie, especially to desperate and innocent people.
      M7 made the promise of sanitary pads very well knowing he had no intention of fulfilling that promise and I’m on record as having said as much.

      • Ntoni Timbyetaho

        Andrew someone insulted me while at campus. For her she did not mind. For me I was hurt. When I expressed to she laughed . it was not a big insult. To me I leant that it becomes an issue if there were set rules so that all parties know what us regarded as in acceptable.

  14. But folks, if Nyanzi called M7a pair of buttocks, but in reality, is M7 a pair of buttocks? And in reality, does calling M7a pair of buttocks makes Nyanzi a nutcase? No.

    In my opinion Mr. Museveni has accumulated all the necessary conditions for misanthropy: the lose of trust, respect and hence openly insulted by the Stella Nyanzi of this country. In other words, for millions of Ugandans, Mr. M7 is now a good for nothing person/president.

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