Makerere University Research Fellow Dr Stella Nyanzi has asked to be sent back to Luzira Prison after pleading not guilty to charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication.
Dr. Nyanzi was arrested after posting a loutish birthday poem to President Yoweri Museveni on September 16, 2018, a day after President Museveni’s 74th birthday. The poem which was posted on Stella Nyanzi’s social media page was crafted in vulgarity targeted at the President’s late mother Esteeri Kokundeka.
The prosecution alleges that on September 16, 2018…. Nyanzi used a computer to post statements wishing that President Museveni should have died at the time of his birth. Prosecution adds that Nyanzi, willfully and repeatedly used electronic communication to post similar messages which disturbed the peace, quiet or right of privacy of President Museveni.
Nyanzi pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, she said that as a Poetess, she used the metaphor to portray her criticism against the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) government. She adds that she found it ridiculous that the president would be offended by a poem that made reference to his mother.
“I don’t want to waste the court’s time, I deny the charges. I want Museveni to come to court, face me into my eyes and tell me how my posts on Facebook have offended him,” Nyanzi stated wondering how the wishes of a woman and a poetess posted on Facebook can be offensive to someone.
But Nyanzi said she was not interested in applying for bail. Instead, she said, that she wanted to return to Luzira prison on a mission to teach inmates to use social media. She was remanded until November 22, 2018, for further mention of the case.
This is not the first time Nyanzi is accused of offensive communication and cyber harassment. In April 2017, she was charged at Buganda Road Magistrate’s Court for Cyber harassment and offensive communication contrary to provisions of the Computer Misuse Act.
At the time, she was charged for calling the president ‘a pair of buttocks’ which prosecution stated that was an obscene or indecent suggestion. She was at the time remanded to Luzira Prison for two weeks and later released on bail.
During this time, the High Court Criminal Division sanctioned a request by the prosecution to conduct a mental health examination to ascertain her mental status. However, she rushed to the constitutional Court contesting the order on the ground that it was based on impugned sections of the 1938 Mental Treatment Act. Nyanzi has since obtained an Injunction from High Court blocking the mental examination.
Nyanzi rose to fame in 2016 after staging a nude protest at Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) following a controversy between her and Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, the Institute’s Director.