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 criticise 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.

The 2017 ASA statement concerning Dr. Nyanzi’s case can be found here:

https://africanstudies.org/news/asa-board-of-directors-statement-on-academic-freedom-and-stella-nyanzi/

Further information concerning Dr. Nyanzi’s recent sentencing can be found here:
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/08/uganda-freedom-of-expression-takes-a-knock-as-stella-nyanzi-found-guilty-of-cyber-harassment/