KAMPALA, UGANDA — A Ugandan academic detained for calling the country’s president “a pair of buttocks” resisted attempts to forcibly carry out psychiatric tests on her, her attorney said Thursday, describing the alleged incident as an attack on her dignity.
Psychiatrists visited Stella Nyanzi at a maximum-security prison on Wednesday but left without completing the evaluation after Nyanzi warned them of “dire consequences,” Isaac Semakadde said.
“It seems that the state is now going to create a gulag for its opponents,” the lawyer said.
Nyanzi was charged on Monday with cyber harassment and offensive communication, offenses relating to her persistent criticism on Facebook of longtime President Yoweri Museveni.
The government’s claims of Nyanzi’s possible insanity “could amount to torture,” Semakadde said.
Frank Baine, a spokesman for Uganda’s prisons system, denied the allegations, saying the claim of a mental exam was fabricated by Nyanzi’s lawyers.
“There’s nothing that happened. This is fictitious,” he said.
Nyanzi, a single mother of three who is a postdoctoral research fellow at Uganda’s Makerere University, is popular on Facebook for critiques of Museveni and his family.
She has denied the criminal charges but said she often writes metaphorically “to speak truth to power.”
Museveni has ruled for over three decades and is increasingly accused of planning to rule for life. In her writings on Facebook, Nyanzi frequently said Uganda is now under “despotic family rule.”
Her case is being widely followed in this East African country where few people dare to publicly criticize the first family in bold terms.
Amnesty International has urged Ugandan authorities to free her immediately and drop the charges.
Nyanzi most recently was involved in a campaign to raise funds for sanitary napkins that would be distributed to poor schoolgirls, many of whom drop out when they cannot afford them.
When First Lady Janet Museveni, who also serves as education minister, recently said there was no money to buy the sanitary napkins despite the president’s assurances last year to budget for them, Nyanzi charged on Facebook that the first family is corrupt and out of touch with the poverty of ordinary Ugandans.