Despite suffering heavy defeat in the 2021 elections, Dr. Stella Nyanzi, the former Parliamentary candidate for the Kampala Woman MP slot says her zeal to bring about political change remains unshaken.
Dr Nyanzi is a human rights activist and a scholar who campaigns for women and girls rights and she is most known for her outspoken criticism of President Museveni which led to her subsequent imprisonment in 2019.
Speaking to the Nile Post in an interview, Dr Stella Nyanzi told us why she is not about to relent in her opposition to NRM and why she believes that National Unity Platform is still way below FDC in the political pecking order.
Having been suspended from Makerere University, how are you adjusting to life outside the institution?
I resigned from Makerere University in 2020 as a precondition for participating in the elections. If you remember well and have been following current events in Makerere University, I sued the university [over wrongful suspension] and I won. I won the first time in academic tribunal, I won the second time, I won the third time, I won in court and I have a number of appeals after tribunal. I have also sued Makerere University for contempt of court.
The tribunal declared that I had won my appeal and instructed Makerere University to reinstate me, to promote me, to open my office…three times the university refused. When I won at the High Court, again Makerere University, had the audacity to claim that I didn’t have a contract. At the time I was a permanent staff member at Makerere University.
I was in prison and I didn’t challenge the claim of the university. I had a permanent and pensionable contract. I still want to go after my money, the damages that I won in court. I am still a scholar, I am still doing research, I still have mentees that I am mentoring, and I am still publishing.
As someone who hails from Masaka where unfortunate incidents of murders are taking place currently. In your view, what should the government do to flash out these gangs terrorizing the region?
The government should stop pretending that it works for the people of Uganda. We are the government, the government is not NRM.The government is the people of Uganda that is why we choose representatives, that is why when we are in school we define democracy as the government of the people, for the people by the people etc.
What should the people of Uganda do? They should fight for their own security because the institutions of the state called Uganda were captured by a dictatorship that has no sense at all in protecting and securing the lives and property of ordinary Ugandans.
As the people who are the government and have representatives in the government, we should stop expecting a dictator who is not interested in supporting development.
As a resident of Masaka, I have seen the third cycle of Bijambiya, which is not new to the people of Masaka because this area is an opposition stronghold. As people of Masaka we must defend ourselves because the dictatorship is not interested in defending us.
The opposition has failed to remove the regime despite numerous attempts. In your view, what must be done?
We must unite as political parties that believe in the liberation struggle. We must devise alternative means of organising.
We need a movement that unite us as different organisations, as different formations and different collectives. It is going to take much more than political parties bickering and it is going to take much more than ballot papers. We need to unite and fight for ourselves.
You didn’t perform well in the 2021 parliamentary elections and yet many people expected you to win the race. What could have been the problem?
I actually think I performed very well. Aahahaha, I performed so well. I was a prisoner in January of 2020 and in February of 2020 I was released from prison. In March of 2020, the lockdown was announced. This is the year in which we had a lockdown, the year in which I was released from an 18 months sentence at Luzira women prison, the year in which I had no income. I ran an effective election campaign. Who said I didn’t perform well?
During Covid-19 lockdown when so many people were frustrated and unable to do anything,I ran an effective campaign.I don’t see why you think I didn’t perform well. I campaigned well, I collected money and fundraised. I had no income on my own. I was an ex-prisoner but everybody is aware that I was suspended for two years from Makerere University before I was arrested. I had no income but I was able to run a campaign.
Why are you so proud of your performance and yet you didn’t make it to Parliament?
I am very happy because from prison, I became a woman on the ballot paper, without having income, my name was on the lips of every person in Kampala .I contested against women of value and I raised the bar of competition in Kampala.
I was able to make alliances with men of power. When people are counting the losses of 2020 because of the lockdown, I ran an effective campaign. I didn’t go to Parliament, and I have no regret whatsoever because I was able to win the hearts and minds of people. I don’t think that I lost anything.
I won in many ways. I didn’t go to Parliament and I thank God, imagine being in Parliament with all the chaos and rot today.
