UGANDA – Dr Stella Nyanzi, a Makerere University researcher, has sued the state, five months after she was stopped at Entebbe International airport, from travelling to the Netherlands.
Nyanzi was stopped on March 19, 2017 and interrogated at length by detectives over her acerbic Facebook posts against both President Museveni and First Lady Janet Museveni.
In her suit filed on July 28, 2017, Nyanzi through the Center For Legal Aid (CLA), challenges government’s actions of clandestinely placing her name on a “no-fly list,” confiscating her passport on March 19 and subsequently ignoring her administrative complaint about her mistreatment at Entebbe International airport.
She asserts that such actions infringe on her fundamental human rights and freedoms protected by several articles in the Constitution.
According to Nyanzi, on March 19 at 2am, or thereabouts, immigration officers at Entebbe International airport gratuitously intercepted her while she was clearing her flight and blocked her from leaving for Amsterdam, the Netherlands via Nairobi; where she was expected to attend an international scholarly conference.
She says during the fracas her passport was confiscated at the scene by the immigration officers. Stupefied, Nyanzi said she abandoned her journey at 4:30am after her flight left.
“The applicant [Nyanzi] was embarrassed to learn from immigration officers that they were acting on information and instructions issued by the respondent’s [Attorney General] Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) banning the applicant from leaving the country allegedly because government had put her name on a no-fly list,” the suit partly reads, adding,
“The conduct of various government officials during and after the applicant’s ordeal of March 19, 2017 confirmed these allegations.”
Subsequently, Nyanzi, a harsh government social media critic, currently battling criminal charges at Buganda Road court, for allegedly referring to President Museveni as a “pair of buttocks” on Facebook, says barring her from travel abroad was done in bad faith because she was not the subject of a valid court order banning her from leaving the country.
Besides, she says she had responded to all criminal summons issued against her by the state’s law enforcement officers prior to the fateful day and she was given no indication of a travel ban.
“As a result, the applicant’s employment prospects and existing professional standing have been impaired as she cannot under prevailing circumstances fulfill any commitments involving travel abroad. The impugned blockade has not only stigmatized and cast the applicant as a fugitive attempting to escape justice in her own country but also prevented her from expanding and strengthening her international academic, political and civil society networks,” the plaint reads in part.
She says the state will continue to wantonly violate her rights and make life generally unbearable for not only her but also her loved ones, including her children.
This according to her will be done through various unlawful actions including ostracizing her, stigmatizing her, humiliating her, grounding her like a child and crippling her economically.
She wants court to issue an order directing the state to refund all the expenses she incurred during the botched trip such as: transport expenses she incurred travelling to and from Entebbe International airport and the Schengen visa fees, return air-tickets fees and accommodation booking fees.
Nyanzi wants court to issue a permanent injunction restraining the state and its agents from continuing to block her from leaving and returning to Uganda without due process.