Lawyers demand unconditional release of novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija

Lawyers demand unconditional release of novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija
Ugandan author of The Greedy Barbarian, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija is in custody

Kampala, Uganda  | URN | Lawyers representing Ugandan novelist and government critic Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, are demanding for his unconditional release.

Speaking to this publication on Wednesday 29, December 2021, the lawyers from Kiiza and Mugisha Advocates led by Eron Kiiza said, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was arrested on Tuesday 28th at around 4pm from his home in Kisaasi, a Kampala city suburb by armed men.

According to Kiiza, the unknown gunmen arrested Kakwenza by breaking into his house and driving him away in a vehicle. He adds that Kakwenza is currently detained at the Crime Intelligence Unit in Naguru Kampala.

Kiiza notes that there is no justification as to why he should be detained without having committed a crime.

The Police Force Spokesperson Fred Enanga said that he is yet to find the reason for Kakwenza’s arrest.

In 2020, Kakwenza was arrested twice in a space of six months. He was first arrested on April 13 from his home in Iganga district, allegedly by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and detained in Mbuya.

He was later charged with doing an act likely to spread an infectious disease following a post on his Facebook page related to COVID-19.

He was later granted bail but again arrested in September of the same year and his lawyers said it was in relation to his book titled “The Banana Republic”, in which he had written about his experience under CMI custody earlier.

He had also previously written a book titled, “The Greedy Barbarian” in which he talked about a greedy and incompetent dictator Kayibanda who clings to power for 43-years.

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In October 2021, Kakwenza was awarded as the Winner of International Writer of Courage at the PEN Pinter Prize function and this annual award is normally presented to a person who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs.

Kakwenza has since sued the government seeking compensation for infringement of his rights after he was illegally detained in 2020 where he was reportedly tortured and kept incommunicado. But his case is yet to be determined by the Civil Division of the High Court.

Uganda has suffered a series of crackdowns aimed at stamping out dissent, with journalists attacked, lawyers jailed, election monitors prosecuted and opposition leaders violently muzzled. 

The country’s best-known rights lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, who fled to the United States this year, criticised Rukirabashaija’s “violent unlawful arrest” and called for his release on Twitter.