Freedom to Scholar Arrested For Political Comments

Target: Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda

Goal: Demand release and dismiss charges against scholar and activist who peacefully criticized the president and first lady on the Internet.

A prominent feminist academic is imprisoned apparently for criticizing Ugandan president and first lady on Facebook. Dr. Stella Nyanzi is one of Uganda’s most outspoken scholars, and her sharp public comments on political issues have generated a large social media following. She has recently posted harsh words regarding the president’s policies on education and, as a consequence, she was subject to a series of reprisals that ultimately resulted in her arrest. Though provocative in content, Dr. Nyanzi’s comments have not threatened anyone nor incited any violent action. Therefore, it is inadmissible that she is in prison for simply expressing her views.

Dr. Nyanzi is a mother of three, and her scholarship has brought cutting-edge contributions to the study of sexuality in Africa. As a feminist, she has repeatedly criticized the president Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the country since 1986, and the first lady and minister of education, Janet. She has recently taken aim at their failure to provide sanitary pads to schoolgirls, a campaign promise made in the last presidential elections. Lack of sanitary pads is one of the leading causes of girls dropping out of school in Uganda. After Mrs. Museveni said she could not fulfill the promise due to restrictions in the government budget, Dr. Nyanzi launched the #Pads4girlsUg campaign and a crowdfunding page to raise money to buy and distribute pads herself.

Following her comments on social media, Dr. Nyanzi was questioned by law enforcement authorities and prevented from traveling to Amsterdam for an academic conference. Her passport and boarding passes were confiscated, and she was placed on a “no-fly” list. She was suspended from her appointment as a research fellow at Makerere University and reported having her sister’s car followed and her house raided by armed men. Besides filing charges for cyber harassment and offensive communication, prosecutors are trying to get Dr. Nyanzi committed to a psychiatric institution. All these events indicate a clear effort to intimidate and silent a dissident voice as well as terrify Dr. Nyanzi’s family and supporters, who make up a large portion of Uganda’s human rights, women’s and LGBT movements. Sign the petition to have this peaceful scholar immediately released, without charges, and guarantee the right to freedom of expression.


Dear Mr. Museveni,

I write to express grave concern over the imprisonment and filing of charges against Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a Ugandan scholar and activist, apparently based on her nonviolent expressive activity. Since posting criticisms of you and your wife on her social media, Dr. Nyanzi has been subject to a series of reprisals that ultimately resulted in her arrest. Apparently, Dr. Nyanzi has been detained, subjected to restriction on her travel, professionally penalized, and arrested simply for a peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

I, therefore, urge you to reverse any actions taken in retaliation for Dr. Nyanzi’s comments. Otherwise, Uganda will demonstrate its clear lack of commitment to the protection of free expression, academic freedom, and human rights international laws.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: African Peacebuilding Network

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  1. The world needs more people like Dr. Nyanzi. Uganda should be ashamed of it’s oppressive actions, and should immediately release her.

  2. A man is only as good as his words. If he won’t keep one promise then how many will he keep. Let her be free and give her all her rights back, as well as her positions back and stop harrassing her for speaking the truth. If you are going to break promises then you can’t complain about criticism. You deserve it. Let girls have their education so your country can prosper. Those could be future Dr’s that you might need some day.

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