A courageous academic and outspoken critic of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has been arrested for insulting him on social media.
Dr Stella Nyanzi, 42, was detained by “unknown state agents” on the night of 7 April. On Monday she was changed with “cyber harassment” for calling Museveni a “pair of buttocks” in a January Facebook post.
Nyanzi, who describes herself as an “ally and friend of the local LGBTIQQQAAA+ movement in Uganda”, has shocked conservatives in Uganda with her scathing attacks against the Museveni regime’s oppressive policies and human rights abuses.
“That is what buttocks do. They shake, jiggle, shit and fart. Museveni is just another pair of buttocks… Ugandans should be shocked that we allowed these buttocks to continue leading our country,” she wrote.
Nyanzi has often singled out the president, who has been in power since 1986, and First Lady Janet Museveni in her posts for “raping” the country.
“As a thinker, scholar, poetess, lyricist, writer, Facebooker and creative producer, it is my responsibility to boldly critique the corrupt tyrants of the day,” she recently posted. “The Musevenis and Musevenists who have violated every principle of good governance must be shown the evil plight they have generated for three decades.”
She has recently repeatedly called out Museveni for failing to fulfil his election promise to provide free sanitary pads for schoolgirls. She also slammed claims that she was receiving “gay money” to support her campaign.
“I have never received any ‘gay money for sanitary pads’ from [LGBT activists] in Uganda or from anyone in the Netherlands. If there is such ‘gay money for sanitary pads’, I want a piece of it now,” Nyanzi wrote defiantly.
Nyanzi’s at times explicit social media posts against the first couple have led to her being harassed and intimidated over the last two months. This includes being subjected to a travel ban and being suspended as a research fellow at Makerere University. She also reported that armed individuals had followed her sister’s car and, on 3 April, had entered her home, terrorising her children.
According to court papers, Nyanzi has been accused of having “attempted to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of his Excellency the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni” with her “obscene or indecent” comments.
She faces up to four years in jail. She was been denied bail and remains in custody.
In 2014, Museveni signed Uganda’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill – one of the harshest such laws in the world – despite international condemnation. It was later overturned by the courts on a technicality but his regime remains deeply homophobic, including raiding Pride events and arresting LGBT activists.
Under colonial-era legislation criminalising gay sex, the courts in Uganda may sentence anyone found guilty of homosexuality to life in prison.