The African Studies Association (US) Condemns Imprisonment of Dr. Stella Nyanzi, Museveni Regimes Critic

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Dr. Nyanzi in court. Photo: YouTube

ASA Board of Directors Statement concerning the Sentencing of Dr. Stella Nyanzi

The African Studies Association (US) regards the recent sentencing of the Ugandan scholar Dr. Stella Nyanzi with alarm. Dr. Nyanzi has been convicted of the charge of cyber-harassment against President Yoweri Museveni, and sentenced to 18 months in prison. We regard this decision as an unwarranted infringement on Dr. Nyanzi’s human rights and, more generally, as a dangerous precedent for Uganda. The right to criticize elected leaders is a fundamental aspect of any democratic society, and any diminution of citizens’ right to free speech is an assault on their liberty.

In 2017 the ASA adopted a statement supporting Dr. Nyanzi in the earlier stages of her trial. Here we simply reiterate the key points. Ribald speech has a long and distinguished history in Uganda. Dr. Nyanzi’s poetry—objectionable as it might have been to some—should be seen as part of a tradition of criticism, an aspect of Ugandans’ ongoing struggles for democratic self-government.

We urge the Ugandan courts to overturn this verdict and to set Dr. Nyanzi at liberty.

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