Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija during his live video bail hearing - January 2022
Photo by TINA SMOLE/AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images

Ugandan courts set Kakwenza Rukirabashaija free on bail this week before unidentified security forces "picked him up". His whereabouts are currently unknown.

Award-winning Ugandan author and activist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has been detained by men, "suspected to be military intelligence operatives", according to his lawyer, Eron Kiiza. Rukirabashaija was reportedly taken from his Kampala prison, hours after he had been granted bail for his December 28 arrest over tweets he posted about Ugandan ruler Yoweri Museveni and his son, Muhoozi Kaunerugaba. His lawyer says that he arrived at the prison to deliver his client's release order, and was told that Rukirabashaija had been "picked up by unknown people". Neither the government or relevant security forces have given word on the author's location or well-being.


Rukirabashaija was charged on January 11 with "disturbing the peace" of Museveni and his son, after posting a number og inflaming tweets where the author described Kaunerugaba as "obese" and "an incompetent pig-headed curmudgeon". Rukirabashija took aim at the president's son as he sets himself up to take over his 77-year-old father's role as dictator of the East African nation.

The acclaimed author has a tumultuous history with the Ugandan government. His 2020 novel, The Greedy Barbarian, details themes of high-level corruption in a fictional country, while Banana Republic: Where Writing is Treasonous, recalls the torture Rukirabashija was subjected to during his 2020 period of detention. Both bodies of work act as direct objections towards ruler Museveni and his government's authoritarian tendencies. In 2021, he was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage.

On December 28, Rukirabashaija wrote on his Facebook account, "I'm under house arrest. Men with guns are breaking my door. They say they're policemen but are not in uniform," he said. "I've locked myself inside." After his latest stint in detention, the author's lawyer, Eron Kiiza detailed the torture and abuse Rukirabashija was subjected to while in police custody. In an affidavit shared with a Ugandan court, the author's wife detailed wounds she had seen on his feet, and Rukirabashija told her that he had more on his back and buttocks and that he had been deprived of food. Rukirabashija was to return to his family before his Tuesday disappearance.

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