Published: Thu, April 13, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Uganda police arrest academic who rebuked the first family

Uganda police arrest academic who rebuked the first family

Writing on Facebook, Stella Nyanzi aimed graphic insults at the First Lady, who is also the minister for education, after the government reneged on a campaign pledge to provide free sanitary pads to schoolgirls. Lack of sanitary towels is a leading cause of girls dropping out of school in Uganda. She launched a crowdfunding campaign to provide the pads herself.

Stella Nyanzi, a research fellow at Uganda's Makerere University, was charged with cyber harassment and offensive communication Monday.

She is charged with two counts including cyber harassment contrary to section 24 (1)(2)(a) of the Computer misuse Act 2011 and offensive communication contrary to section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011. It elaborates that said messages were transmitted over the internet to disturb "the peace, quiet or right of privacy of his excellence, the president of Uganda".

Maria Burnett, associate director for Africa at Human Rights Watch, said the arrest and charging of Nyanzi was an "indicator that those who express critical views of the Ugandan government, especially the first family, can face its wrath".

"The manner of Nyanzi's arrest on Friday was more about intimidation than law enforcement", she added.

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Court has declined to hear Dr.Stella Nyanzi's bail application until after disposing the state's application demanding a mental check of the academic. Instead, government lawyers applied to have Nyanzi undergo a court-ordered mental evaluation before she could even take pleas. She entered a plea of not guilty Monday. "I am happy to take on the mantle of insanity, the mantle of truth-teller, if this is going to be the only time this regime is told of its offenses against Ugandans", she said.

She has denied the charges, saying she only writes in metaphors, and some have argued that the charges are an attack against freedom of expression.

The states disproportionately harsh prosecution of Dr. Nyanzi may have inadvertently transformed this political virgin into a Ugandan Guevara like icon. It culminated in Nyanzi staging a naked protest outside Mamdani's office at Makerere.

Her politically-charged and loquacious or verbose postings havepricked the bottoms of Gen. Museveni and his wife Janet Museveni, like the sharp thorns of the lovely Lycium flower plant judging by how the state has unleashed its wrath against her.

Nyanzi is popular on Facebook for her relentless criticism of Museveni, who has ruled since 1986 and who is increasingly accused of planning to rule this East African country for life. Some call her fearless, others call her immoral and vulgar, the prosecution in the current case has questioned her mental health.

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