Christmas in prison for outspoken Ugandan gay ally

Political activist, gay ally and devoted mother Stella Nyanzi will spend Christmas in prison, still awaiting court action stemming from her Nov. 2 arrest for online insults directed at Uganda’s strongman president, Yoweri Museveni, and his family.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

Imprisoned gay ally Stella Nyanzi, currently at Luzira Prison in Uganda.
Imprisoned gay ally Stella Nyanzi, currently at Luzira Prison in Uganda.

Court sessions of Nov. 9, Nov. 22 and Dec. 19 were inconclusive.

At her last court appearance, through her attorney, she asked to be released on the grounds that the cybercrime charges she faces under Uganda’s Computer Misuse Act are faulty.

The Nation reported that her case was adjourned until Jan. 10 to allow time for State Attorney Janat Kitimbo to prepare a response to Nyanzi’s objection.

In the meantime, Nyanzi was sent back to Luzira Prison.

The prosecution charges that Sept. 16 posted on her Facebook page suggestions deemed obscene against the president’s deceased mother. She is also accused of repeatedly posted messages aimed at disturbing Museveni’s peace and right to privacy.

The Ugandan Observer interviewed Nyanzi in prison, where she stated that she believed her Nov. 2 arrest was a blessing in disguise, “since she had credible intelligence that her life was in danger.”

“Several people would come to warn me that I should watch out; that something bad was going to happen to me. Actually, I had started seeing people trailing me. I think I needed this until the threat subsides,” she said.

On Dec. 22, Nyanzi was been fired from Makerere University along with 44 other senior academic staff as part of a “massive staff reshuffle.”

Barnabas Nawangwe, vice chancellor of the university, said most of the fired staff members had been failing to show up for work or were involved in sexual harassment cases, the Daily Nation reported.

Amnesty International on Dec. 19 called for her release:

Stella Nyanzi (Photo courtesy of Amnesty International)
Stella Nyanzi (Photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

Drop absurd charges against academic Stella Nyanzi

The Ugandan authorities must immediately drop charges against radical academic Stella Nyanzi and put a stop to the charade that has seen her spend weeks in jail, Amnesty International said today as her case finally went to trial.

The charges levelled against Stella Nyanzi under the Computer Misuse Act are in direct contravention of Uganda’s constitution and its international human rights obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to freedom of expression.

“Stella Nyanzi has been repeatedly harassed, arrested and detained, simply for daring to speak out against the government. These latest charges relating to Facebook posts in which she criticized President Yoweri Museveni and First Lady Janet Museveni, are yet another callous attempt to silence her,” said Roland Ebole, Amnesty International’s Uganda researcher.

“We are calling on the Ugandan authorities to drop these absurd charges and ensure that she is able to enjoy her human rights without any fear of intimidation or arrest.”

The Ugandan authorities must also scrap the Computer Misuse Act 2011 — a repressive law has been used to systematically harass, intimidate and stifle government online critics.

The Makerere University academic was arrested on 2 November at a police station where she had gone to notify officers of a protest she was planning to hold at the university.

This is the second time she has been charged with insulting the president and violating his right to privacy.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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