Dr. Stella Nyanzi, Ugandan Academic and Pro-Democracy Leader Wins Job Back Plus Damages, Court Rules

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Dr. Nyanzi. Photo: Facebook.

Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a prominent academic and a critic of Gen. Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's life-president, has won a historic High Court battle against the University that fired her from her job as a researcher.

Dr. Nyanzi, the academic turned human rights activist, was excited when she learned about the court ruling from this reporter, who had called for a comment. The High Court ordered Makerere University to reinstate Dr. Nyanzi, and pay her 120 million shillimgs, approximately $ 32,256, in damages. "Oh my God! I won!" Dr. Nyanzi exclaimed as this reporter delivered the news of her court victory.

"Thanks for this exciting news. "I haven't heard from my lawyer, please send the copy, read it and then get back to you. I need time to process the response." The Black Star News, had exclusively received the transcript of the verdict from a court source. The victory is also a blow to the tarnished reputation of Gen. Museveni, dictator of 34 years now and his wife Janet, who is the country's minister of education even though she has shaky academic credentials.

The family runs the country life a mafia organization and it's unclear how they will react. In her ruling, signed on Wednesday, June 11, 2020, Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe Ssali ruled that, Dr. Stella Nyanzi's rights to a fair trial were violated and could have psychologically haunted her. "I am satisfied that the respondent's continued contemptuous disregard of the Tribunal's decision has caused the applicant embarrassment, inconvenience and psychological torture for which she is entitled to damages," reads part of Justice Mugambe's judgement.

On that account the $ 32,256 in damages was awarded. "The applicant is awarded general damages of UGX 120,000,000 million and a 10% interest per annum till the payment is full," the judgement further reads. Dr. Nyanzi sued Makerere University for unlawful suspension in 2017, after Janet Museveni influenced the top university management to "get rid" of her until she retracted her comments referring to the dictator's wife as a "fat thighed cow."

The university had reinstated Dr. Nyanzi, but Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe undermined that decision due to orders from Mrs. Museveni who is the country's second most powerful official in the militarist regime. She holds the education portfolio by virtue of being the dictator's spouse. "Yes, I took the time that I needed to prepare a good response. I am delighted by the ruling of Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe," Dr. Nyanzi said, adding, "I am delighted that justice has been served after a very long battle that started outside court."

"I am pleasantly surprised that there are still some judges who deem justice more important than political ingratiation to dictator Museveni." "I am also anxious about whether or not Makerere University will now obey the rule of law by reinstating me in my office, paying all my unpaid salary, promoting me, and indeed paying all my damages," Dr. Nyanzi added.

Her worries are understandable. The corrupt regime normally honors court-ordered ompensation only to regime sycophants and loyalists. "We won against the nepotism, meddling and political interference of Janet Kataaha Museveni in the management and administration of public universities," Dr. Nyanzi added. "I won this case for my self. My lawyer-Isaac Ssemakadde won this case for me and mine," Dr. Nyanzi said.

"We win for the underdogs at Makerere Institute of Social Research who are bullied by Professor 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 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 Professor Mahmood Mamdani started compromising my employment contract with Makerere University," she added. Mamdani heads the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR).

"I sought redress and justice from all the powerful offices at the public university, to no avail for five long years," she said. 

"I wrote hundreds of letters that were ignored. I multiple filed appeals for help that were derailed. I sat in meetings where my colleagues were dismissed because of the power asymmetries."

"Nobody wanted to touch the mighty professor, even when they admitted he was violating my contract."

"And the employment violations deteriorated to the point of getting evicted from my office, I boldly staged my nude protest against the systematic rot at MISR, in 2016," Dr. Nyanzi continued in reference to when she the staged a nude protest following the disagreement with Prof. Mamdani, who was allegedly coercing her to teach PhD students and participate in research projects.

"And the predictable misogynistic University unjustly penalized me with one suspension after another. The labor violations escalated." Dr. Nyanzi continued: "The Appointment Board colluded with Janet Kataaha Museveni to lock me out of my job [simply] because this first lady felt offended by my writings." She explained that: "I appealed once, twice, thrice to the Makerere University Academic Staff Tribunal."

"And each time, the tribunal ruled in my favor. 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," she added. "When I sought protection from the police to accompany to enforce the orders of the tribunal, instead I was arrested and thrown into prison for sixteen months," she explained.

Dr. Nyanzi, said that, "The battle for my labor rights has been very difficult and quite lonely. I know it is far from over, but the present win in court is extremely fulfilling." Dr. Nyanzi, whilst in prison, challenged the University and urged the court to review her previous complaints about dismissal and eviction from her job and office respectively. "And so in 2018, I appealed to the High Court through an application for judicial review of contempt of court," she said.

When asked for her immediate plan Dr Nyanzi, said: "My immediate steps are going to my lawyer for explanations of what the ruling means in practical terms." "Then I will devise an action plan for how to effectively return to Makerere University," she added.

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