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Stella Nyanzi’s obscenity war

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.

2 comments

  1. I have to approaches about Miss Stella Nyanzi. My queer intelligence tells me that Dr. Stella Nyanzi is on a protracted war to launch queer sexuality in Uganda. She is in the initial stages of seeking for approval and authenticity as the champion for the marginalised. Away from this, my ordinary mind says:
    Uganda has placed Stella Nyanzi in the doc and yet again, Ugandans have attained the high moral ground to adjudicate. Stella Nyanzi has done the abominable, she did not only make anatomical comparisons between the first lady and herself but went on to refer to the head of state as a “pair of buttocks.” Allahu Akbar!!! Vigilante state operatives and moral enthusiasts have implored the courts of law for immediate action. To the onlookers, Stella Nyanzi is a disgrace and an outlaw who should be treated with contempt. To a serious sociologist, Stella Nyanzi could be a symptom and a symbol of a large societal problem. To understand Nyanzi, one should address oneself to the principles of ‘Democracy and morality.’ Patrick Devlin (Oxford University Press 1965) states that the verdict of a jury must be unanimous; so a moral principle, if it is to be given the force of law, should be one which twelve men and women drawn at random from the community can be expected not only to approve but to take so seriously that they regard a breach of it as fit for punishment. Do all Ugandans agree that Stella Nyanzi should be charged for what she said? I have heard from the former minister of ethics and integrity, Mrs. Miria Matembe asking, why Stella Nyanzi is in Luzira and President Museveni is still at large? What informs her questioning is that, the President has equally uttered “vulgar things.”
    But if you what to understand Stella Nyanzi better, you have to go back in history of how states formed. And one important look, is that of Emile Durkheim’s theory of law (1774). In answering the question, ‘how do societies hold themselves together?’, Durkheim analysed that societies had to operate on two bases. These were: Mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. Mechanical solidarity or the similarity among people of the same society which makes them feel akin to each other and comfortable with each other and yet different from people not in that society. The Stella Nyanzi phenomenon is well within the “socio-ambits” of Buganda. When a woman in Buganda gives birth to twins, she is accorded the title of “NNalongo”, the man who has sired these twins is called “ssalongo.” There are initiation ceremonies for the “Ssalongos and Nnalongos” in the Buganda culture and these ceremonies are hugely earmarked with vulgarities and merry making. Interestingly, Our Kabaka (or King) of his so many titles, he is also a “Ssalongo.” If Nnalongo Stella Nyanzi had directed her “venom” towards Ssalongo Ronald Muwenda Mutebi maybe it wouldn’t have attracted such public annoyance as the King would have reiterated in equal measure. But Uganda is a cosmopolitan society which is ruled by the ability of the state to coerce. That might partly explain why Stella Nyanzi is in Luzira prison.

  2. All over the world, international press and governments have asked for the release of this patriotic activist with a strange language and as usual this #Museveni #JanetMuseveni government has pretended not hear.

    Some Ugandans were so angry at Stella’s style of advocacy but it looks like it’s the only one that gets their attention into action.

    I have watched as people diplomatically talked and ranted. Right now from the guardian to the Washington post, all African press, AlJazeera, street protests in front of Ugandan Embassies in Europe, all have tried to voice one sentiment, #FreeStellaNyanzi but it has all fallen on deaf ears. These immune tyrannical, despots only understand, human rights abuse, Nepotism, Abductions and public Murders, Abuse of power, corruption and name it. They have deduced that Ugandans are door mats that are too cowardly to do anything to save themselves from any injustice leveled over their heads.

    So how dare anyone frown on the one voice, the one language these immoral leaders could hear and that is Dr. Stella Nyanzi!

    These deaf ears only open when Stella Uses her metaphors, the rest they can never listen!

    Even when locked up, dialogue and discussions on how to save Ugandans from their plight is going on. Issues that have been ignored for decades are coming to the forefront. They can lock her up Physically but they can never lock up the truth of what she exposed.

    Just like Nelson Mandela came out of Prison and achieved his goal, she too Will come out if these shameless #PairOfButtocks don’t murder her in broad daylight as is their usual way of silencing opposition voices through enigmatic deaths like Nebanda’s and the likes.

    That said, we need Dr. Stella out, locking her up is locking up our national freedom of speech and laughing in our faces saying you powerless Ugandans have you not learnt from our decades of tyrannical despotic regime that you can do nothing to us.

    Our leaders are telling world leaders that they can talk, tweet, media cover, protest all they want but as long as they have the power they can abuse their citizens in anyway they dimmed fit and kill any local who dared challenge them then push that matter under the carpet and do business as usual.

    I hope this government doesn’t rob us all of our youth and cripple all the following generations so that we continue in this pattern of stone age rule, Amin-Obotte-Museveni sounds like the historical reign of terror Metanic-Napoleon-Hitler all of them have decided to reincarnated in Uganda. To the extent of Marie Antoinette reincarnated as Janet Museveni.

    #Uganda my mother land when will you ever enjoy present day democracy and good governance! God of heaven please save my land. #FreeStellaNyanzi #PairOfButtocks

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