I thank God that I didn’t go to Parliament. I am doing so much better and serving people outside Parliament. You will realize the Parliament is not autonomous ,it is captive ,it is like the Luzira women prison where I was.
Many people claim that the NUP emergence is a threat to FDC. Do you hold the same view?
I don’t understand the questions of [FDC] being threatened and I think the real point for me is if NUP was a better avenue to reclaiming power from Yoweri Museveni, I had every opportunity to join that new party. However having studied both NUP which was formed right under my nose and FDC, I chose wisely to remain on FDC .
The questions about the management of Uganda after Yoweri Museveni is out of power, I feel is best addressed in FDC, so am I not threatened by NUP.
I am not because I am not looking for anything NUP is offering. In fact I don’t know what NUP is offering, it sounds very good but when you go beyond the nosy sound, there is nothing there, there is no political agenda, and there is no reform agenda.
What NUP is doing is riding on the defiant wave of FDC. I don’t know what you think NUP has introduced .In fact if I am looking for wisdom about the next step to pick, I don’t look at NUP, I go back to FDC, to the leaders of liberation struggle that I know in FDC. I am not threatened by a party that doesn’t have any clue, they are still trying to learn how to walk.
Shortly after the 2021 general elections, you fled the country and you claimed your life was in danger. What really happened?
I fled Uganda and I went to Kenya. I came back from Kenya, after three months I went to Germany, I came back from Germany, I went to Iceland, I came back from Iceland and I went back to Germany and I am now back. So since elections ended I have left Uganda not once.
This time I came back to my country because the constitution of Uganda gave us constitutional rights, freedom of movement within the country and across the borders of this country. It is not a crime for Ugandans to travel abroad.
In fact my life was in danger because my partner was abducted, my campaign manager in Rubaga was also abducted and beaten up and so when one looked at the abduction of my campaign manager which was followed immediately by the abduction of my lover, it was inevitable for me to look for safety for my children. My life was in danger. I have been threatened by the NRM as well as some people in the opposition.
Who are these opposition members who are threatening your life?
If you have been following my social media timeline, I have got social media threats not once, it is quite obvious. I have got threats from people who think that some of my criticisms I label against different parties, especially some of the opposition parties should not be made.
Whoever has followed my social media timeline is aware because I speak a particular truth which many people will not dare to speak. Go to my social media timeline, my twitter space but also on WhatsApp I get threatening messages.
In the moment when my lover was abducted and we didn’t know where he was, it was inevitable for me to take my children to safety because the number of people who were being abducted, detained and tortured was really high in the early January and February this year.
What prompted you to come back, was this a political game?
Like I said, it is a constitutional right to travel in and out of Uganda and I don’t need a reason to come back home. Uganda is my home. In early 80s my family lived as refugees all over the world, my father brought them back as children when Yoweri Museveni came to Uganda as a revolutionary. When it comes to Uganda, I know what it means to have lost citizenship and live as a refugee child. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my children.
What happened is that I came back home because Uganda is home and nobody in the world has a right to take my home away from me.
Having suffered a big loss in the 2021 elections, do you expect to seek a position in FDC at the moment?
But I have a position in FDC, I am a flag bearer for Kampala Woman Member of Parliament in FDC and I will remain the flag bearer until the next elections. When FDC members, especially the women, are looking for leadership in Kampala, they still call me. I am a member of the women’s league in FDC, so don’t speak to me from a position of ignorance. I already have power in FDC.
The most important thing for me, among the activists, the political rebels, freedom fighters in FDC, is that I am a commando among commandos. There are so many other members above me but when we come to street protests and activism, I am one of the foot soldiers. It does not matter whether I have a leadership position or not. I am doing leadership work whenever I am, including in my party.
What is your political ambition? Should we expect you to contest again come 2026?
I don’t need to be in Parliament to serve my country .I don’t need to be in Parliament to speak about the evil and the failures of this regime. I don’t need to be in parliament to represent myself whether in a street protest or in an interview with a journalist like you. I am doing everything I would have done had I gone to Parliament. I am not waiting for 2026, I am doing my work. I am still here.