Uganda: The U.S.-Backed Dictator's Wife Versus The University Professor

-A +A
0

[Commentary]

Gen. Museveni emerges from his $50 million Gulfstream jet purchased with foreign aid and tax-payers' money. The regime can't "afford" sanitary pads for school girls

The on-going very public war of words between Dr. Stella Nyanzi of Uganda's prestigious Makerere University and the country's First Lady and Minister for Education, Mrs. Janet Kataha Museveni, is hard to ignore.

Dr. Nyanzi is a researcher at Makerere's globally-recognized Institute of Social Research, although currently suspended. She is a medical anthropologist with research interests in sexualities, reproductive health, health policy, youth and children, alternative healing therapies and race. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative research in Uganda, Gambia and Tanzania. In addition, Dr. Nyanzi has published several articles and her name has been cited in various studies.

Mrs. Museveni is the wife of General Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's brutal U.S.-backed dictator of 31 years now. By comparison, Mrs. Museveni is a political appointee whose academic qualifications for her post has been debated. Since the eruption of bad blood between the two, Ugandans have made attempts at comparing them in hundreds of social media postings.

One social media user, Mr. N L, asked how any sane rational person could compare the caliber of the two ladies currently making news waves in Uganda. One is a university professor, whilst the other a political-appointee of the ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM) and a minister who wouldn't hold the portfolio if she was not married to Gen. Museveni. "Oh well, my fellow countrymen," N.L. continues, "whatever proverbial fence you may squat on, let me spell it out to you so very clearly the only similarity between Chalk and Cheese is letter 'C' case closed!"

Makerere, a public university, is controlled by the government and Ministry of Education. It came as no surprise that Dr. Nyanzi was recently suspended from her university position after first being interrogated by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Uganda Police for four hours. Dr. Nyanzi was accused of using "abusive, obscene and vulgar language" in her broadsides against Mrs. Museveni.

Her major criticism has been that the Museveni-regime reneged on its election campaign pledges, one of which was to provide free sanitary pads for school girls so they wouldn't have to miss several days of classes during their monthly cycles. Although the Uganda police didn't reveal who the complainant was, it doesn't take genius to guess the reason for Dr. Nyanzi’s summons and subsequent job loss.

When she directed similar language against her department chair during a very public dispute last year, Dr. Nyanzi was also suspended from Makerere but never summoned by police. Following her recent police interrogation the professor observed: “I have talked about very many issues and very many people but I have never been summoned. Who is Janet? She is not a mother. A mother should provide pads for our girls. There are billions of shillings that have been embezzled by this regime. How dare could she say [that] government has no money to buy sanitary towels for our girls in their menses.”

She added: “Neither Museveni nor Janet will stop me from criticizing this government. They should do things in the right way if they don’t want to be criticized.”

Earlier, on February 13, Mrs. Museveni in an appearance before the parliamentary education committee, said that it would not be possible for the government to provide the promised sanitary pads because of financial constraint. How can the Ugandan government afford to spend millions of dollars on arms and $50 million for a Gulfstream jet for Gen. Museveni's use and be unable to provide sanitary pads for school girls? Clearly there are issues of priorities that need clarification by the political elite.

Uganda, with a population of 37 million, has more than 426 members of Parliament and dozens of government ministers. Each member of parliament earns $8,715 per month in a country where the average annual income per head is less than $700. In the current parliament, each MP also received an extra $13,000 allowance to purchase a new car and they are all allowed to claim mileage costs. The same regime that can't afford sanitary pads for school girls also gets $750 million annually from the United States.

One can then appreciate Dr. Nyanzi's rage; and indeed, that of millions of other Ugandans. She has also joined a campaign to raise funds to purchase sanitary pads for school girls by partnering with entertainers for musical concerts and via a Gofundme page and Twitter handle #Pads4Girls.

In an attempt to garner public sympathy, Mrs. Museveni recently went on national television, saying she was the victim, and that she "forgave" Dr. Nyanzi for attacking her; Dr. Nyanzi hadn't asked for her forgiveness and in fact rejected it in a subsequent posting. The First Lady also expressed utter surprise as to the reason why Dr. Nyanzi criticized her, prompting some critics to compare her to the incorrigible Marie-Antoinette who, in the midst of the French Revolution when informed that the country was aflame and people could no longer afford bread infamously declared, "Let them eat cake."

