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Dr Stella Nyanzi, a queer feminist writer, activist and research fellow at the Makerere Institute for Social Research in Uganda, has been imprisoned in Uganda for allegedly insulting President Yoweri Museveni on social media.

Nyanzi has been charged with “cyber harassment and offensive communication” under the country’s Computer Misuse Act of 2011. She was arrested after she published a provocative poem on her Facebook page on September 16, the day after the president’s 74th birthday. It expressed the view that Uganda would have been better off had Museveni died at birth.

The academic has pleaded not guilty and is currently being detained at Luzira Prison in Kampala. She faces a penalty of a year’s imprisonment.

Nyanzi has been fearless in her criticism of Museveni. She has embraced a Ugandan tradition called “radical rudeness” that dates back to the pre-independence days of the late 1940s. At the time power relations were encoded in manners, politeness, and conventional rituals of sociability as determined by the British masters. As historian Carol Summers has written, activists in colonial Uganda, especially the kingdom of Buganda, disrupted this power relationship by using tactics of rudeness, performing: a rude, publicly celebrated strategy of insults, scandal mongering, disruption, and disorderliness that broke conventions of colonial friendship, partnership, and mutual benefit. Nyanzi is a formidable activist in Uganda who has been imprisoned for expressing her views before, but who has continued to fight against repressive anti-queer laws as well as the right to freedom of speech. Her recent detention has already drawn international condemnation. PEN, the international organisation t...

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