Despite a crushing setback in the 2021 elections, Dr. Stella Nyanzi, the former Parliamentary candidate for the Kampala Woman MP seat, maintains her commitment to political change.
Dr. Nyanzi is a human rights activist and researcher who advocates for women’s and girls’ rights. She is well known for her outspoken criticism of President Museveni, which resulted in her arrest in 2019.
Dr Stella Nyanzi told the Nile Post in an interview why she is not about to give up her opposition to NRM and why she believes the National Unity Platform is still far behind the FDC in the political hierarchy.
How are you adjusting to life outside Makerere University now that you’ve been suspended?
As a requirement of participation in the elections, I resigned from Makerere University in 2020. If you recall, and if you’ve been keeping up with current developments at Makerere University, I successfully sued the university [for unjust suspension]. I won the first time in academic tribunal, the second time, the third time, in court, and I have several appeals pending after the tribunal. Makerere University has also been sued for contempt of court.
The tribunal ruled in my favor and ordered Makerere University to reinstate me, promote me, and open my office…
The institution has turned down my request three times. Makerere University had the audacity to say that I didn’t have a contract after I won in the High Court. I was a permanent staff member at Makerere University at the time.
I was in prison at the time, and I didn’t question the university’s assertion. I had a contract that was both permanent and pensionable. I still want to pursue my money, as well as the damages I was awarded in court. I’m still a scholar, I’m still conducting research, I’m still mentoring mentees, and I’m still publishing.
As someone who was born and raised in Masaka, where tragic murders are currently taking place. What should the government do, in your opinion, to flush out these gangs ravaging the region?
The administration should quit acting as if it is working for Ugandans. We are the government; we are not the NRM. The people of Uganda are the government, which is why we elect representatives, and why we describe democracy as “government of the people, for the people, by the people” in school.
What should Uganda’s citizens do? They should fight for their own safety since the institutions of Uganda’s state have been taken over by a dictatorship that has no interest in safeguarding the lives and property of ordinary Ugandans.
We should not expect a dictator who is not interested in helping growth since we are the government and have representatives in the government.
As a Masaka resident, I have witnessed the third cycle of Bijambiya, which is nothing new to Masaka residents because this area is a stronghold of the opposition. We must defend ourselves as Masaka residents since the regime is not interested in defending us.
Despite several attempts, the opposition has been unable to overthrow the regime. What, in your opinion, should be done?
As political parties committed to the liberation movement, we must band together. We need to come up with new ways to organize ourselves.
We need a movement that brings us together as different organizations, groupings, and collectives. It will take much more than a squabble between political parties, and it will need much more than ballot papers. We must band together and fight for ourselves.
Despite the fact that you did not fare well in the 2021 parliamentary elections, many people anticipated you to win. What could have caused the issue?
I believe I did exceptionally well. I did so good, aahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha In January of 2020, I was incarcerated, and in February of 2020, I was released. The lockdown was announced in March of 2020. This was the year we were put on lockdown, the year I was freed from the Luzira women’s jail after serving an 18-month term, and the year I had no money. I managed a successful election campaign. Who says I didn’t put up a good effort?
I organized an effective campaign during the Covid-19 lockdown, when so many people were frustrated and powerless to do anything.
I’m not sure why you believe I didn’t do well. I ran a successful campaign, generated funds, and organized fundraisers. I didn’t have any money on my own. I was an ex-prisoner, but everyone knows that before I was arrested, I was suspended from Makerere University for two years. Despite the fact that I had no revenue, I was able to run a campaign.
Why are you so pleased with yourself that you didn’t make it to Parliament?
I’m overjoyed because, after being released from prison, I became a lady on the vote paper, and despite not having a source of money, my name was on everyone’s lips in Kampala.
In Kampala, I competed against powerful women and upped the bar of competitiveness.
I was able to form strategic alliances with powerful men. When people are tallying the losses in 2020 due to the lockdown, they will remember that I conducted a successful campaign. I did not attend Parliament, and I have no regrets because I was able to win people’s hearts and minds. I don’t believe I’ve lost anything.
