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Five times Stella Nyanzi has courted controversy

By Wangu Kanuri September 22nd, 2022 3 min read

From crossing paths with her first family and employer, Ugandan scholar Stella Nyanzi could as well adopt controversy as her middle name.

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Here are some of the standout moments she has courted controversy.

1. Strip naked in her boss’s office – During her stint as a researcher and lecturer at Makerere University in Kampala, Dr. Nyanzi once stripped naked after a tiff with her boss over office space.

It started when one Prof Mahmood Mamdani asked her to vacate her office after she had reportedly refused to partake in a PhD programme at the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR).

Before stripping, Nyanzi shared photos of her locked office, terming it ‘oppression’ and threatened to ‘undress herself.’ She proceeded to Mamdani’s office where she undressed and deposited her pieces of clothing at the door. The scene was captured on live TV.

2. Arrest and jail term – She was arrested and jailed on cyber harassment charges in relation to a Facebook poem she wrote that authorities say insulted Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, his mother, and other members of the first family. The poem cost her 18 months at a Kampala jail with magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu describing it as “offensive and vulgar.’

3. Exile in Kenya – After an unsuccessful bid to win the Kampala Women Representative seat in the January 2021 polls, Nyanzi fled to exile in Kenya, claiming her life was in danger as her lover had been arrested by President Yoweri Museveni’s regime. Only to fall into trouble with Kenyans on social media for questioning the way refugees and gays were treated in the country. The stand-off started when she shared news of a refugee who was allegedly burnt to death at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. She described the people whom she accused of the act as ‘horrible human beings’. Kenyans responded by asking her to keep off the country’s affairs.

4. ‘Kenyans are conmen’ – This week, Dr. Nyanzi described Kenyans as ‘con men’ in the wake of a reported vehicle leasing deal gone sour. Nyanzi, who is in exile in Germany, is in the country to launch and market her books. But after reporting she had escaped unhurt in an accident on her way to Kisumu, she now claims to have been duped into parting with cash in exchange for a rental car only for the owner to fail in keeping his part of the bargain.

In an incident she describes as Kenyan thuggery Nyanzi claims to have made payments to a car dealer in exchange for the vehicle, embarked on the 500km Nairobi to Mombasa trip, only for the vehicle to ‘suddenly stop’ at Makindu, some 107km from Nairobi. Mechanics reportedly confirmed that the car had been halted by a tracker only for the owner to come and drive off with the car.

5. ‘My husband is gay’ – Nyanzi once claimed in a television interview that her Gambian ex-husband and father of her three children was gay. While opening up about their relationship, Dr Nyanzi said he married him even though he was Muslim and she a Christian and had deep love for him.

“We relocated to London where I was in school and got Rehma, my first daughter. We were poor immigrants but so much in love. We lived in shoody areas as students but it didn’t matter. It was love that saw me through my PhD. At the end of the PhD, I realize I have conceived twins. At the time my husband’s country (Gambia) has a lockdown of sorts against homosexual men and he is staying in the UK on my visa, which is a student visa. He tells me to go to Uganda and he will follow me. When I get to Uganda he tells me he is not coming to join me in Africa. He reveals he will be applying for asylum to live in the UK as a gay. I was like ‘what’?” She explained.