Uganda detains prominent academic protesting coronavirus lockdown

by Reuters
Monday, 18 May 2020 17:17 GMT

KAMPALA, May 18 (Reuters) - Ugandan police on Monday arrested prominent academic Stella Nyanzi, a vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni, for allegedly inciting violence as she protested against lockdown measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, police told Reuters.

The East African nation, with 284 cases and no deaths, has implemented one of Africa's strictest lockdowns, closing businesses and schools, banning public gatherings and the use of private and public vehicles other than those of essential workers such as medical staff.

Author, university lecture and rights activist Nyanzi has in recent years earned a huge following on social media for her bold attacks on Museveni over his crackdown on political dissent and decades-long rule.

"We detained her for inciting violence. She is exploiting the COVID-19 situation to advance her political motives," Police spokesman Patrick Onyango told Reuters.

Reuters was unable to reach either Nyanzi or her lawyer.

Nyanzi was arrested in Kampala as she and a small group of activists attempted to present to the prime minister a petition demanding the lifting of the lockdown and the distribution of free face masks to the population. The petition also called for the release of thousands jailed for alleged violations of anti-coronavirus measures like a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

In August last year, a magistrate's court convicted her on charges of cyber-harassment and sentenced her to 18 months in jail. She subsequently appealed her sentence and a judge in February quashed the ruling.

Some doctors and rights activists have criticised the strict lockdown measures, which they say have caused deaths of expectant mothers and patients with chronic diseases who struggled to find transportation to hospitals. (Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Giulia Paravicini and Hugh Lawson)

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