Uganda: Stella Nyanzi sentenced to 18 months in prison

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Ugandan women’s rights activist, Stella Nyanzi, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after being found guilty of cyber harassment over comments made about President Yoweri Museveni.

Dr Nyanzi made headlines last year for calling the president “a pair of buttocks” and was arrested in November after posting a poem on Facebook suggesting it would have been better if he had died at birth. Attending Friday’s sentencing via video link, the activist exposed her breasts in protest of the verdict.

Stella Nyanzi sentenced to 18 months in prison

Stella Nyanzi was arrested in November last year after she posted a poem on Facebook about the president on September 16 – the day after his birthday. The poem made references to the president’s late mother, including descriptions of her genitalia, before suggesting Yoweri Museveni should have died at birth.

In the poem, Nyanzi accused the president of corroding “all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda”.

However, it was the graphic use of language that was highlighted throughout her court case. Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu on Thursday branded the poem “offensive and vulgar,” and said the use of language was inexcusable.

“The use of obscenity cannot be justified in any society,” Kamasanyu said. “It didn’t matter who the post was referring to.”

Activists condemned the jailing of Stella Nyanzi on the grounds of cyber harassment, saying it undermines freedom of expression. Meanwhile, Dr Nyanzi remained defiant, insisting she was proud to criticise the president.

“Send me to Luzira,” she told the court, referring to a maximum security prison for women in Kampala. “I’m proud [of what] I told a dirty, delinquent dictator,” she added.

“I want to embolden the young people,” she said. “I want them to use their voices and speak whatever words they want to speak.”

Featured image: “May 3 – Human Rights Convention, 2018 (Day II)” flickr photo by ChapterFourUG https://flickr.com/photos/chapterfourug/42739212722 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.