Each year, Solidarity Uganda awards strategic, courageous, and progressive members of society for their contributions toward social and political change. There are two awards. The first is the Activist of the Year Award, given to an activist in Uganda for front line work on liberating Uganda from the grip of oppression. The second is the Community Organizer of the Year Award, given to an organizer who has mobilized many to practice collective nonviolent civil resistance. In this pioneer year of the Solidarity Uganda Awards, we are proud to announce Dr. Stella Nyanzi as the recipient of the 2018 Activist of the Year Award.
Dr. Nyanzi has embodied the very essence of a brave activist. She is not afraid to stand alone against any injustice. Where others are passive or resigned, she persists against her opponents head-on. Dr. Nyanzi remains true to her own values, refusing bail and forcing the head of state to answer for the cowardly act of suing someone while refusing to appear in court to testify. We would have liked to celebrate Dr. Nyanzi with the general public, but cannot do so because of her ongoing incarceration without proper judicial proceedings. Dr. Nyanzi is not only fearless, but also exemplifies a new era of intersectional activism – an activism that does not spare patriarchy, heteronormativity, gerontocracy, and religion while going up against more overtly political forms of oppression like despotism and kleptocracy. She has taught us that dictatorship negatively affects the day-to-day life of young girls, and that struggling for political liberation overlaps with building the power, confidence, and freedom of the young, the sick, and others who are systemically neglected. This is a woman who is true to herself even when passive and conservative segments of society defame her. She has leveraged her privilege on behalf of others in ways most of us would not, and she has shed a light on her oppression and our shared oppression in ways most of us would fear. She is an inspiration to us all.
You probably know or have heard that Dr. Stella rejected bail so she is in the Luzira Prison awaiting her verdict. This is where we found her when we visited her and presented the award. Together with our allies from across the country we had a solidarity visit to Dr Stella Nyanzi. One would expect her to be discouraged and downhearted but no, she is strong, vibrant and not giving up any time soon. She was reinvigorated knowing there are many people who believe in and with her. It is people like Dr. Stella that encourage us in the struggle against the tyranny that flows in our country.
Also receiving an award in this pioneer year of the Solidarity Uganda awards is Mr. Denis Komakech. He is the recipient of the 2018 Community Organizer of the Year Award.
Organizers rarely receive the credit they do. They rarely inhabit the spotlight, yet are the movers and shakers of world history. They are scorned by family, neighbors, and friends for their relentless commitments to helping others – often whole communities – build their power. Denis Komakech is a brilliant example of what it means to be a community organizer. A resident of Amuru, he coordinated a 33-day, 234-person occupation of a United Nations office in Gulu that had refused to call upon the Ugandan government to stop violence and land grabbing by security forces in the village of Apaa. Mr. Komakech not only participated in the occupation, but was at times the occupation’s only link to families and allies on the outside. He raised support from market people, well-wishers, and organizations in the form of equipment, foodstuffs, and money. He campaigned day and night, in both clandestine and above ground ways. He left his own farms untended to struggle with his neighbors for their rights and continues to sacrifice his time, energy, and resources for Amuru, where violent attacks associated with large-scale land grabbing have resumed. Any youth, middle-aged person, or elderly person should look to Mr. Komakech as a brave and strategic inspiration. He knows what it means to build power together with others to achieve a common goal. He is the yeast in the bread that causes all other ingredients to rise to their potential.
We congratulate the winners of both of these awards and look to them for leadership and guidance as we pursue building the power of people in our Uganda.