Ugandan academic and activist Stella Nyanzi has been in jail since November 2, 2018, when she was detained for allegedly insulting President Yoweri Museveni and his late mother, Esteri Kokundeka, in a poem posted on Facebook.
The feminist activist and Museveni critic has been in and out of court ever since and her last hearing was on May 17, 2019, which equally suffered an adjournment. The packed room in Kampala is regularly taken through language lessons over her social media posts that were deemed offensive.
It will probably continue on her next court hearing on May 31 which means she would have spent 201 days in jail. She is being tried for violating the Computer Misuse Act sections on cyber harassment and “obscene, lewd, lascivious or indecent” content production.
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Nyanzi was arrested on November 2 at the Makerere University during a march to the Institute of Social Research (MISR) where she worked as a research fellow before her suspension last year. The march was in protest against the institute’s failure to reinstate her and pay all her salary arrears as ordered by a tribunal which was set up to investigate her suspension.
During the time of her suspension in 2017, the mother of three staged a nude protest outside her locked up office and posted the video and images on Facebook.
Stella Nyanzi is not new to arrests as in April 2017, she was picked up for using abusive words against the president and first lady. She called President Museveni “a pair of buttocks” and insulted the First Lady Janet Museveni who she described as incompetent in her role as minister of education.
In a letter she wrote to a friend from detention, Nyanzi said: “Writing is a weapon … We shall fight their bullets and bribes with our prose and poetry. We shall defend ourselves with our pens and keyboards.”
Nyanzi chose to remain at the Luzira prison in Kampala since last year after rejecting bail stating that her “freedom would only be an illusion with the case still pending”.
If found guilty, she faces a one-year prison sentence if convicted under the Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011 on offensive communication which states that, “Any person who willfully and repeatedly uses electronic communication to disturb or attempts to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication whether or not a conversation ensues commits a misdemeanour and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-four currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.”