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Stella Nyanzi’s obscenity war

This is especially because this was not the first time she was insulting colleagues. Nyanzi made her bones in the online profanity warfare last year during a fight with Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, the head of Makerere Institute for Social Research (MISR), who had locked her out of her office for refusing to teach. On top of the insults she hurled at Mamdani, Nyanzi even stripped naked while protesting the former’s injustices.

“Nudity is a weapon for the powerless,” she said while explaining why she had stripped naked.

A disciplinary committee suspended her for gross misconduct and she had just returned to Makerere University, not at MISR but at the Faculty of Law. This is where she launched the onslaught on the Musevenis, which resulted into the suspension by the Appointments Board.

The Appointments Board’s decision came after she had on March 30 described the First Lady as “foolish” and “out of touch with the reality of the masses her family has misgoverned for thirty-one years and still counting”.

This post appears to have forced Janet Museveni to defend herself.

“How can I be out of touch?” Janet Museveni said in response in an interview run by NTV, “I was a member of parliament for Ruhama, I was minister for Karamoja and walked with the Karimojong in the manyattas trying to address this challenge.”

She added: “I honestly forgave that lady. I did not know that I could deserve what she said about me today.”

Observers say Janet Museveni should not have bandied words with Nyanzi and the Musevenis should not have allowed her arrest.

In any case, Nyanzi rejected the forgiveness. She took to her Facebook saying she rejected the forgiveness and hurled even more loaded vulgarities.

Earlier on, Janet Museveni in her role as the Education Minister had cautioned parents against transporting their school children on motorcycles or boda bodas and instead advised them to either walk them to school or drive them in cars.

Janet Museveni had also earlier said that parents should provide flasks if they want their children to have warm lunch at school. Only about 1% of Ugandans own private cars and many families cannot afford food for school going children, let alone flasks to keep it warm.

Nyanzi used all this to cast the First Lady as blinded by privilege and out of touch with the suffering of ordinary people.

Freedom of speech on trial

Nyanzi’s attack on Janet puts Museveni in a very tricky position. He has in the past allowed critics of every ilk to hurl every manner of missile at him with jocular nonchalance.  But there has always been a tacit recognition that his family had to be kept out of it. As if in direct defiance of this position, Nyanzi’s has aimed all her volleys at Janet Museveni.

Museveni’s critics say he got it coming when he appointed members of his family into political offices. Museveni now appears to be fighting back for his wife.

Indeed, it is significant that even though Nyanzi is being charged over abusing the President, her arrest is being seen and understood all round as a consequence of her exchanges on Janet Museveni.

Human Rights lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, who is representing Nyanzi has raised concerns about the sensitivity around criticising the wife of the President. The same night Nyanzi was arrested, an NTV journalist, Gertrude Uwitware, who had also written a blog in support of Nyanzi’s criticisms against the First Lady, was also kidnapped.

Opiyo said Uwitikware was abducted, beaten, blindfolded and driven for hours and threatened. She also had her hair cut and she was dumped at night in Kiira, a Kampala suburb.

“Her crime?” Opiyo had earlier tweeted, “She wrote a blog post in support of Dr. Stella Nyanzi – got a Facebook message threatening her and now she this. Cowardly acts.”

This fear of being criticised portrays her (First Lady) as being vindictive, Opiyo noted, and unable to stand public scrutiny.

“It doesn’t serve her at all. It just plays into the narrative that Uganda is becoming more and more intolerant to divergent views,” Opiyo said.

Opiyo also said that what is happening to Dr. Nyanzi is a repeat of what happened to Maverick Blutaski. Like Nyanzi, Blutaski also known as Robert Shaka, who used social media to criticize President Museveni, was also charged with with offensive communication.

Another Human rights lawyer, Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, said the arrest was casting the state in bad light—especially showing those in power as panicking.

“Dr. Nyanzi was exercising her freedom guaranteed by Article 29 of the constitution,” Rwakafuzi said, “those charges are unsustainable. There is no law that says you cannot insult a person.”

He added that the arrest also shows that Nyanzi’s style of raising her grievances was effective.

“Those attacking her are the ones who are comfortable with the current leadership,” Rwakafuzi told The Independent, “But the majority may have problems with her language but they identify with her message.”

Besigye visits Nyanzi

While the pads are her flagship campaign, Nyanzi, is attacking Museveni over vote rigging, extrajudicial killings, corruption and family rule, among many others.

The activist, who refers to Kizza Besigye, the four time presidential election challenger of President Museveni, as my president, is no doubt infusing energy in the opposition’s rhetoric.

“I totally reject the idea that one…should not criticise the people responsible for abusing the rights of Ugandans and resources of Uganda through thirty-one years of increasing despotic family rule,” Nyanzi said in another of her Facebook posts. “As a thinker, scholar, poetess, lyricist, writer, Facebooker and creative producer, it is my responsibility to boldly critique the corrupt tyrants of the day.”

No wonder, Besigye, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, former Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Wafula Oguttu, the party’s secretary for mobilisation, Ingrid Turinawe and Buhweju MP Francis Mwijukye, were the among the first to pay her a visit at the police station even though they were denied access.

All this could not have come at a more terrible time for Museveni. In early April, The Independent published a story showing how the Museveni inner circle within State House is divided over his continued hold onto power, with some of his inner circle family members calling for “need to force internal party democracy in order to carry out the stalled but much-needed second-generational reforms in the economy and governance.” All this is happening at a time Museveni’s loyalists plan to lift the age limit, a move critics say is intended to make him life president.

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editor@independent.co.ug

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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