Museveni runs to defend wife in pile of blunders
President Yoweri Museveni has throughout his 31 year reign over Uganda boasted about how he is “a fighter” who has defeated many opponents. But his latest foe is proving tougher, even insiders admit.
In the past, Museveni’s major opponents have either been a sitting government, gun-toting rebels, or social media activists hiding behind pseudonyms, and fellow politicians who have challenged him in elections. Most have been men and they have used weapons that Museveni has always found ways to outmatch given his firm grip on state resources.
Then enter Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a chubby, bullish, 42-year old feminist, who stands about five feet tall, but talks taller.
Instead of running around in street or bush wars with Museveni, or hiding behind pseudonyms, the Makerere University scholar, has gone for a tool around her research area; Queer Studies, a field that deals with sexuality, ideological discrimination , and works towards social justice for all people.
She has picked a tool that Museveni’s entire government machinery appears not to know how to deal with.
What Nyanzi calls her unrelenting “rocket-propelled grenades of words” loaded with metaphors of genitalia and sex, appears to be hitting hardest at the “Musevenis and Musevenists”.
Nyanzi is now in jail on charges related to her obscenities oozing criticism of Museveni’s family. But many people seem to agree that the message behind the obscenity has struck right at the heart of issues that many Ugandans are concerned about.
The night she was arrested, she was fundraising for her campaign to give sanitary pads to school girls. Statistics show that over 10 percent of school-going kids miss it because they do not have pads.
Nyanzi herself says she took it upon herself to provide these pads because First Lady Janet Museveni who is also the Minister of Education told parliament there was no budget allocation for the pads yet President Museveni had in 2015 while campaigning promised to provide the pads.
Having levelled a lot of vitriol against the First Lady and the Musevenis as a whole, she appeared aware that she was a wanted person.
“I will not talk about that failed democracy because I was told not to talk about politics because there are spies here,” Nyanzi said amidst cheers.
The organisers, the Rotary Club of Kampala Metropolitan, had insisted no one should discuss politics, religion, or use sex innuendo.
But this did not deter Nyanzi. Although her talk centred on how she and her team are running her pads campaign, Nyanzi made sure she found time to level more barbs against President Yoweri Museveni and his wife, First Lady Janet Museveni.
“There are boys who hear about sanitary pads and react as if it’s suicidal,” she said, “Those are the boys who will make a promise and not deliver.”
When she was done, she left the podium. An official came, found her at the back of the room and told her she was still needed. But minutes later, she returned and was seen being escorted to the hotel’s parking lot.
The manner in which she was arrested has also been criticised as it resulted into her loss of consciousness. Her lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo said she was paralysed from her waist down after arrest.
Agents in plain clothes snatched her at around 8:30pm on April 7, from Mackinnon Suites Hotel, where she had been making the presentation on the sustainability of her campaign of providing sanitary pads to school girls at a fundraising event organised by the Rotary Club of Kampala Metropolitan.
She had on March 7 been interrogated and on March 19 been blocked from travelling to Netherlands where she was scheduled to attend to her scholarly work at Amsterdam University.
She was locked up at Kira Police Station for two nights before she was arraigned before Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court on April 10 and charged with cyber harassment and offensive communication.
The charge sheet from which prosecutors read notes that on Jan. 28, Nyanzi referred to the president as among others “a pair of buttocks”. She pleaded not guilty.
The charge sheet also notes that Nyanzi had repeatedly used electronic communication to post messages offensive in nature via Facebook, transmitted over the internet to disturb the peace of the president with no purpose of legitimate communication.
She is being charged of offences in the Computer Misuse Act 2011, which among others describes cyber harassment as the use of a computer for purposes of making any request, suggestion or proposal which is obscene, lewd, lascivious or indecent.
Prosecution also wants her taken and checked to see whether she is sane.