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Stella Nyanzi escorted by prison guards. Photo from matookerepublic.com via Google.

In March 2017, Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a leading gender and queer rights scholar, referred to President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda—who has been in power since 1986, for 33 years now—as “a pair of buttocks.” On 31 March, after further criticizing on Facebook the First Lady and Education & Sports Minister Janet Museveni’s incompetence, she was indefinitely suspended by Makerere University.

On 7 April, Nyanzi was arrested by officers of Uganda’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations on charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication. On 10 April, charged under the country’s Computer Misuse Act, she was remanded to Luzira Maximum Security Prison, Kampala, where she resisted a government-recommended psychiatric assessment. On 10 May, she was released on a non-cash bail of 10 million Ugandan shillings (US$2,924).

In October 2018, after Nyanzi made a Facebook post, a critical poem about President Museveni’s mother Esteri Kokundeka, she was remanded again to prison, and, convinced she was safer there, did not request bail. In December, Makerere’s staff appeals tribunal directed the university management to reinstate Nyanzi with full payment. The management did not, and Nyanzi sued it. In January 2019, Nyanzi’s lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde revealed that she had suffered a miscarriage in jail.

At the moment, Nyanzi has three court cases: she was sued for the Facebook post about President Museveni; she sued for the violation of her rights to movement following her placement on a no-fly list; and she sued Makerere University for sacking and not reinstating her. The ruling for the case against Makerere University has been fixed for 16 October.

A piece by Ugandan intellectuals, titled “In Uganda, Posting a Poem About Museveni Gets You Jailed” and published in Africa Is a Country, reveals that Nyanzi has now spent 222 days in prison. The piece—written by Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire, Nyanzi’s lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde, Kuukuwa Manful, and Margaret Namulyanga—is a call for solidarity in bringing attention to Nyanzi’s incarceration in Luzira Women’s Prison. It notes attempts in the Ugandan judicial system to frustrate Nyanzi as well as efforts by Ugandan activists to resist. It is asking us to make posts on social media, attend solidarity events, and make donations to support her legal costs.

We call on friends and comrades in Africa and around the world to join this solidarity movement and demand an end to this persecution of Dr. Nyanzi and Ugandans who seek freedom in any of the following ways:

– Social Media: Post updates and content around the protest on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc under the hashtags, #PushforStellaNyanzi, #FreeStellaNyanzi, #SukumaKwaStellaNyanzi, #BamuweEddembeLye, #DropTheCharges

– Solidarity events: From talks and film screenings to protests and marches. No number is too small to take a stand.

– Donations: Send money to support Dr. Nyanzi’s legal costs. Mobile money.

Dr. Nyanzi remains incarcerated to this day in Luzira Women’s Prison.

It has been 222 days.

Please read the full piece and support the movement in any way you can: #PushforStellaNyanzi, #FreeStellaNyanzi, #DropTheCharges, #SukumaKwaStellaNyanzi, #BamuweEddembeLye.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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