How Ugandan government critic Kakwenza Rukirabashaija fled the country

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

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Satirical novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija on Wednesday 9th fled Uganda to Europe in a manner that left people wondering how he was able to travel unchallenged by security and without his passport.

Kakwenza had deposited his passport with Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court where he was given bail on charges of offensive communication and passport withheld as one of the conditions to ensure that he doesn’t abscond from the trial by running away.

However, at around 6pm on Wednesday 9th, his lawyer Samuel Wanda told this publication that his client had left the country to Europe to seek treatment for the torture injuries that he sustained during the time he was in detention.

This was immediately after Kakwenza had appended his signature on the court documents that they were reinstituting afresh at Buganda Road Court seeking orders to quash his trial and to refer the file containing details of his charges to the High Court for it to determine whether he was tortured or.

But Wanda declined to reveal the circumstances under which Kakwenza had moved out of Uganda.

In an online interview with Kakwenza over how he fled, he told this publication that he used road transport from Kampala to sneak into Rwanda via the porous borders where he outwitted security and entered without being noticed and after entering Rwanda, he reportedly used road transport again to sneak into Burundi.

Kakwenza claimed that when he reached Burundi’s border, he declared himself as a refugee and presented his national identification card he was then allowed entry into the country and he got travel documents from there.

Upon gaining access into Burundi, Kakwenza narrates that he went to Bujumbura International Airport, flew to Malawi using his South African passport and is currently about to fly to Johannesburg abode South Africa Airlines.

Asked how he acquired a South African passport, Kakwenza indicated that he lived in South Africa for so long and when he was there, he was able to acquire their passport.

An immigration expert explained that a passport usually enables holders to travel, and is not always proof of or claim to citizenship.

“Right now I’m stuck which country to go to. Either Germany, Denmark, Canada or USA. I have direct access. But I’m here trying to make a choice,” Kakwenza told our reporter.

Although Kakwenza says that he will be flying back to Uganda via Entebbe International Airport after getting treatment, sources say that he was red-flagged at Entebbe and all the known official border entry/exit points of Uganda such that he doesn’t get out of the country and be arrested if at all he dares step there with intentions of leaving the country.

It is not clear whether upon return before the time for appearing in court he will be penalized if he hasn’t absconded from court.

Trouble for Kakwenza started on December 28, 2021, when he was arrested from his home in Kisaasi, a Kampala suburb, and held incommunicado until January 11, 2022, when he was produced in court on two cases of offensive communication.

According to the Prosecutors, Kakwenza used his Twitter handle @KakwenzaRukira to post a series of tweets about President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his son Lt General Muhoozi Kainerugaba with no purpose of legitimate communication.

In one of the tweets, Kakwenza refers to the President as an election thief and in another, he calls Lt. Gen. Muhoozi overweight and intellectually bankrupt.

The prosecutors argue that the communication was willfully and repeatedly used to disturb the peace of the president and his son.

But Kakwenza indicates that while in the custody, he was allegedly tortured by the Special Forces Command under the orders of Lt General Kainerugaba and he presents visible wounds on all his body parts except his head.

'Tortured' Ugandan novelist Kakwenza flees into exile, says lawyer
Ugandan novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija displays scars on his back that he claims were inflicted while he was tortured for weeks in detention, at a house in Kampala, Uganda on Feb. 8, 2022

It’s also yet to be verified whether Kakwenza was aided to move in those countries or if he indeed created his own path.

Read Also: ‘Tortured’ Ugandan novelist Kakwenza flees into exile, says lawyer

In the past years, several people opposed to the leadership of President  Yoweri Kaguta Museveni including his rival  Col Dr. Kizza Besigye and General David Sejusa the former Coordinator of Intelligence Services fled the country for their own safety but later returned to the country even when Museveni is still the sitting President of Uganda.

Dr Besigye fled complaining over constant harassment by CMI agents under the command of the late Brigadier Noble Mayombo while Sejjusa fled after ordering an investigation of a possible sinister plot to neutralize people who might stand in the way of Muhoozi seeking to become president.