A student at Harvard University is suing Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for blocking him on Twitter after he referred to him as a “dictator” and urged him to step down.
Hillary Innocent Taylor Seguya claims that by blocking him, Museveni has barred him from partaking in online conversation and is infringing his right against discrimination as guaranteed in the country’s constitution.
Seguya also wants a permanent injunction restraining government spokesman Ofwono Opondo and the Police Director of Political Commissariat Asan Kasingye from blocking him on their Twitter handles.
In his legal complaint, filed on Monday and published by the Guardian, Seguya said: “The[ir] actions did not protect my freedom against political persecution and [restricted my] rights, which are acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.”
He has petitioned the civil division of the high court in Kampala, alleging Museveni’s decision to block him as cowardly, illegal, procedurally improper, unreasonable and irrational.
In comments reported by All Africa, he said: “As a Ugandan citizen living abroad, I am only capable of getting information relating to country’s governance and communicate to the respective officers including the President through their respective Twitter handles.”
It comes a month after US President Donald Trump was found to have violated the First Amendment when he blocked critics to silence a viewpoint.
Trump was sued by seven individuals blocked by Trump after criticising his policies on Twitter. It was ruled that Trump’s daily pronouncements and observations were overwhelmingly official in nature, despite the president’s lawyers arguing his account is a personal one, created in 2009, long before he became president and should thus be treated as his personal property. Trump is appealing the decision.
This month also saw a Ugandan court jail a prominent academic for 18 months on cyber harassment charges from a Facebook post which included sexually-explicit criticism of President Museveni.
Stella Nyanzi, a university lecturer and researcher who once called Museveni “a pair of buttocks”, shouted vulgarities, flashed her breasts and gave a double middle finger gesture on several occasions during her sentencing.
Her offence stemmed from a Facebook post last year in which she said she wished Museveni, 74, had been burned up by the “acidic pus” in his mother’s birth canal.
Joan Nyanyuki, director for East Africa at human rights pressure group Amnesty International, said: “This verdict is outrageous and flies in the face of Uganda’s obligations to uphold the right to freedom of expression ... and demonstrates the depths of the government’s intolerance of criticism.”
“The Ugandan authorities must scrap the Computer Misuse Act... which has been used systematically to harass, intimidate and stifle government critics,” Nyanyuki said.
Critics say Museveni, in power since 1986, is becoming increasingly intolerant of dissent as resistance to his rule grows.