A Ugandan feminist decided to will the power of her pen to grab the attention of President Museveni only to land in jail. Her poem, published last September, used a graphic description of the birth of the Ugandan President and his mother’s vagina to criticize his “oppression, suppression and repression” of the country, which he has ruled for over 30 years.
“Yoweri, they say it was your birthday yesterday.
How bitterly sad a day!
I wish the smelly and itchy cream-coloured candida festering in Esiteri’s cunt had suffocated you to death during birth.
Suffocated you just like you are suffocating us with oppression, suppression and repression!” reads a paragraph of the poem.
Nyanzi, an anthropologist who has studied a wide range of marginalized communities in Uganda and other African countries, including sex workers, women with HIV, and LGBTQ people became an activist when she began attending the court cases of people she was studying and visiting them in jail.
The academic was accused by the government of “cyber harassment and offensive communication” and has been in Luzira Women’s Prison for eight months, awaiting trial. Over the past years, women in Uganda have been “Radical rudeness,” a form of anti-colonial dissent in Uganda, to criticize the government.
“Politeness has been taken, it’s been held captive, and they don’t listen any more. So sometimes all you have to say is ‘f*** it! And then people will hear and take you seriously. I don’t get inspired by high and mighty women, it’s everyday women. It’s grandmothers, stepmothers, second wives, all swearing at their men,” she said.
Nyanzi’s got quite a reputation. She is has three other legal cases: another “cyber harassment and offensive communication” trial for a poem calling the President a “pair of buttocks,” which she took bail for; a civil dispute with her former employer Makerere University, who dismissed her for staging a naked protest; and a case disputing her inclusion on Uganda’s “no-fly” list initiated by her critical Facebook commentary.
She first took a jibe at Uganda’s first lady Janet Museveni, for failing to deliver on her promise to provide sanitary pads to schoolgirls in a poem that got her arrested too. She was released on bail just in time for a successfully crowdfund for the distribution of sanitary products through the Pads4girlsUg Project.