Ugandan academic Stella Nyanzi who has been held on remand at Luzira Prison after allegedly insulting President Yoweri Museveni through her Facebook page was granted bail.
On her Facebook page Nyanzi referred to President Museveni as a “pair of buttocks”. Nyanzi also criticised First Lady Janet Museveni, who is also the Education Minister, on the government reneged campaign pledge to supply free sanitary pads to schoolgirls struggling to afford the sanitary towels. She was charged with cyber harassment for insulting Museveni on social media.
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.”
Dr. Nyanzi arrived at the court on Wednesday morning looking frail, and was helped to walk by prison officers. Her lawyers told the media that she had been suffering from malaria in the prison and her health was deteriorating and she needed medication.
The Chief Magistrate James Eremye Mawanda listened to the arguments from the government prosecutors and the accused lawyers and made the ruling. The magistrate told the court that he had decided to free Dr. Nyanzi on bail.
“Exercising my discretion, I proceeded to allow the accused her bail, but on the following conditions; one, the accused shall execute a bond $2,755 not cash” the local press reported.
Reaction from the international right groups
Responding to news of her release, Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:
“It is a great relief that Stella Nyanzi is no longer behind bars, as she should never have been arrested in the first place. The government’s attempt to prosecute her for speaking out for the rights of Uganda’s women and girls, is an affront to freedom of expression”.
“The authorities must now let common sense prevail by immediately and unconditionally dropping all the charges against her. The continuation of this farcical case blatantly violates Uganda’s constitution, and its regional and international human rights obligations.”
Her next court appearance will be on 25 May to determine whether she should undergo a psychiatric examination. Her lawyers have objected and expressed that the government wants to alter results and declare her mentally unstable to detain her as a mental patient at a governmental hospital.
Museveni continued dictatorship rule
President Museveni, 72, has ruled Uganda for over 30 years. When he came to power through a guerrilla war in early 1980s, he promised to uplift women and spearheaded the enactment of constitution equality for all Ugandans.
But in the beginning of 21st century, Museveni has grown increasingly authoritarian, and women have suffered from discrimination under his regime. Many have been harassed on the streets for being “indecent”, opposition activists have been jailed or killed and the media have been operating in a restrictive environment.