Mrs. Museveni recently advised mothers to pack food in thermos containers to prevent their children from feeling hunger pangs at school. Critics contend she didn't bother to inquire whether there was any food available to pack in the first place.

On March 19, when Dr. Nyanzi tried to travel out of the country to attend an academic conference in Amsterdam she was prevented from boarding a plane and was informed by security personnel that she needed "clearance" by the police department's CID. She posted an update from the airport after being barred: "Escorted by two big-bodied police officers, the supervisor on duty of immigration has explained to me that the person who ordered for my earlier summons at CID has barred me from traveling unless I return to CID and get cleared. Cleared?? Cleared my arse!! Shame on Yoweri Museveni Kaguta. He complained about my Facebook posts about his corrupt and dictatorial regime, summoned me to CID, and has now blocked my free travel to perform my academic duties. Yoweri Museveni is raping my human right to freely move in this world. Museveni is a rapist. The Dutch embassy gave me a visa to enter their country. The University of Amsterdam paid for my travel and accommodation. Museveni, CID mercenaries, police zombies and immigration mafiaso are gang raping my human rights as a citizen of Uganda. Somebody stop the rapists from painfully violating me...."

Part of her post also read: "Museveni fucked up my job at Makerere University with his untenable executive order. He is now fucking up my international travel for academic conferences. May the gods curse Museveni. May all the twins in Buganda burn him and his mercenaries. May Jehovah kill him slowly and painfully. Fuck you Yoweri Museveni for making me a prisoner in my own home. Fuck you Museveni."

Ugandans aren't accustomed to crude language directed at the First Family of dictatorship. Many of Dr. Nyanzi’s post have polarized Ugandans, a generally polite people; a trait the tyrant Gen. Museveni is aware of and has long-exploited. Many Ugandans can relate to Dr. Nyanzi's outrage and frustration and are able to focus on the issues she raises. She has 129,185 followers on her public Facebook page.

Yet, some Ugandans also believe that her message is lost in what they complain is "vulgar" language.  Dr. Nyanzi has tweeted that she's received death threats and that some critics also accuse her of being a lesbian and receiving "gay" money from outside the country for the #Pads4Girls campaign. In Uganda where the government often whips up hatred against gay people this is a dangerous accusation. In 2014, Gen. Museveni signed a law that called for life imprisonment for LGBTs before the courts annulled it on a technicality.

Some of Dr. Nyanzi's critics who don't care for her message believe she belongs in a mental ward.

This itself is remarkable since Gen. Museveni himself is a champion of using profanity and threats. He abuses his critics and political opponents even in press conferences and at rallies. Of course no one dares challenge the dictator over his use of vulgarity since he has the power to decide whether a Ugandan lives or not. There are legitimate fears about Dr. Nyanzi's safety.

After all, Ugandans recall the 2012 sudden death of 24-year-old member of parliament Ms. Cerinah Nebanda, who denounced the regime for corruption on the floors of the chamber; her supporters believe she was poisoned by the regime. Other prominent Ugandans once close to Gen. Museveni or seen as challengers, also met similar fates, including: Gen. Aronda Nyakairima; Brigadier Noble Mayombo; Attorney General Francis Ayume; Gen. James Kazini; and, former minister and liberation army leader Dr. Lutakome Andrew Kayiira.

Who can also forget the vicious assaults by Gen. Museveni's security agents on Dr. Kizza Besigye, whom many Ugandans and election observers believe won the last three presidential elections and was the victim of blatant rigging?

Yet there are some people who are still more outraged by Dr. Nyanzi's "language" than by the repression and killings by the regime's agents.

Dr. Nyanzi has sparked a debate about the many issues that concern most Ugandans, such as: schools without educational supplies; hospitals without drugs; workers going unpaid for months including Makerere university professors; city roads with monster potholes; and, a national hospital that doesn't have a single cancer screening machine. This is the sum total of the Museveni regime's political and intellectual bankruptcy after 31 years in power.

A warning once uttered by John F. Kennedy in a speech also befits the Ugandan regime: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

 

Support petition demanding an end to U.S. arms to Uganda http://tinyurl.com/huah5pf

Also Check Out...

NYC CELEBRATES FIRST WEEKEND
NAN HONORS PRESTIGIOUS CELEBRITIES
POLICE INVESTIGATE MOTIVE BEHIND
ACTRESS VIVICA FOX DISCUSSES HER
FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
THE FATHER OF SLAIN 16 YEAR OLD