There was drama in Kampala, Uganda, Wednesday, after the popular Ugandan activist and university scholar Dr. Stella Nyanzi collapsed in court, where she was appearing for a bail hearing following her controversial arrest last month for calling the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni “a pair of buttocks.”
The hearing had to be adjourned for 20 minutes to allow Dr. Nyanzi, who could not stand on her own, to get the necessary medical attention, according to the BBC.
Her lawyers requested the court to release her on bail to allow her to access the right medical treatment, insisting that she was ill with malaria.
The Buganda Road Court later granted her a 10 million shillings non-cash bail ($2,700) with five sureties of the same amount each and ordered her to deposit her passport at the court.
However, Chief Magistrate James Mwanda denied the state prosecutor’s request to bar Dr. Nyanzi from “engaging in adverse derogatory comments about the first family” as part of the bail conditions.
A few hours after she was released, the outspoken activist took to Facebook to thank her supporters for sticking with her throughout the entire month she was incarcerated:
All the days I was locked up in Uganda’s beastly prison, I was upheld by love from near and far. I thank you all for the love. Freedom smells lovely when among loved ones.
She is expected to appear in court on May 25th to respond to the prosecution’s claims that she is mentally ill.
A Test of Freedom of Speech
Dr. Nyanzi’s arrest has put the Ugandan government in the spotlight, with critics accusing President Museveni of dictatorship and cruelty toward his opponents.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac condemned Nyanzi’s incarceration in her speech on World Press Freedom Day, calling her the “champion of free speech.”
“Dr. Nyanzi’s case shows that constitutional rights and freedoms apparently have limits, particularly when those opinions are critical of the country’s leaders,” Ambassador Malac said.
But in a quick rejoinder, Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opndo dismissed the ambassador’s remarks as “condescending,” reiterating that the government will continue to apprehend and prosecute people suspected of wrongdoings.
A Courageous Critic
Dr. Nyanzi has been a harsh critic of President Museveni and his family, accusing them of mismanaging the country through authoritarianism, nepotism, and lawlessness.
She first grabbed international headlines in April 2016, when she stripped naked at Makerere University in Kampala to protest the unwarranted closure of her office by the institution’s management.
Since then, she has become an influential figure in Uganda, with a massive social media following. She uses the platform to carry out most of her anti-government campaigns.