Dr Stella Nyanzi yesterday started the fight back against suspension from Makerere University with her lawyers telling the institution that it has infringed upon the research fellow’s constitutional right to freedom of speech.
The academic is at the centre of a social media storm involving Education minister Janet Museveni, also the wife of the President, whom she stands accused of insulting using graphic language.
Writing from the Centre for Legal Aid, Mr Isaac Ssemakadde, said that as counsel for Dr Nyanzi, they reject any disciplinary proceedings against their client.
The April 5 letter addressed to the Director Human Resources at Makerere, observes that the charges that were framed against their client relating to her social media comments are inconsistent with her right to freedom of expression.
“By attempting to suppress our client’s freedom of expression irrationally and unfairly through the impugned citation of an unauthorised Human Resources Manual and unjustified warnings and suspension, the decision by the Appointment Board, the university has demonstrably failed to appreciate not only the importance of Dr Nyanzi’s right of freedom of expression but also her rights to equal protection [under] the law,” Mr Ssemakadde said.
The Centre for Legal Aid asked the university to cease and desist, not only from acting like the “thought police” in a “tyrannical regime”, but also from the misguided campaign of harassment against Dr Nyanzi through irregular disciplinary proceedings.
Late last week, Dr Nyanzi was suspended from the university as the storm generated by her facebook posts spread across cyber space.
The letter suspending her, dated April 30, said Dr Nyanzi will receive half pay while on suspension. Her suspension was on the unilateral orders of chairman of the university board, Mr Bruce Balaba Kabaasa, to Vice chancellor Prof Dumba Ssentamu for abusing Ms Museveni.
“In total disregard of the aforementioned warning, you Dr Nyanzi has continued to use social media to violate section 5.7.7 of the Makerere Human Resource Manual 2019 and it is regrettable that you have made it a habit to insult, dehumanise the line minister of education Ms Museveni. This is unacceptable and shall not be tolerated, the letter reads.
“Therefore, following the letter of the chairperson of the board bringing all the above to the VC requiring him to use his capacity to implement the decision, the VC has instructed that you Dr Nyanzi should be suspended with immediate effect”.
Dr Nyanzi was also required to appear before the Appointment Board for further disciplinary action in line with the laws governing the university and other tertiary institutions.
Dr Nyanzi has attacked Ms Museveni for urging parents not to “pile children” on commuter motorbikes commonly known as boda boda. She has also scolded Ms Museveni as the Minister of Education for failing to provide sanitary pads that would help to keep girls from poor families in school as was promised by her husband during the presidential campaigns.
In some of her posts, the academic also criticised the government for widespread corruption, human rights abuse, alleged extra-judicial killings, failing crucial public health care delivery, electoral fraud, misplaced government priorities and a deliberate impoverishment of Ugandans.