Dr. Stella Nyanzi, PhD, un-friended me on Saturday August 13, 2016.
She posted vituperation against her child’s teacher and I questioned whether she was being fair for passing judgment on him without hearing his version of events first. ”I have decided. Kiwedde.” was her retort.
I then dared to point out to her that it was cant to expect people to be fair to her pet causes when she so regularly worked herself into a rage over relatively simple issues that could be resolved without shooting first and asking questions later. “That’s it … you’re blocked.” Stella Nyanzi pronounced.
She had struck yet again, as she has so regularly in the past when she has been confronted with opinions that didn’t mollycoddle her own.
The truth is that I had been regularly embarrassed by Stella’s ‘kwete’ shenanigans, stubborn refusal to sieve herself, and her sheer tiresomeness. We would exchange private messages and she would seem to have understood the need to be circumspect only for her to pull what I saw as yet another demented “hoochie mama” impropriety from the hat.
I sympathized with her on the spat with Mahmoud Mamdani because it was fairly apparent to me that things had gotten to the lows they did due to administrative and managerial shortcomings at Makerere University’s Main Hall. But then I was taken aback when she revealed that she had planned the entire undressing spectacle, even seeking prior counsel from her children. Stella Nyanzi hadn’t undressed to her knickers for the cameras in a fit of rage, but in a careful premeditation that she wanted to cast the spotlight on her brazenness.
When she later went on national television to celebrate her nudity, peppering her interview with vivid descriptions of various sexual practices, she confirmed that it was all about her, not the institution whose reputation she claimed she wanted to protect. Which self-respecting adult, let alone a PhD holder, do you know of that would seek out prime time television news to talk about her genitalia and sexual yearnings in response to a professional disagreement?
Africa has many female activists who have blazed trails, humbled arrogant misogynists, and convinced entire countries to accept change on account of their intelligent arguments, selfless and relentless pursuit of justice. A number of them live today and don’t even have “famous person” Facebook or Twitter accounts. But their work remains ground breaking and their legacies will endure. For the ones gone, think South Africa’s Miriam Makeba, or Kenya’s Wangari Mathaai.
For examples of women who are still fighting human rights battles in Uganda today think of the formidable Sylvia Tamale who has quietly achieved milestones for women’s, children’s and gay rights in Uganda without histrionics and self promotion. There is also Solome Nakaweesi-Kayondo whose regular reinventions don’t detract from the grassroots work she does with disadvantaged groups away from television cameras. One could go on.
Stella Nyanzi is a highly intelligent woman in that mold but that’s where any meaningful comparison ends. For one, it is fairly apparent that she lives for the limelight. For a bookish woman who went through school and university largely unnoticed, Stella has seen her stock catch fire and soar on the back of her controversial social media posts. When it became about her clitoris and vagina, rather than the causes she claimed to be passionate about, Stella quickly set up a “celebrity” Facebook page and rushed to Twitter to register her presence there despite admitting that she wasn’t interested in that medium of social communication. To Ugandans, starved of personalities willing to tackle taboo subjects that however are our main secret preoccupation, Stella Nyanzi’s arrival on Facebook was a godsend.
Thanks to Uganda’s morbid fascination with ‘over the top’ train-wreck personalities, Stella became a Cinderella without having to dress in finery or ride in a golden carriage. The more her imagination conjured fantastic sexual acts, the more followers she garnered.
It went to her head. Nothing was out of bounds or sacred anymore.
Stella is such an accomplished writer that unless you are sophisticated enough to understand the personal frustrations she channels through her phantasmagoria, you are bound to get caught up in the make-believe that she is a reincarnated actor on the set of Kama Sutra, sautéing her clitoris and eating it before a live audience. Most of her followers are not intellectually equipped to see beyond her imagery and can only marvel at her unrivaled quality of writing. The rest knowingly choose to enjoy the unfettered sexual adventures she takes them on regardless of whether they believe her or not.
But that’s only one side of Stella’s persona – the celebrity who posts fictional prurience for accolades on Facebook
In reality, Stella has revealed herself to be an intolerant, neurotic, mean, cantankerous battleaxe who is listening only to herself. That’s why the irony of haughtily “blocking” those who dare question her positions, even as she purports to be a tolerant human rights activist is lost on her; because she hears only her voice. She exhibits many of the characteristics of a very lonely person who desperately needs the anchor of a stable, adult, mind to rein in her worst instincts. Without that anchor (I think her parents provided this), she has become a loose cannon manipulating a gullible public for the main purpose of getting Facebook “likes.”
Stella Nyanzi really started letting the public into her mind following the death of her father. A case in point is when she revealed harrowing details of her mother’s miscarriage in the 1960s. Then she attacked her father’s relatives with graphic expletives for the slights she claimed they dealt her mother for having begat only girls. Most people would see this as grim stuff best left off Facebook, but most people are not Stella Nyanzi.
Stella now fights shamelessly – via Facebook – family battles traditionally fought in closed door meetings. “My maternal relatives you are scum for eyeing land that my mother rescued when one of you sold it,” she lashed out at her Mukono people publicly after her mother’s funeral a year after her father’s. “Auntie so and so you cheated my mother of proceeds from the sale of her land, she lambasted another.” “Uncle so and so you are an incestuous pedophile.” “Grandma so and so tomanyiira.” It is as ridiculous as it is below-stairs-class. It is also grossly unjust since the relatives don’t have a similar platform to respond to her bottom-of-the-barrel accusations.
Stella seems not to have anyone she respects anymore. Everyone is dispensable if they don’t see things from her point of view. She thus publicly dismisses anyone who will not acknowledge her omnipotence, including her closest relations. Facebook has given her a hammer and now everything and anyone she perceives as opposition is a nail. There is no public fight Stella Nyanzi will not join, and there is no private fight she will not fight publicly.
Bang! “You’re blocked!!” Bang! “Fuck you” Bang! “Tomanyiira” Bang! “You abused my son” … she now goes around merrily, self-importantly, and domineeringly meting out summary justice. She is relishing the role of judge, jury and executioner she has assumed on Facebook.
So, when analysts guess that Stella’s mind was upended by the death of her parents, they have figured out only part of the reality. The evidence shows that she was always spoiling to be someone important and she feels that Facebook finally gave her the platform. She will now do and say anything, including breaking through open doors by picking public fights with people and groups that don’t have anything against her, and whom she cannot reasonably have anything against, such as South Africa’s Jacob Zuma and the omnipresent but nebulous Gayaza High School’s morality brigade. The more contentious she is the more followers latch on to her page, after all, isn’t it?
Stella Nyanzi is big. Stella Nyanzi is the Queen Bee. Stella Nyanzi is the woman. Stella Nyanzi is also the man. Move over damn it, or else she will run you over.