Writers and poets have condemned the arrest of award-winning Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, held without charge for alleged offensive communication. Security forces arrested him earlier Tuesday this week after Kakwenza criticized the government.
Uganda Poets Association president Ronald Sekajja said Kakwenza’s arrest is intended to heighten fear among writers. Unknown Ugandan forces arrested the award-winning author on Tuesday after posting critical comments against President Museveni’s son, General Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
Sekajja said Kakwenza’s arrest shows that the government leaves little room for criticism.
“If anyone thinks this is abuse or insult, then charges need to be laid and they bring it to justice. I think our greatest concern as a community of writers is the way he is arrested and no charges are laid and he has been in detention, ”Sekajja said.
Kakwenza’s lawyer, Eron Kiiza, said the author was being held in a hidden interrogation center in Kampala.
“They claim he made offensive communications. They don’t give us any details about it. So, they accuse him of offensive communications. Of course we know him and the first son has had a conversation on Twitter.” , Kiiza said.
Kakwenza on Twitter called out Muhoozi, obese, drunk, cranky and the rotting corpse of a future president. Muhoozi is considered ready to succeed his father in the 2026 elections in Uganda. Kakwenza, winner of the 2021 PEN Prize for International Courage Writer, posted about his arrest on Facebook on Tuesday.
“Gunmen are breaking down my door,” he wrote. “They say they are police officers but are not in uniform. I locked myself inside.”
Makerere University professor and writer Stella Nyanzi said the author’s arrest shows Muhoozi to be just as intolerant of critics as his parents.
“The face of the enemy has changed. It is the first time that the first son has committed this kind of brutal arrest that his father and mother have known to make on writers. It’s no accident that Kakwenza writes as he does. It’s worrying to be isolated, ”she said.
Nyanzi herself was jailed in 2019 for writing a sexually explicit review of Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni. PEN International on Twitter condemned what he called “Kakwenza’s violent and unlawful arrest”, calling for his immediate release and expressing grave concern for his safety.
Ugandan security forces in 2020 detained and tortured Kakwenza, he said, for his book The Greedy Barbarian, which describes high-level corruption in a fictional country.
He was arrested a second time after writing the book Banana Republic, which detailed his allegations of torture at the hands of military intelligence. The Ugandan police spokesperson declined to comment on Kakwenza’s latest arrest, saying he was too busy to take calls.