Dr Stella Nyanzi undresses to reclaim office

Dr. Stella Nyanzi addressing the media shortly after her office was opened by Prof. Edward Kirumira, Principal of college of humanities and social sciences on Monday morning at Makerere Institute of Social Research, Makerere University. Photo Alex Esagala.


Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) has finally allowed Dr Stella Nyanzi, a research fellow at MISR, to access ‘her’ office.

This is after Nyanzi undressed and took pictures and a video clip of herself, which she then posted on her Facebook wall, to protest MISR’s decision to lock her out of ‘her’ office.

MISR locked the office three days ago because Nyanzi had reportedly refused to teach MISR’s doctor of philosophy (PhD) students yet she had in 2012 committed to teach them.

Dr Nyanzi, however, said on Facebook her contract did not include teaching.

After locking the office, MISR urged her to use the institute’s library to do her private consultancy work.

“Since her appointment at MISR, Dr. Stella Nyanzi has done only private research,” MISR’s executive director Professor Mahmood Mamdani posted on his social networking site, Twitter handle on April 16.

“So long as she spends her time exclusively on private matters and personal research, MISR can only offer her a seat in at the MISR library. The day she begins teaching in the PhD programme, she will be provided an office by the institution.”

The university’s vice chancellor in charge of finance and administration, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, had earlier requested MISR to stay Dr Nyanzi’s eviction from office – though he later clarified to this newspaper the request was not an order.

Dr Nyanzi instead accused Prof. Mamdani of “blatantly abusing of my labour rights”. She said she would “fight to my death” to have her rights respected.

Today morning, she turned up at MISR and even bantered with journalists, telling them she is of sound mind.

“My brain is sound and works well. I am fighting for my office, my rights. Prof. Mamdani is an oppressor,” she said.

When she saw police officers arrive at the premises, Ms Nyanzi began undressing while labeling the police biased, that they are working with her oppressor (Prof. Mamdani).

It is not clear if MISR’s reopening her office means Dr. Stella will now teach on the PhD programme.

Ethics Minister Rev Fr Lokodo orders for her arrest
Meanwhile, the State minister for Ethics Simon Lokodo has called for the arrest of Dr Nyanzi for stripping in public.

Rev Fr Lokodo said Dr Nyanzi has violated the newly signed Anti-pornography Act when she allegedly undressed in public, in view of the police.

“Yes, I am looking for her. How she can go to the police in her underwear? It is her right to protest, but not like that. I have talked to the people in charge to bring her to book. Once we take her through a mental test and ascertain she is normal, we shall arrest her,” Rev Fr Lokodo said.

He added, “She also committed a crime by sharing the pornographic content on social media, I have not seen it myself but people say it is everywhere so that is a crime as well. It is illegal.”

Undressing as a form of protest is not a new thing in Uganda.

In April 2012, some women activists in Kampala stripped to their bras to protest the Uganda Police’s Force’s personnel fondling of the breasts of FDC official Ms Ingrid Turinawe in full view of television cameras.

In May 2015, women in Amuru District in northern Uganda undressed before the Lands minister Daudi Migereko, Internal Affairs minister General Aronda Nyakairima (rest in peace) to protest what they said was a government ploy to grab their customarily–owned land.

The government, some say, usually disguises such land grabs by claiming it is for investment, which will lead to job creation.

Now, almost a year later, another woman, this time Dr Nyanzi has undressed to protest against the violation of her rights.

Dr Nyanzi, a medical anthropologist, was born in June 1974.