Monday, June 19, 2017

Alon Mwesigwa - Jailed for calling Ugandan president a 'pair of buttocks', activist Stella Nyanzi vows to fight on

A few minutes into our interview at one of Kampala’s hotels, Stella Nyanzi’s lawyer tells us the place is no longer safe for her and she needs to leave. She is constantly monitored by security agents these days, she says, which is perhaps not surprising as the academic and activist is one of the fiercest critics of the Ugandan government. But she is not about to back down.  Not even the 33 days she spent in the country’s maximum security Luzira women’s prison for describing the president, Yoweri Museveni, as a “pair of buttocks” could change her stance.

“My language will grow sharper if the government continues to oppress us,” says Nyanzi, who was suspended from her job at Makerere University for “abusing” the first lady and education minister, Janet Museveni. Nyanzi called her a “big-thighed cow” with an “empty brain”.   Fury over arrest of academic who called Uganda's president a pair of buttocks  Read more On top of that, she has accused the Musevenis of raping the country and leaving millions of Ugandans in poverty during their three-decade rule.  “I am a critic of government and I choose the words to use [carefully],” she told the Guardian while out on bail.  “If you are going to stand with the powerless against the oppression [by] the powerful, someone will not like it. That person is usually the powerful.”

Nyanzi, who usually turns to Facebook to vent her wrath, was arrested in April and charged with cyber harassment for her criticism of the president. Her arrest followed an event for her campaign Pads4girlsUG, which is raising money to buy sanitary towels for girls who can’t afford them. She started it after the first lady told parliament earlier this year that the government did not have money to fulfil her husband’s election campaign pledge to provide free sanitary pads to schoolgirls.

At least 30% of teenage girls in Uganda miss school when they start having their periods.  The campaign has proved a success, with donations pouring in. Nyanzi wrote on Facebook that Pads4girls was her “most powerful achievement” of the past year.  Her arrest elicited widespread condemnation, with Human Rights Watch describing it as “the most flagrant attack on free expression in many years and a vengeful use of Uganda’s justice system to silence a government critic”. She is currently barred from travelling out of the country... read more: