Politics, Uganda

Stella Nyanzi: Why our collective voices matter

This week I joined Uganda writers, editors, authors, bloggers, publishers, curators, literary activists, scholars and colleagues in the creative sector have called on the Government of Uganda, to drop charges against Stella Nyanzi, for the good of our literary culture and the country.

We are concerned that the imprisonment of Dr Stella Nyanzi, may open a floodgate for the criminalisation of creativity in Uganda.

Here is why our voices matter; attack on free speech and free thought is an attack on society and our ability to advance. You can also add your voice here

UGANDAN WRITERS CALL ON GOVERNMENT TO DROP CHARGES AGAINST STELLA NYANZI

Tuesday April 25, 2017

68 Ugandan writers, editors, authors, bloggers, publishers, curators, literary activists, scholars and colleagues in the creative sector have called on the Government of Uganda, to drop charges against Stella Nyanzi, for the good of our literary culture and the country.

In a public statement, whose signatories include poets, novelists, short story writers, dramatists, bloggers, literary critics, journalists, artpreneurs, musicians, photographers, publishers, etc, they state:

That using the metaphor of ‘pair of buttocks’ to refer to a person can form a basis for a criminal charge sent chills in the creative writing community.

This means that we are unable to express ourselves creatively, to contribute to our country’s literary and cultural wealth if our frame of references, our deployment of literary devices can lead to criminal prosecution.

While the right to free expression applies to everyone, it is of particular importance to the creative industry because it allows room to utilise imaginations, to entertain, to challenge, to inform, to educate, and to document among other functions of creative expression.

We are concerned that the imprisonment of Dr Stella Nyanzi, may open a floodgate for the criminalisation of creativity in Uganda.

Dr. Stella Nyanzi was charged on April 10, with cyber harassment and appeared in court today, April 25, 2017. She has been sent back to Luzira maximum security prison until May 10, when her case will come up for further proceedings.

Nyanzi’s persecution has been condemned by various groups, including the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), Amnesty International (AI), the African Studies Association (ASA) among others. There have also been several international  online petitions and public statements condemning the violation of Nyanzi’s rights.

The Ugandan writers’ statement is the first of its nature, endorsed by individual Ugandan writers and other colleagues in the creative sector and focusses on how all creatives are affected by the charges against Nyanzi.

For more information about the writers’ statement: contact the coordinators:

  1. Ms Nyana Kakoma (kakoma@gmail.com +256776250832)
  2. Mr Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire (bwamwesigire@gmail.com +256782036263).

 

INDIVIDUAL WRITER COMMENTS ON THE STELLA NYANZI SITUATION

”Expression is not a crime. It is our right and the very basis of democracy. The continued detention of Dr. Stella Nyanzi is a blatant insult and violation of her rights and the rights of all Ugandans to express themselves as they deem fit.”

“Mr. Museveni and his wife need to know that they are leaders, not gods. They have fallen short, and it must be made known to them. Stella Nyanzi spoke to their shortcomings, as a citizen, artist, writer, journalist, mother, taxpayer, Ugandan and educator. She is not on trial but rather Mr. Museveni and Janet Museveni are on trial for not respecting the law and not respecting the words (promises) that come out of their mouths. Nyanzi must be released.”

“The state’s arrest and detention of Stella Nyanzi; the spirited attempts to declare her mad in the midst of an ill-thought criminal prosecution on charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication signal the latest manifestation of the Museveni regime’s intolerance of unflattering commentary about it, it’s official and their activities including campaign promises. Poetry and satire can be tolerated provided they do not address the first family. Depicting the head of government in bad light is a crime whether you use print media, electronic media or social media. Humor and imagery are fine if they don’t rub the powerful the wrong way. This is antithetical to our artistic freedom. There is no art if the regime forces us to moderate what we imagine and write. Let’s band together to ensure Stella is free to move wherever she desires and write whatever she wants using her preferred literary devices on her chosen platform. We shall be free! We shall win!”

“We shouldn’t be silenced by oppressors.”

“Because freedom of creative expression is crucial to any nation’s development most especially of its democracy. #FreeStellaNyanzi”

“Kindly support rather than silence Nyanzi. Part of a nation’s growth is in allowing critical discourse on governance issues such as accountability and transparency. It is a necessary way of stemming conflict and violence from such unresolved, unexamined conflict.”

