KAMPALA, UGANDA – A Ugandan writer and critic of the government has been arrested for the second time this year, according to his lawyer. The lawyer says the move was prompted by an unpublished manuscript that details the writer’s arrest, detention and alleged torture in April by military personnel.
Security personnel thought to be from Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military intelligence stormed Kakwenza Rukirabashaija’s home Friday morning and took him into custody.
“He has been arrested this morning at 6:30, for continuing to write,” Rukirabashaija’s lawyer, Eron Kiiza, told VOA in a phone interview. “Because he has been promising to publish the new book, ‘Banana Republic,’ that recounts his previous torture in April. And they arrested him in the presence of his wife and also in the presence of the chairman of the area.”
Rukirabashaija was taken into custody in April over a fiction book titled “The Greedy Barbarian.” The book describes a young man who leaves the countryside, rises to power and is overtaken by greed and ego, leading to his demise.
Many saw it as a commentary on President Yoweri Museveni.
Rukirabashaija spent seven days in military custody. Upon his release, he started drafting another book, “The Banana Republic,” in which he details his arrest, detention and alleged torture.
In the draft, partly shared with VOA, he recounts what he describes as horrendous and indescribable torture while in custody.
He writes that one day, an officer kicked him off a toilet and then pushed his face inside the bowl.
He says the officer “then reached for the keys in his pocket and chained me on the bars that were out of the toilet wall, and I spent the night there, praying to God. Writing is not a crime. It is not a crime to be creative.”
Danson Kahyana, president of the Uganda chapter of Pen International, a writers’ association, said Rukirabashaija’s arrest is a clear message from government to writers that they will not tolerate dissenting and critical voices.
“By the time they even reach that level of arresting you for a book that has not yet come out, I think it shows that we have really lost it,” Kahyana said. “We are supposed to be governed. And governing does not mean oppression. It’s really unfortunate to see that we are going back to the dark days that Museveni supposedly liberated us from.”
VOA reached out to branches of the army and police for comment. The officials contacted said they have no information on the writer’s alleged arrest.