Sex, Hope and Activism: Meet ‘Uganda’s Crudest Woman’
Her sexually explicit protests have been compared to pornography, but Ugandan activist and writer Stella Nyanzi says sex is the most effective – and entertaining – way to get people out of their apathy.
“I learned early on that there are subjects in Uganda who are tired and (…) the only way to get attention is to introduce shock value,” told AFP this 47-year-old man in an interview in Kampala.
And many people have been shocked by Nyanzi’s methods, which range from calling President Yoweri Museveni “a pair of buttocks” to baring her breasts at a court hearing.
But the former university researcher, who holds a doctorate in sexuality in Africa and who has nearly 300,000 subscribers on Facebook, is unrepentant.
“We don’t see or pretend we don’t see what’s going on in society, especially the excesses and violations” under the authoritarian Museveni regime for decades, she said.
“Telling a violent, militant, brutal regime that you are violent, stop, doesn’t have as much of an impact as saying … fuck the rapist, militant dictatorship penis.”
She paid a high price for her willingness to challenge authority – jailed for “cyber-harassment” in 2019 after posting a profane poem on Facebook about Museveni and having a miscarriage after being beaten in prison.
Although she insists her losses “are not worth telling,” grief is at the heart of her quest to bring down Museveni.
After losing her parents in quick succession six years ago – unable to find life-saving medicine or get an ambulance in time – Nyanzi turned to humor, in part to escape the overwhelming sadness that gripped her. invades.
However, in her hands, humor has also become a weapon to channel her rage against a government she blames for the deaths of her parents and thousands of Ugandans who lack access to reliable health care and to other public services.
– ‘Radical rudeness’ –
A polarizing figure, Nyanzi has drawn contempt from religious conservatives, and even some feminists, who criticize his tireless focus on sex.
“I’m sick of feminists telling me how wrong I am and how I can’t do this and how anti-feminist it is,” she said.
“Just allow me to be free, to do my own reflection and my own protest,” she said, stressing that her unrestricted approach to sexuality is based on pre-Christian Ugandan culture and aims to empower women. encouraging them to discuss taboo subjects.
Its tactics also borrow from a political tradition of “radical rudeness”, which has its roots in the country’s anti-colonial struggle.
And while her dazzling online rants comparing Museveni’s diet to parasitic pubic lice have earned her the label of “Uganda’s rudest woman,” the strategy has also made her a social media star at the outside the country.
Online threats from pro-government trolls don’t bother her.
“I’m not looking for love and hugs,” she said.
“I go to social media very consciously and very deliberately to speak the truth to power, truth that our traditional public media don’t talk about anymore.”
Moreover, the toxic rhetoric she encounters pales in comparison to the very real risks faced by many activists in Uganda.
Nyanzi fled to Kenya earlier this year after her partner was reportedly kidnapped and tortured.
Although she has since returned to Kampala, she is considering the possibility of a life in exile to protect her three children.
– ‘Hope keeps me going’ –
But the self-proclaimed optimist, who took part in the January parliamentary elections and lost, has no intention of throwing in the towel.
“The hope that (Uganda) can change and become better for the next generation keeps me going,” she said.
With a median age of less than 16, most Ugandans have no memory of life before Museveni. The former rebel took power in 1986, after overthrowing two presidents.
At 77, he firmly belongs to “his father’s generation,” said Nyanzi.
“Museveni lives on borrowed time … his family and his system will one day run out of power.”
When that happens, she hopes her compulsion to protest will become a thing of the past as well.
But until then, she stands ready and armed with an arsenal of explicit images designed to shock and bring about change.
“What I’m doing is not erotica and it’s not pornography. It’s rage and the expression of rage using my body.”
bur-amu / txw / yad