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Kakwenza Rukirabashaija Author Giving Museveni Sleepless Nights

4 Min Read

What goes on around Uganda and among Ugandans is not a secrete- new comers only need to listen to local music, talk on streets and a quick chat with Ugandans to understand this country.

In any Ugandan local music, there are messages on concerns of endemic corruption, excesses by security officers, thuggery, brutality and limited freedoms especially when one isn’t singing along with the regime.

For example, you may get arrested for just saying you aren’t supportive of the first son Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba seeking election as president of Uganda even though he has not officially declared any interest.

For a doctor protesting on the street seeking pay rise leads to arrest and detention including termination from employment.

But there is a Ugandan creative novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija- this man authored a simple book narrating daily life of Ugandans. The book titled ‘The Greedy Barbarian’ prompted military intelligence agents to pluck him out of his house and dumped him into an unventilated filthy detention dungeon.

Rukirabashaija has suffered horrendous torture including burning, removal of his nails and going hungry for days plus beating all because his narrative stories decry of the ugly life under the President Yoweri Museveni regime.

The novel The Greedy Barbarian, which takes on themes of high-level corruption in a fictional country. He was arrested on 13 April 2020 in Uganda, and held for seven days, during which time he was interrogated about his fiction and subjected to torture.

Later on Rukirabashaija relased another book titled Banana Republic: Where Writing is Treasonous. He was arrested and charged with “inciting violence and promoting sectarianism”.

According to Rukirabashaija, “In Africa, when you write fiction, especially political fiction, such as the political allegory Animal Farm by George Orwell, the leaders will always think that one is writing about them. Of course, every dictator will suspect that the writer meant to embarrass him,” Rukirabashaija wrote.

“Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, felt that it was him that I had written about and so he sent his hoodlums to arrest and torture me in order to hamper my creativity. The idea was to completely stop me from being creative.”

Towards the end of December, Rukirabashaija was again arrested without charge for alleged offensive communication.

Rukirabashaija’s lawyer Eron Kiiza says the author is being held at a hidden interrogation facility in Kampala.

“They are claiming he made some offensive communication. They are not giving us details of those. So, they are charging him with offensive communication. Of course, we know him and the first son have had some exchange on Twitter,” Kiiza said.

Rukirabashaija on Twitter called Museveni’s son, Lt. General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, obese, drunk, bad-tempered for a future president.

“Men with guns are breaking my door,” he wrote. “They say they are policemen but are not in uniform. I’ve locked myself inside.”

Kainerugaba seemed to take credit for the arrest. He posted on Twitter, “I want the arrest of Kakwenza Rukira (Rukirabashaija) to be a lesson to all those who think they can abuse me on social media and walk away scot free.”

Last year, Rukirabashaija was named the International Writer of Courage by Tsitsi Dangarembga a Zimbabwean writer and activist. She chose Rukirabashaija as (2021 PEN Pinter winner ) the International Writer of Courage, an award for an author who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs, with whom she will share her prize.