In many respects, I was victorious. I didn’t go to Parliament, which is a good thing because picture being in Parliament today with all the confusion and rot.
I’m grateful I didn’t go to Parliament. Outside of Parliament, I’m doing lot better and serving people. You’ll see that the Parliament is not autonomous; it is enslaved, much like the Luzira women’s prison where I spent time.
Many people believe that the development of the NUP represents a threat to FDC. Are you of the same mind?
I don’t understand why [FDC] is being threatened, and I believe the key point for me is that if NUP was a better way to unseat Yoweri Museveni, I would have jumped at the chance to join it. However, after studying both NUP and FDC, which was formed right under my nose, I correctly elected to stay on FDC.
I do not feel intimidated by NUP because I believe the problems of Uganda’s management after Yoweri Museveni leaves office are best handled in FDC.
I’m not because I’m not interested in whatever NUP has to offer. In truth, I’m not sure what the NUP is giving; it seems fine on the surface, but there’s nothing there; there’s no political agenda, and there’s no reform program.
What the NUP is doing is riding the FDC’s stubborn wave. I’m not sure what you think NUP has done. In fact, if I’m looking for guidance on the next move to take, I turn to FDC, specifically to the liberation struggle leaders I know in FDC. I am not scared by a party that has no idea what they are doing; they are still learning to walk.
You departed the country shortly after the 2021 general elections, claiming your life was in danger. So, what exactly happened?
I escaped Uganda and relocated to Kenya. I returned from Kenya, spent three months in Germany, returned from Germany, traveled to Iceland, returned from Iceland, and returned to Germany, where I am now. So far, I have not left Uganda since the elections.
This time, I returned to Uganda because the country’s constitution granted us constitutional rights and freedom of movement both within and across its boundaries. Traveling outside of Uganda is not illegal.
In truth, my life was in danger since my partner had been kidnapped, and my Rubaga campaign manager had been kidnapped and beaten up, so it was unavoidable for me to seek protection for my children after the kidnapping of my campaign manager, which was followed by the kidnapping of my girlfriend. My life was on the line. The NRM, as well as some members of the opposition, have threatened me.
That are the people of the opposition who are threatening your life?
If you’ve been following my social media timeline, you’ll see that I’ve received numerous social media threats. People have threatened me because they believe that certain of my critiques of various parties, particularly opposition parties, should not be made.
Anyone who has followed my social media timeline knows that I speak a truth that many others will not dare to say. Threatening messages have been sent to my social media timeline, Twitter account, and WhatsApp account.
When my lover was kidnapped and we had no idea where he was, I had no choice but to move my children to safety because the number of individuals being kidnapped, held, and tortured was at an all-time high in early January and February of this year.
Was this a political game that drove you to return?
As I previously stated, traveling in and out of Uganda is a fundamental privilege, and I don’t need an excuse to return home. Uganda is where I call home. My family lived as refugees all over the world in the early 1980s, and when Yoweri Museveni arrived in Uganda as a revolutionary, my father brought them back as children. When it comes to Uganda, I understand what it’s like to be a refugee child who has lost his or her citizenship. I don’t want my children to go through the same ordeal.
What occurred was that I returned home because Uganda is my home, and no one has the authority to take it away from me.
Do you intend to pursue a post in FDC now that you have suffered a significant loss in the 2021 elections?
However, I hold a role in the FDC; I am the flag holder for the Kampala Woman Member of Parliament, and I will continue to be the flag bearer till the next elections. When FDC members, particularly women, seek leadership in Kampala, they continue to contact me. Don’t speak to me from a position of ignorance because I am a member of FDC’s women’s league. In FDC, I already have authority.
The fact that I am a commando among commandos is the most essential thing for me among the activists, political rebels, and freedom fighters in the FDC. There are a lot of people above me, but when we work together, we can accomplish a lot.