BY Alexander Opicho, 12:00pm December 19, 2021,

It’s time for Africa to stop the culture of brutalizing women in politics with unfair and long jail terms

Benin opposition leader Reckya Madougou sentenced to 20 years in prison. Photo: Yanick Folly, AFP

African politics has done well when it comes to mainstreaming women into the social process of political socialization. It is so encouraging that the world can now see women in top positions of politics around Africa; Dr. Samia Suluhu, the current President of the Republic of Tanzania being a spotless testimony about this achievement. This shows that women in Africa enjoy more political freedom than those in the Arab world and many other ‘unmentionable’ places that still keep women in politically disenfranchised positions. 

However, there is still a flip side to this social success in Africa. Most of the women in Africa practicing politics that goes against the preferences of current governments are often brutalized by long jail terms alongside other vulgar brutalities like sexual violence and forced exile. This point is clearly evident in the manner in which a judicially skewed and politically manipulated court in Benin has convicted the female opposition politician, Reckya Madougou, to a very long jail term out of politically motivated and machinated criminal charges. 

Benin’s President Patrice Talon has always perceived Reckya Madougou as his strong competitor and hence his regime is the key player in the machinations that created politically motivated charges which have worked for Reckya’s unfair imprisonment. Obviously, all these happen as a way of creating leeway for intended authoritarianism to thrive in Benin.

A brief delving into the account of the matter shows that Reckya Madougou was subjected to a criminal trial that did not have evidence, but still, she was found guilty of complicity in terrorist acts by the Benin court of Economic Crime and Terrorism. It was out of this skewed trial that the 47-year-old Reckya Madougou, the former Justice Minister and currently an opposition politician, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Saturday, December 11, 2021, in Porto-Novo.

It is so unfortunate that this imprisonment of Reckya Madougou began with her dehumanizing arrest in March 2021, just a few days before the election from which she was disqualified without logical reasons that can make sense under the light of modern political thought.

This uncivil violence perpetrated by the government of Benin on Reckya Madougou for her civil participation in electoral politics makes anyone concerned with the well-being of African politics to also reflect about the Ugandan pluralist-political thinker, Dr. Stella Nyanzi, who is now exiled in Kenya, living without a job in urban poverty and estrangement from her family.

Dr Nyanzi is undergoing this politically instigated nemesis for her liberal and pluralist political writing and social activism as her way of speaking truth to the selfish powers that be in Uganda. Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a Medical Anthropologist, a poet and a critic of Museveni’s politics of ethnic exclusion, exiled herself to Kenya after serving an 18 months sentence in prison after being charged with politically motivated charges of harassing Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on the internet.

The fact is that Nyanzi never harassed Museveni. Dr. Nyanzi only reminded Museveni that he is an authoritarian dictator who has been in power for the last 35 years, a period which has yielded a culture of police brutality and death of the media to the people of Uganda as well as subjecting the people of Uganda to very cruel economic hopelessness which has forced over five million young people from Uganda to migrate to Kenya for menial jobs like slum hotel keeping and domestic help hands. 

Above all else, Dr. Nyanzi has to be saluted for her spiritual strength in the sense that during her incarceration at the Luzira Women’s Prison in Kampala, where she also endured brutal stretches in solitary confinement and physical abuse by guerrilla cultured prison guards that were only out to perfect horrifying experience on her, Dr. Nyanzi still raised above the pettiness of the moment to serve Africa’s big picture by writing and publishing a poetry collection under the title No Roses from My Mouth.

This prisonorature by Dr. Nyanzi is a beautiful collection of 159 poems exploring a variety of subject matters related to feminist resistance and the struggle for equality in Uganda. This is why at the beginning of the year 2021, Dr Nyanzi while undergoing her exile in Nairobi shared on Twitter that though in exile, she can still write as a way of making a contribution to the fight for freedom and liberation of Uganda from neurotic and brutally selfish-power culture of Yoweri Museveni.

Such contributions like the ones by Dr. Stella Nyanzi and Reckya Madougou are undeniable basic social requirements for succeeding in using democracy as a model of public governance. Hence, Nyanzi and many other women from Africa in her social ilk should not be brutalized by long jail terms based on farfetched charges. But instead, they must be celebrated as social beacons in the face of oppressive powers; they have to be honored for having the courage to stand for what’s right.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: December 18, 2021


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