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Ugandan prominent human rights activist and feminist Stella Nyanzi (C) reacts to police officers during a protest against the amount and handling of police investigations into murders and kidnappings of women in Kampala on June 5, 2018. (Photo by SUMY SADURNI/AFP/Getty Images)

Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Found Guilty of Cyber Harassment Against President Museveni

The activist has been sentenced to 18 months in prison over a poem she wrote about the president last year, referencing vaginas.

Stella Nyanzi, the outspoken Ugandan activist and former research fellow at Makerere University's Institute for Social Research, was found guilty of cyber harassment against President Yoweri Museveni on Friday, after sharing a controversial birthday poem for the president last September.

Nyanzi was arrested in November of last year after sharing the poem on her Facebook page, part of which read: "I wish the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."


This is not the first time the activist has spoken out against the president. In 2017, she was jailed and suspended from her job at Makerere University after referring to the president as a "pair of buttocks."

She appeared in court in May on new charges of cyber harassment and "offensive communication." She was acquitted of the latter charge, but has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after being found guilty of the cyber harassment charge.

According to The Guardian, Nyanzi was given an opportunity to address the court in Kampala in an attempt to reduce here sentence, to which she responded: "Send me to Luzira [maximum security prison]. I am proud [of what] I told a dirty, delinquent dictator."

Adding: "I want to embolden the young people...I want them to use their voices and speak whatever words they want to speak."

Footage of Nyanzi's speech in court, shared on Twitter, show the activist expressing plans to continue addressing the president's actions no matter the consequences. "I will speak to dictators even if it means in the language of vagina," said Nyanzi.

The verdict has once again sparked concerns over censorship and freedom of expression in Uganda. "Stella Nyanzi has been criminalized solely for her creative flair of using metaphors and what may be considered insulting language to criticize President Museveni's leadership," says Amnesty International's Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Joan Nyanyuki of the verdict.

"The mere fact that forms of expression are considered insulting to a public figure is not sufficient ground to penalize anyone. Public officials, including those exercising the highest political authority, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition," she added.

Uganda is ranked 125 out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders' 2018 World Press Freedom Index. The suppression of freedom of expression in the county are underscored by cases like Nyanzi's as well as the targeting and harassment of Ugandan opposition leader and musician Bobi Wine.

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Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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