Ugandan activist Dr Stella Nyanzi appeals against her sacking from Makerere

Ugandan activist Dr Stella Nyanzi

Dr Stella Nyanzi has appealed to the Makerere University Staff Appeals Tribunal protesting her sacking from the university.

The decision to sack Dr Nyanzi, a research fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), was reached by the university appointments board at it’s 587th meeting held on December 11, 2018. She was sacked alongside 45 other personnel from various units at the institution.

In a letter communicating her termination of employment with Makerere, Andrew Abunyang, the institution’s human resources director directed that Nyanzi hands over all university property in her possession. This letter according to Nyanzi, was served to her through the officer-in-charge Luzira Women’s prison, where she has been detained since November 7, 2018.

She is currently on remand on charges of cyber harassment and offensive communication, for allegedly insulting President Yoweri Museveni’s mother Esteri Kokundeka in a Facebook poem. In the poem, Nyanzi said Kokundeka brought a curse to Uganda when she gave birth to her son, Museveni who has turned out to be an ever-lasting problem to the progression of Ugandans through dictatorial rule, corruption and criminality.

Now, through her lawyer Isaac Semakadde, Dr Nyanzi protests the decision of the appointments board to sack her in absentia without giving her a fair hearing. Nyanzi also indicates that the appointments board unlawfully and unjustifiably acted in contempt of the earlier decision of the Staff Appeals Tribunal of December 3, 2018, and in further contempt of the on-going court case in which she sued the university.

In her February 21, 2019 appeal notice, Nyanzi observes that the decision by the appointments board was taken secretively and pre-emptive of the matter then pending before the High court, which is of a superior jurisdiction to grant the necessary relief and thus making it illegal, null and void.

Semakadde contends that the decision in dispute is wholly unfounded and inconsistent with the decision-making history of the appointments board.

“It is thus misconceived, arbitrary, and extremely hurtful to our client who has at all times been employed by the university under a contract of service on permanent terms and is nearly 17 years shy of retirement,” Semakadde notes.

He adds that; “the decision was also politically-motivated and intended to appease the First Family who have since publicly commended and condoned the decision.”

President Museveni recently praised Makerere University vice chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe for sacking Nyanzi whom she accused of tainting the university’s image when she undressed in protest after being locked out of office.

Nyanzi wants the Staff Appeals Tribunal set aside the entire decision of the appointments board, prohibit it from further interfering with her security of tenure without following the established procedures, be compensated to a tune of the injury so far occasioned to her; and award costs of her appeal.

According to Abunyang, the university no longer has any jurisdiction over Nyanzi, since her employment contract ended on May 31, 2016. Nyanzi’s lawyers want the Staff Appeals Tribunal to treat her as a suspended staff, on half pay until the case is disposed of.

Semakadde says even when Nyanzi has been receiving half pay in protest, the money should not be deducted over the cessation of employment.

He adds that; “Those funds are essential to the maintenance of a dignified livelihood for our client and her family of three children of school-going age and their caretakers.”