“The role of the artist is to reflect the world that we see, back to our audience. We need freedom to do this rather than feardom.”

“It’s ignoble for any parent to ignore the woes of her infant because of its deformity. The parent is in fact always largely responsible for the infant’s deformity. Divorcing the mother and threatening to strangle the infant is not only shame but also cowardice; the fear for responsibility. The government has created an impasse and it should end it harmoniously other than infringing on individuals’ rights to justify itself.”

”As a Ugandan whose bread and butter is derived from creative writing and expression, it makes me worry about my ability to earn if people like Stella Nyanzi are called criminals. It is unfair, unjust and completely uncalled for that Stella Nyanzi is held and treated the way she’s currently being treated just because of references she made. In addition, a regime that is afraid of what people say is a regime that will arbitrarily gag them and suffocate their freedom and liberty to critic and/or comment on the state of affairs in the nation, I am sure this is not what the NRM wants be famous for. I hope and pray that Stella Nyanzi’s detainment and mistreatment stops and she is released and allowed to rejoin her family, sooner than later.”

“This is absolutely ridiculous.”

“We can’t breathe!”

“The real enemies of the country are those that steal from it not those that demand for justice for fellow Ugandans. Freedom of expression is a right.”

“Speech is constitutionally protected exactly so that we can say what is unpalatable. If you feel your president is a pair of buttocks, it’s well within your constitutionally protected rights to say so.”

“The creative community might not all agree politically but we all agree that there should be freedom in expressing ourselves in a manner that creates heaviness or lightness depending on the mood of the day. We remember that during past elections the leader of this nation himself in a “rap song” expressed himself creatively in “Another Rap”. Let us be allowed to be creative without fear of being prosecuted.”

“Dr. Nyanzi is a prisoner of conscience, and it seems the regime wants to turn all of us into prisoners of conscience by gagging us with intimidation. This must be resisted.”

“Freedom of expression should remain a universal right. It can and should remain a tool available in critiquing servants of the public.”

“Government should look beyond diction in Stella Nyanzi’s writing and reflect on the rot she points out. Our leaders should focus on fixing Uganda’s real problems instead of investing tax payer’s money and time in arresting activists who are trying to remind them that our ailing systems need to be fixed. Media freedom and freedom of expression is a human right that is clearly indicated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Ugandan Constitution. Our leaders should borrow a leaf from Hugh Grant. Even after the press reported about his encounter with a prostitute, which he didn’t like of course, and kept hunting down which ever female they saw him with, he still believed in freedom of the press. He said: “A free press is the cornerstone of democracy; there is no question about that”. Charges such as “A pair of buttocks” will not do our country any good. It is not good for our democracy and the general growth of our country. “Yes men and women” are not good for this country. The government needs to give people the freedom to express themselves and remind it of its duty for us to have a Uganda that we are all proud of.

For God and my Country.

“#FreeStellaNyanzi and stop violating our rights & freedoms.”

“Please drop the charges and release Nyanzi.”

“Silence is not an option.”

“As a writer of political erotica, l do not want to continue waking up to comments such as, “l hope you don’t become like Dr. Stella Nyanzi”. Writers and other creatives should be able to speak their truth to those in leadership without wondering whether the world will doubt their sanity; wag a finger labelled “vulgarity/obscenity” at them, force them to compromise or even shelve their creativity. A situation of creative and literary fright and self-censorship will take us under, not just backwards in regard to expression and other freedoms.”

“Stella is a prisoner of conscience.”

“I am in support of this document.”

“There is no two ways about this!!!”

“The charges adduced by state for Stella Nyanzi’s incarceration are baseless and hellbent on gagging fundamental freedoms speech and expression. There is no room for abuse in the 21 century. A free Nyanzi is freedom of speech and expression. Free Nyanzi!”

“Let us not be gagged.”

“As someone who lives on figurative stylistic devices, any attack on the same is like the cutting of a vein. To stand with Dr Stella Nyanzi is not only a must for anyone who calls themselves writers, but also a noble cause for the trade.”

“Free Stella Nyanzi unconditionally. Creative expression ain’t no crime.”

“#FreeStellaNyanzi because Uganda needs voices like hers if we are to survive as a democracy!”

“Let’s observe the rule of law on this matter.”

“Jailing Nyanzi is curtailing creativity and freedom of expression.”

 

 

 

Standard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s