Uganda: Woman detained for criticising president refuses psychiatric exam

article-img

A Ugandan woman detained for criticising the country’s president has resisted attempts to force psychiatric exams upon her, according to her lawyer.

Stella Nyanzi, a Ugandan academic who described President Yoweri Museveni as “a pair of buttocks” on Facebook, faces charges of cyber harassment but her lawyer claims the government is attempting to “delegitimise” his client rather than take her to court.

Forced mental exam

“They [the government] do not want to go to trial,” said Nicholas Opiyo, who is representing Nyanzi. “They just want to delegitimise Stella, characterise her as a fool, a mad person … and confine her to a mental hospital.”

The lawyer says two men presenting themselves as doctors tried to trick Nyanzi into taking a psychiatric test on Wednesday after she refused to have her mental health examined at her court hearing on Monday.

A spokesman for Uganda Prisons later denied the two men were mental health specialists, insisting the proposed exam would have been “a routine medical exam that every new inmate undergoes to avoid risk of spreading infection”.

Nyanzi’s case captures world attention

Dr Stella Nyanzi is a popular figure for many people in Uganda, earning a name for herself on social media for criticising the presidential family without holding back on her language.

The academic has had public run-ins with Museveni’s wife, who is also the country’s education minister, describing her as having a “tiny brain” the size of a sexual organ

However, Nyanzi insists her “political vulgarity” – a tactic Ugandans often used to resist British imperialism – is something that should be protected rather than persecuted.

“Know our rich history before you think I am the first fighter with words,” she wrote in one post.

Her case has angered many in Uganda following other cases of critics being jailed, including an army general who was imprisoned for complaining about the length of Museveni’s reign as president. The Ugandan leader, who has been in charge since 1986, secured his fifth term in power last year in a widely contested victory.

Nyanzi’s case has also captured the attention of critics overseas. Amnesty International has urged Ugandan authorities to free her immediately and drop the charges.

Featured image: By DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett – https://www.flickr.com/photos/secdef/9970165616/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38157584

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.