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By Mulengera Reporters

Dr Stella Nyanzi might be known by moralists and the First Family for her controversy but, hate or love her, the embattled academic not only has the rare skill of capturing the attention of her followers – and the powers that be – not only with her pen and keyboard, but also knows how to wow crowds better than some of your favourite musicians and politicians.

At the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kololo, Kampala on Thursday, Nyanzi was, as usual, at her best – or worst depending on what lens you look at her from.

Reporters began trickling into the court premises as early as 7am. Justice Henry Peter Adonyo had been expected to deliver his ruling as early as 8:30am. Since they have over the years known Adonyo for keeping time, the news people, didn’t want to miss the final judgement in the case of ‘Nalongo of the Big One.’

Until she came through, pockets of people engaged in banter, catching up with lost friends and making acquaintance with new ones.


At 09:07am, a Uganda Prisons vehicle made its way into the premises of the temple of justice. Nyanzi walked out, sandwiched between Prisons wardresses.

Her Prisons guard team comprised four wardresses and a warder. As she made her way into the already packed courtroom at 9:10am, Nyanzi was greeted with a rousing welcome from activists, friends and members of political groupings like the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). 

For 49 minutes, Nyanzi sat below the court wall clock frozen at 3:42:50, occasionally standing to exchange a warm hug with a friend, fellow activist, or ex-prison mate; throwing in a word about her poetry collection titled “No Roses from my Mouth” or singing and dancing prison life away.

“I’m seeing this book for the first time,” she said of the collection published while she was in prison.


Since singer Robert Kyagulanyi rose to political prominence over two years ago, his People Power (PP) pressure group has given FDC some competition on the opposition side of Ugandan politics.

The two groups’ attempts to own Nyanzi and her court victory could not be hidden.

FDC’s Betty Aol Ocan, also leader of opposition in Parliament, arrived at court as early as 8am to help her party identify with Nyanzi. Other party officials like chief mobiliser Ingrid Turinawe and deputy Secretary General for Administration Harold Kaija arrived later. PP seemed to have sent low-profile officials.

Nyanzi exchanged hugs with them, took photos and chanted the FDC slogan. But Nyanzi insisted she supported both parties, and indeed flashed both camps’ signs.


Her friends wanted to know if she would perform a poem from her collection for Justice Adonyo but she reasoned her poem might smoothen her way back to Luzira [if you have read her collection or her Facebook writings, then you understand what she meant].

“Perhaps, I should sing him a love song or something like ‘I have been accused for immorality,” suggested Nyanzi, then proceeded to sing the tune and people like activist Mwafrika Mbarikiwa Nana who joined her.

“There is actually a song titled ‘Accused’,” she lectured some admirers who quickly believed she had used her creative prowess to weave what would likely be a hit.


She also used the time between her arrival and the judge’s to popularize her book, autographing copies that had earlier been bought, and taking selfies with buyers.

In the book sales and marketing episode, Nyanzi said the Prisons officers deserved a copy of her book since “some wanted to ban it” before they have even read it.

After the copy had been given to the warders, Nana soon passed by one who was perusing through and commented: “Even those from Prisons read!” 


Later, Ssemakadde came to where Nana was seated, with her baby uncomfortable in the heat of the courtroom, and told her a certain prosecutor had asked for a copy of the book.

“Let the prosecutor first pay you the money before you hand him the book,” cautioned Nana.

Minutes later, the senior counsel returned with news to the effect that the prosecutor was not able to part with money.

“These things are not for poor people,” said Nana in reply.


The taunting of court and Prisons officers did not stop with the prosecutor. A Counter Terrorism (CT) Police Officer named Owiny had slight issues when he kept telling reporters not to go beyond a certain point. Camera people seemed to have been obeying him until he stepped on a court recorder’s wire.

Nyanzi rose to defend the rights of journalists, and to later soothe Owiny.

“You have damaged the recorder that was supposed to capture the order to set me free,” said Nyanzi.

Someone then sought to taunt Officer Owiny a little more by suggesting he would either wet his pants or collapse if they told him to replace the ‘damaged’ recorder.

Perhaps to atone Owiny for the embarrassment he had been taken through, Nyanzi suggested he should sing him a love song, and thus created something titled ‘Owiny, my love,’ which worked because Owiny coyly walked out through the court room’s upper side door.


When Mabirizi arrived at Kololo on Thursday, he only had come to show solidarity with Nyanzi and gain some more experience in law. That was only the daring lawyer, famous for his age limit petition in local and regional courts, seemed to have planned for. So, when Nyanzi recalled being told Mabirizi had written a letter either to or about her, all she could say was: “Marry me, please marry me now!”

Mabirizi’s boldness ebbed away, and he sat quietly, eyes on ‘Nalongo of the Big One” as if trying to assess if the academic was serious or if he was exciting him “for nothing” – with Nyanzi’s use of ‘love’ in jest, Mabirizi seems to have been somewhat right to ignore the voices telling him to “be a man.”


By the time, Adonyo walked into the courtroom to deliver his judgement, Nyanzi had had a field day, freely doing some things she had not been doing in jail, dancing, catching up with family and interacting with friends and activists.

Minutes before the judge walked in to deliver his judgement, she had asked for Panadol tablets to silence a headache that had started standing in her way of enjoyment of her anticipated freedom.

After Ssemakadde had introduced counsels for the appellant as well as those for the defendants, the judge started delivering his judgement.

But first, he scribbled down something with his green-capped pen and ordered Nyanzi to keep standing while he sat delivering his ruling. Nyanzi obeyed, and seemed calm, occasionally sipping at her Coke and jotting down a thing or two.


For Nyanzi, the foam of hope continued flowing out of the judge’s mouth because what he was reading kept pointing to an acquittal. He referenced court determinations, broke down terms and poked holes into Buganda Road Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu’s ruling against Nyanzi.

A reference many could easily identify with was that involving Tom Voltaire Okwalinga (TVO) and social media giant Facebook. Turinawe even joked: “That is my page.” (In reference to claims that it was the FDC strongwoman using the TVO account)


As soon as the word “quashed” made its way out of Adonyo’s mouth, celebrations began in court, with chants such as Viva Stella! One Uganda One People.

Afande Owiny’s reminder that court was still ongoing would have easily been ignored hadn’t it been reinforced by the judge’s warning that he would throw those making noise out of court for contempt of the temple of justice.

A lot of people didn’t really know there was another appeal whose judgement Adonyo was to give – that was on the state appeal against Nyanzi’s acquittal of offensive communication charges.

Silence returned after murmurs of “What’s that now?” Thankfully, Adonyo didn’t take as long on the second ruling as he had spent on the first. Dismissal of the appeal set the stage for more celebrations, and clashes with CT Police and Prisons Officers outside the court room.






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