In October 2011, the Ugandan government sent Ingrid Turinawe to the infamous Luzira Prison–Uganda’s Guantánamo–for the treasonable act of walking to work. This week, the State, again, attacked Turinawe and other women activists for the “crime” of standing, speaking out, driving, and generally being. Big mistake.

In Uganda, on Friday, the police attacked Ingrid Turinawe. She was in her car, driving to a protest meeting. The police dragged Turinawe out of her car, and in full view of smart phones and video cameras, groped and mauled her. They haven’t apologized nor have they ‘explained’. Basically, the attitude is that it’s Ingrid Turinawe’s fault. Women who pursue democracy and autonomy must learn to expect State sexual terrorism. In patriarchal circles, it’s called the ‘price of freedom’, or, more simply, the ticket in.

Women of Uganda refused that lesson. Instead, they took to the streets. They organized. Today, they protested, stripping off their tops, the police attacked, and six women were detained. As Barbara Allimadi, one of the organizers, explained: “We were there to show we’ve had enough, we will not tolerate this kind of behavior.” Others agreed: “We respect our bodies and we expect to be respected.”

But events in Kampala are not without precedent. Remember Mali? “When the protest movement of Malian women erupted in the town of Kati on January 30, few took notice.” That was the spark that kindled the flame that fed the fire that toppled the State that Touré built. Ok, maybe that’s a bit fast and loose with details, but the processes were set in motion by women’s protest that went largely ignored. (They weren’t ignored by Nina Wallet Intalou, the ‘pasionaria indépendantiste’ of the Tuareg movement in exile, and they weren’t ignored by women’s movements within Mali.) And of course, when not ignored, poorly reported, at least in the Anglophone press.

And remember the women’s protests in Malawi? Also in January. Those were in response to assaults on women wearing trousers, in public marketplaces in Lilongwe and Blantyre. First, women organized and protested, and then more and more people began seeing the violence against those women as part of a larger problem, a problem of State. Again, this is a bit quick, and it cannot be said that women caused the death of Mutharika. Nevertheless, Malawi now has a new President, Joyce Banda.

As South African women say, “You strike a woman, you strike a rock.”

Further Reading

The entitlement of Bola Tinubu

The Nigerian presidential candidate’s claim of ’emi lokan’ (it’s my turn) reveals complex ethnic politics and a stagnated democracy. Most responses to it, humor and rumor, reflect how Nigerians enact democratic citizenship.

Father of the nation

The funeral of popular Angolan musician Nagrelha underscored his capacity to mobilize people and it reminds us that popular culture offers a kind of Rorschach test for the body politic.

A city divided

Ethnic enclaves are not unusual in many cities and towns across Sudan, but in Port Sudan, this polarized structure instigated and facilitated communal violence.

The imperial forest

Gregg Mitman’s ‘Empire of Rubber’ is less a historical reading of Liberia than a history of America and racial capitalism through the lens of a US corporate giant.

Africa’s next great war

The international community’s limited attention span is laser-focused on jihadism in the Sahel and the imploding Horn of Africa. But interstate war is potentially brewing in the eastern DRC.

The Cape Colony

The campaign to separate South Africa’s Western Cape from the rest of the country is not only a symptom of white privilege, but also of the myth that the province is better run.

Between East Africa and the Gulf

Political encounters between the Arab Gulf and Africa span centuries. Mahmud Traouri’s novel ‘Maymuna’ demonstrates the significant role of a woman’s journey from East Africa to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


It’s not common knowledge that there is Iran in Africa and there is Africa in Iran. But there are commonplace signs of this connection.

It could happen to us

Climate negotiations have repeatedly floundered on the unwillingness of rich countries, but let’s hope their own increasing vulnerability instills greater solidarity.