After 33 days in what I consider an unconstitutional and unjustifiable detention in a democracy, Dr. Stella Nyanzi whose rights are being infringed upon on two counts of: cyber harassment and offensive communication under the Computer Misuse Act 2011, was granted bail but given tough conditions, including refraining from acts that court considers would unduly influence her case hearing.
In a country that respects rights and fundamental freedoms and is governed under the Rule OF rather than Rule BY law (which Uganda is fast sliding to with so many draconian legislations in our law books that seek to control civic and political space), Dr. Stella Nyanzi would be a free woman.
Stella Nyanzi, an aggressive intellectual and vociferous critic of Museveni’s mal-administration and sickening institutional and political decay, economic stagnation and decline under his 32-year rule as president, is Research Fellow in Makerere University’s Institute for Social Research where she specializes in research on gender and sexuality. She first shot into the public limelight a couple of years ago when she staged a lone nude-demonstration to protest what she saw as unfair treatment by the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) that wanted to re-allocate her office. Social media was awash, then, with imitations of her nude pictures standing side by side with celebrated Ugandan Scholar, Prof Mahmood Mamdani, the Director of MISR. Stella’s popularity and fame reached a record high when she was arrested for calling Museveni, Uganda’s president, ‘a pair of buttocks’ - a statement that has since become arguably the most widely referenced news from Uganda in the international media over the last few weeks. Her appearance in court and twice denial of bail has galvanized support for her even more - something one can argue is as much a plausible reason as it is the hard word work of her pro-bono lawyers, for her being granted bail.
The campaign she started on the president’s failure to honour a campaign promise to provide sanitary pads to young girls going to school, and which eventually led to her arrest, has gained immense ground with many individuals, organisations and companies responding positively to it. Dr. Nyanzi’s campaign is a huge embarrassment to the President and his wife who also doubles as the Minister of Education, in what Stella Nyanzi and many Ugandans view as the highest expression of nepotism this current regime is showing.
Her bail was received with as much excitement by her followers as it was relief for her young children, who like many children, including of unlawfully detained suspects by the Uganda police force are innocently suffering the consequences of an increasingly repressive regime of the ‘Wonderful Dictator of the World’ as Museveni proudly called himself in an Aljazeera interview recently.
Meanwhile Stella Nyanzi was immediately back online posting a message on her facebook about the torrid time she had, incarcerated, collapsing more than twice before she was granted bail, but thanking all her supporters, lawyers, the international community and fellow activists who stood by her and her family when she was in prison. As expected her first post was greeted with mixed feelings with some online commentators, who expected her usual erotic posts suggesting that the 33 days in detention have reformed her and she is a changed person.
With all the broken promises politicians make, we need more people like Stella Nyanzi across the country who stand for justice in order to pile more pressure on a failing regime whose leaders argue that their priority is to build roads even when their citizens are dying of hunger in Teso and feeding on grass and termites. With 1,000 more Stella Nyanzis, using their own style but pursing the same goal, we can at least have 999 active if 1 is arrested.
It is therefore Ugandans and NOT Stella Nyanzi who should CHANGE!