By Emeka-Mayaka Gekara
There are feminists. And then there is Dr Stella Nyanzi. The online community describes her as “the only man standing in Uganda.”
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When officials attempted to lock the Makerere University researcher out of her office, she stripped naked in protest. Nyanzi caused so much ruckus that the university administration had no option but to re-open the office.
The Ugandan activist’s manner of social protests have thrust her in trouble, but she remains unbowed and relentless despite hostility from the Yoweri Museveni regime. She is no doubt one Museveni’s most acerbic critics.
She recently spent 33 days in remand for describing Museveni as “a pair of buttocks” and First Lady Janet as “tiny-brained.”
The Ugandan authorities think she is insane. But Nyanzi thinks that it is the Ugandan government under Museveni that is insane. And she expresses her dissent in the most colourful graphic language.
On January 28, 2017, she wrote on Facebook: “Museveni m****o nyo! I mean, seriously, when buttocks shake and jiggle, while the legs are walking, do you hear other body parts complaining? When buttocks produce s**t, while the brain is thinking, is anyone shocked? When buttocks fart, are we surprised? That is what buttocks do. They shake, jiggle, s**t and fart. Museveni is just another pair of buttocks. Rather than being shocked by what the m****o said in Masindi, Ugandans should be shocked that we allowed these buttocks to continue leading our country…”
She was charged with cyber harassment and offensive communication against the person of president Museveni. The Ugandan governments wants Nyanzi’s mental status ascertained on grounds that a person of her stature cannot behave in such manner, unless she is mentally unsound.
She was even accused of abusing Museveni’s deceased mother, Esteri Kokundeka, in a Facebook post on September 16, 2017. In it, Nyanzi argued that she could not let Kokundeka rest in peace while her son continued to suffocate Uganda with corruption, lawlessness and dictatorship. Kokundeka died in November 2001.
When First lady Janet Museveni said that she had forgiven her for her abusive utterances, Nyanzi rejected it, saying she could not accept the gesture from someone whose husband had caused the death of her father.
On March, 30, 2017, she wrote: “She (Janet) is with a brain tinier than her narrow *** dared to forgive me with the big wide twin-producing *** I reject her forgiveness. Did I seek her forgiveness in 2014 when my father, a medical doctor, died from failure to find medicine in a PHC III facility at Kiyumba Village? He died that night on the drive to Masaka Hospital in search of one vial of essential medicine. If the Musevenis bought less bullets and tear-gas and more medicines for our public health, my father would be living today. I reject the forgiveness from her tiny *** and tinier brains.
Her April 3, 2017 post was more provocative.
“The Musevenis and Musevenists who have violated every principle of good governance must be shown the evil plight they have generated for three decades. Which man does not wash his genitals simply because he is sore from the bruises and wounds received during aggressive foreplay, penetration without consent or the abandonment of a good f**k? Which woman does not wash her genitals because the clitoris is so swollen and sensitive from the ecstatic pleasure gained from orgies of lust and domination?”
She has consistently accused Museveni and his backers of violating her rights.
On April 2, 2017, she ranted. “Anyone who has made love with me knows that in the throes of ecstasy, I am a screamer. Loud words of endearment passionately hiss out of me when I copulate well with an unselfish lover….If I scream from the pleasure of a lover’s tender love and care, how much more of a ruckus will I make when the gang-bangers raping me keep tearing into me with such intensely searing pain? How much harder will I hurl rocket-propelled grenades of words at the Musevenis and Musevenists who use their disease-infested organs to fuck up all my human rights, civil liberties and constitutional freedoms, here in the motherland?”
She has also had many run-ins with the Makerere University staff. The medical anthropologist was in April 2017 suspended from the Makerere Institute of Social Research after the nude protest over the closure of her office by her boss, Prof Mahmood Mamdani.
Mamdani had accused Nyanzi of refusing to teach PhD students and ordered her to operate from the library. In her refusal, Nyanzi maintained that her contract did not include teaching duties.
A tribunal set up to investigate her suspension ordered she be reinstated with immediate effect, and all salary arrears paid.
In an article in The Conversation, Kylie Thomas, a researcher at the Free State of the University of Brighton, UK, observes that Nyanzi has embraced a Ugandan tradition called “radical rudeness”, which dates back to the pre-independence days of the late 1940s. At the time, says Thomas, power relations were encoded in manners, politeness, and conventional rituals of sociability as determined by the British masters.
In the same article, Historian Carol Summersit also notes that activists in colonial Uganda, especially the kingdom of Buganda, disrupted this power relationship by using tactics of rudeness, performing. He describes it as “A rude, publicly celebrated strategy of insults, scandal mongering, disruption, and disorderliness that broke conventions of colonial friendship, partnership, and mutual benefit.”
Nyanzi is now a leading scholar in the emerging field of African queer studies.
The researcher who holds a PhD from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has written about HIV/Aids, sexuality and women’s health. She has also waged aggressive campaigns for the rights of girls, women and gay people. She is also the author of numerous articles that provide sorely needed critical insight into the effects of patriarchy, misogyny and homophobia in Uganda, The Gambia and Tanzania.
Her article “Dismantling Reified African Culture through Localised Homosexualities in Uganda” was published in the academic journal Culture, Health and Sexuality in 2013. In the piece, she critiques Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which was introduced in 2009 and passed into law in 2014. It was repealed on the grounds that it had been passed without a quorum in August that same year.
The controversial scholar recently lit up social media with her love declaration to Kenya and President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Nyanzi she was seeking any Kenyan man in need of a lover, since she would say ‘yes’ to the first Kenyan man who promises to make her a Kenyan by marriage.
She was particularly excited when the President signed a law that will ensure free supply of sanitary towels.
“Is Kenya adopting other human beings in other countries? I should have adopted Kenyan-ness when my family lived there as refugees in the 1980’s. Right now, I am dying of admiration and envy for our Kenyan neighbours,” she wrote.