Uganda: Bail for Dr. Nyanzi, Social Media Critic of Dictator Whom U.S. Inquired About

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Dr. Stella Nyanzi

Dr. Nyanzi Braves Through Blood-Pressure Ailment

A judge rejected the Ugandan government's application today that Dr. Stella Nyanzi only be released on condition that she is barred from posting comments that Gen. Yoweri Museveni's family could find offensive.
Dr. Nyanzi, fighting blood-pressure related ailment, was carried into the courtroom. The suspended Makerere University lecturer who has gained world-wide fame after Gen. Museveni ordered her arrested for comparing him to a "pair of buttocks" on an online posting was released without any ban on her right to use social media.
The Trump administration had also issued a statement to The Black Star News, that the U.S. was monitoring Dr. Nyanzi's arrest and also reminding the Uganda government about the right to "freedom of expression." The American president is renowned for his own social media Tweets.
Nyanzi was freed on $2,750 (10 million shillings) non-cash bail. Additionally five others posted $2,750 each non-cash surety. The court confiscated Dr. Nyanzi's passport.
Drained by her ordeal, a visibly-worn Dr. Nyanzi was supported on the shoulders of two female wardens, her feet dragging on the ground, as she was led into the court today.
Dr. Nyanzi was released by the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate H.W James Mawanda Ereemye.
The Same Chief Magistrate denied hearing her bail application on two occasions, prompting her lawyers to make an application to the High Court to challenge his refusal to grant her bail.
Dr. Nyanzi is reportedly suffering from high blood pressure related conditions. The court hearing had to be delayed for about two hours in the morning so doctors could attend to her medical condition. There was some concern the court date was to be rescheduled but Nyanzi reportedly mustered all her strength to make it today.
Dr. Nyanzi's bail application was led by attorney Nicholas Opiyo from Chapter Four, who last week won the prestigious German Africa Prize. He presented to court five sureties including the renowned scholar and columnist in the Observer newspaper, Dr. Moses Khisa, two prominent feminist, a media rights activist and Dr. Nyanzi's sister.
Today the government once again asked the court to grant its application for a mental evaluation of Dr. Nyanzi.
The state further claims that Dr. Nyanzi is not fit to be in the society and that she is not able to take care of herself. The state wants her confined for mental health monitoring.
The state also objected to her release on bail on the grounds that she could interfere with the investigations into her case.
The State Prosecutor further submitted that since Dr. Stella Nyanzi is being charged for cyber harassment, she is likely to continue with her habits.
Another Nyanzi attorney, Isaac Ssemakadde In his rejoinder argued about the freedom of expression enshrined in the constitution which is a fundamental right that can’t be taken away. He cited the landmark case of Charles Onyango Obbo and two others versus the Attorney General, a 2002 Supreme Court ruling on the freedom of expression.
There was heavy police presence. Dr. Nyanzi's supporters, who consider the straight-talking academic a hero, turned out in a large number determined to get her away from the court house.
Nyanzi's ordeal started after she posted a series of critical comments after Gen. Museveni reneged on his campaign promise to provide free sanitary pads for millions of poor schoolgirls so they won't miss classes during their monthly cycles.
Dr. Nyanzi complained that state funds were being embezzled. Many people read her comparison of Gen. Museveni to a "pair of buttocks" to mean his words were worth the vapors emanating from posteriors.
Dr. Nyanzi's next court date is May 25.
Meanwhile, Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, today said: "It is a great relief that Stella Nyanzi is no longer behind bars, as she should never have been arrested in the first place. The government’s attempt to prosecute her for speaking out for the rights of Uganda’s women and girls, is an affront to freedom of expression."
She added: “The authorities must now let common sense prevail by immediately and unconditionally dropping all the charges against her. The continuation of this farcical case blatantly violates Uganda’s constitution, and its regional and international human rights obligations.”

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