A prominent female academic and activist was charged on Monday with cyber-harassment for calling President Yoweri Museveni a “pair of buttocks” in a Facebook post.
University lecturer Stella Nyanzi (42) has raised eyebrows in the conservative country for sexually explicit social media posts in which she has frequently criticised the president and his wife.
She has lashed out at Janet Museveni, who is also education minister, after the government reneged on a campaign to supply free sanitary pads to poor schoolgirls and has launched vitriolic attacks against the first couple.
Nyanzi appeared in a court in Kampala on Monday, where she was charged with making a remark that was “obscene or indecent”.
The charge sheet referred to a Facebook post on January 28 “where she made a suggestion or proposal referring (to) His Excellency, Yoweri Museveni as among others, ‘a pair of buttocks’”.
The Facebook post reads: “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.”
There was no reference to any charge for insults to the first lady.
“Dr Stella Nyanzi has been charged with cyber-harassment and offensive communication (and) using her Facebook posts to disturb President Museveni’s privacy, which she denies,” her lawyer Nicholas Opiyo said.
“Dr. Nyanzi is within her constitutional rights and we are for an all-out legal battle with the state to defend her rights.”
She remains in custody pending a bail hearing.
Nyanzi, whose work specialises in the study of sexuality in Africa, shot to prominence in April 2016 when she stripped naked at her university to protest the closure of her office. She later shared the nude photos of herself on social media.
Nyanzi is often accused by commentators on her page of missing a chance to make an impact on serious issues through her regular use of graphic sexual imagery and descriptions.
Reporter beaten for defending Nyanzi
Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, on Saturday said Nyanzi’s arrest was “yet another clear indicator that those who express critical views of the government can face its wrath”.
Meanwhile Reporters Without Borders, known by its French acronym RSF, said Monday that a prominent television reporter had been kidnapped and beaten up over the weekend for her coverage of the dispute between Nyanzi and Janet Museveni.
Gertrude Uwitware was walking along one of Kampala’s safest avenues when a man and a woman forced her into a car at gunpoint and gagged her before she was driven to an isolated spot where they shaved her head and beat her.
“Referring to a blog post in which she defended Nyanzi, who accused the first lady of not keeping an election promise to provide free sanitary pads in schools, they ordered her to stop harassing the president’s family and made her delete all of her Twitter and Facebook posts deemed too critical,” read the statement.”
“They finally dumped her at an isolated location where police found her at around midnight.” - Agence France-Presse