Lecturer strips to her underwear in protest

By Mel Frykberg Time of article published Apr 19, 2016

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Kampala - A leading Ugandan university is trying to get to the bottom of a confrontation between a respected visiting Harvard University Professor and a Ugandan female research fellow who stripped down to her underwear in protest at being locked out of her office.

The Vice-Chancellor of Kampala’s Makerere University, Prof John Dduma-Ssentamu, has formed a five-member ad-hoc committee, which has until Friday to investigate the circumstances surrounding Dr Stella Nyanzi’s decision, first to chain herself to a railing, and later to strip down to her knickers on Monday, reports The Daily Monitor.

Nyanzi’s antics, which have caused a furore among students and university staff and frenetic discussion on social media, follows her much-publicised run-in with tenured academic and Harvard Professor Mahmood Mamdani who is Makerere University’s Institute of Social Research director.

Nyanzi reportedly clashed with Mamdani after she refused to teach on his PhD programme which she says was not in her contract.

Following her refusal, Mamdani served Nyanzi with an eviction letter instructing her to vacate her office at the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR). She was locked out of her office shortly thereafter.

Mamdani said Nyanzi had not only backtracked on her commitment to teach doctoral students but also accused Nyanzi, and some of her colleagues, of using the university as an address to do external work for private gain without leaving anything of intellectual value behind.

During her protest, a visibly angry Nyanzi shouted obscenities.

She called Mamdani a “bully, an oppressor … and not God”, and cited the recent unceremonious departures of some of her colleagues, reported The Daily Monitor.

A number of Makerere University academics have expressed concern over working conditions at the MISR, including staff reporting and assignment structures, and non-members occupying the institute’s space.

However, they are also concerned over the Nyanzi-Mamdani feud and the damage it is causing to the prestigious university’s international reputation.

University officials then reopened Nyanzi’s office in a bid to defuse tensions, but that was after Mamdani claimed Ssentamu had said Nyanzi would be sent on a month’s forced leave, a claim Ssentamu categorically denied.

Ssentamu is a close relative of Nyanzi’s and Mamdani stated that the vice president should relieve himself of this conflict of interest.

The Harvard professor added that he would be happy to resign from the university if the unceremonious events were not impartially investigated.

This is not Mamdani’s first term at Makarere. He previously taught there from 1980 to 1993.

Nyanzi, meanwhile, is not only unrepentant but has a reputation as an intellectual and a sexually provocative firebrand.

An ardent supporter of Ugandan opposition leader, Dr Kizze Besigye, from the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, Nyanzi made sexually explicit threats, during the run-up to February’s presidential elections, if incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, from the ruling National Resistance Party (NRM), was re-elected.

Nyanzi is a medical anthropologist - with a doctorate in ethnographic fieldwork of youth sexuality, sexual and reproductive health in The Gambia - from the University of London, reported The Monitor.

– African News Agency

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