Kakwenza Rukirabashaija is a Ugandan Lawyer and Novelist. His new book, The Savage Avenger, was internationally launched in June 2023. He is the author of The Greedy Barbarian, a novel which explores themes of high-level corruption in a fictional country, and Banana Republic: Where Writing is Treasonous, an account of the torture he was subjected to while in detention in 2020.
On 14 June 2023, he received the prestigious Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) at a ceremony in Oslo. In 2021, he was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage and in 2022, nominated for the Disturbing Peace Award which recognizes distinguished courageous writers who have suffered unjust persecution. On January 11, 2021, he was appointed Honorary Member of PEN Germany and a member of PEN Berlin since June 2023. He is currently exiled in Germany where he is writing more social protest literature as a scholar of PEN-Zentrum Germany.
He was arrested at his home by officers from the Ugandan Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) on 13 April 2020. He was held for seven days, during which time he was blindfolded, held in solitary confinement, and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, including torture. The interrogation centered on his novel The Greedy Barbarian, which explores themes of high-level corruption in a fictional country and includes characters in the political and military establishment. His subsequent work, Banana Republic: Where Writing is Treasonous, is an account of the torture he was subjected to during this time.
On 20 April 2020, Rukirabashaija was brought before the Iganga Magistrate Court in Eastern Uganda and charged with trumped up charges of ‘doing an act likely to spread the infection of COVID. He was remanded in custody to Busesa government prison.
Months later, following the failure of the state to appear before the Court to argue the case for a period of six months, the case was dismissed and Rukirabashaija was discharged. However, several months later, the prosecution reinstated the charge, claiming readiness to prosecute and present witnesses.
On 18 September 2020, Rukirabashaija was arrested again at his home in Iganga District, Kigulu County, by officers from the CMI and detained for three days in violation of Ugandan law, which requires that arrested persons be charged in court within 48 hours of their arrest.
On 21 September 2020, he was released on police bond, pending investigation for the offense of ‘inciting violence and promoting sectarianism through his new book, Banana Republic. In May 2021, the Magistrate Court discharged the reinstated case against Rukirabashaija, due to non-appearance of the complainant.
On 28th December 2021, his house in Kampala was surrounded by 20 Special Forces Command (SFC) soldiers who used sledge hammers to break into and he was beaten, arrested and taken to the military barracks where he was mutilated and his ankles fractured. With the help of Eron Kiiza, his lawyer, the court ordered that he be produced in court.
Orders were ignored by his captors until after 14 days when he was smuggled into Buganda Road Court while oozing pus from deep dermatological ulcerations from mutilation, and body joints swollen from severe beatings. He was charged with disturbing the peace of the president, Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, and offensive communication against the commander of land forces, Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who is the president’s son. illegally remanded to Kitalya Mini Max prison where he spent 13 days.
Upon securing bail, Rukirabashaija’s passport was confiscated by the court presided over by Dr. Douglas Singiza, and was denied exiting the country to the USA for medication. He fled through a porous border to a third country where PEN-Germany rescued him and enabled him to fly to Germany without a passport.
Several arrest warrants have been issued by the court against Rukirabashaija should he step in the country again.
THE SAVAGE AVENGER
Kakwenza’s new book with a foreword by Helen Epstein and an afterword by Milton Allimadi will be launched internationally in June 2023.
THE GREEDY BARBARIAN
The third edition of the printed version of Kakwenza’s bestseller was published in January 2023. Now available worldwide.
For this book, novelist Kakwenza was honored with the 2021 PEN International Writer of Courage Award. Available worldwide.