Dr Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan feminist, academic, and queer rights advocate recently won her appeal against Makerere University for unjustly firing her two years ago.
Nyanzi’s troubles with the university administration began as far back as 2016. Nyazi was at the time a fellow at the Institute of Social Research. She staged a nude protest following a decision made by the Director of the institute, which she said was a violation of her employment contract.
In 2017, following her criticism of Uganda’s education and sports minister, who happens to be the First Lady Janet Museveni, Makerere University’s appointment board indefinitely suspended Dr. Stella Nyanzi. Despite a tribunal’s recommendation to reinstate Dr Nyanzi with full payment, the management refused, prompting Nyanzi to sue them.
In December 2018, the university dismissed her and 45 other academics, arguing that her contract had expired. A Ugandan high court was scheduled to deliver its ruling on the case on 16 October 2019, but it was delayed, probably because Nyanzi was in jail at the time for cyber harassment allegations against President Yoweri Museveni.
Recently, however, a High Court sitting in Kampala has ordered Makerere University to reinstate Dr Nyanzi and pay her 120 million shillings, approximately $ 32,256, in damages.
Black Star News reports that Dr Stella Nyanzi who learned of the ruling via a call by one of their correspondent, appeared thrilled to hear the news. She took to Facebook to celebrate.
“I WON, WE WON: WE BEAT MAKERERE!
I am delighted by yesterday’s ruling of Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe. I won
this case for myself. My lawyer – Isaac Ssemakadde won this case for me and
mine. We won for the underdogs at Makerere Institute of Social Research who
are bullied by Prof Mahmood Mamdani. We won this case for the downtrodden
and abused employees at Makerere University who are penalised for daring to
challenge authoritarianism and abuse of power. We won for all those junior
academics oppressed by senior professors who are protected by the fat cats
running our universities. We won against the nepotism, meddling and
political interference of Janet Kataaha Museveni in the management and
administration of public universities. We won this case for posterity, for
our jurisprudence in Uganda and for histories of labour rights in the world.
I have waited for this particular justice since 2011 when Prof Mahmood
Mamdani started compromising my employment contract with Makerere
University. I sought redress and justice from ALL the powerful offices at
this public university, to no avail for five long years. I wrote hundreds
of letters that were ignored. I multiple filed appeals for help that were
derailed. I sat in meetings where my challenges were dismissed because of
the power asymmetries. Nobody wanted to touch the mighty professor, even
when they admitted he was violating my contract. And when the employment
violations deteriorated to the point of getting evicted from my office, I
boldly staged my nude protest against the systemic rot at MISR, in 2016.
And the predictable misogynistic university unjustly penalised me with one
suspension after another. The labour violations escalated! The Appointments
Board colluded with Janet Kataaha Museveni to lock me out of my job simple
because this first-lady felt offended by my writings. I appealed once,
twice, thrice to the Makerere University Academic Staff Tribunal. And each
time, the tribunal ruled in my favour! Makerere University was ordered to
reinstate me in my office, pay all my monies, and promote me. Makerere
flaunted these orders and continued to deny me my job. When I sought
protection from the police to accompany me to enforce the orders of the
tribunal, instead I was arrested and thrown into prison for sixteen months.
And so in 2018, I appealed to the High Court through an application for
judicial review of contempt of court. It has been a very long haul. The
battle for my labour rights has been very difficult and quite lonely. I
know it is far from over, but the present win in court is extremely
I am looking forward to going back to my office, getting all my unpaid
salaries, and getting promoted to the position of Senior Research Fellow. I
lost at least eight years of promotion because of these protracted
violations. However, it is never too late to catch up for those of us who
work hard. I am also looking forward to receiving the total sum of One
Hundred and Twenty Million Uganda Shillings as damages awarded to me by court.”
Awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International Award for Freedom Expression, Stella Nyanzi remains resolved in her opposition to tyranny.
Her collection of poetry, No Roses From My Mouth, was released in February from Ubuntu Reading Group, while she was still in jail.