Detained Ugandan author and Museveni critic freed on bail

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Award-winning Ugandan author and government critic, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, was freed on bail by a court on Tuesday after weeks in detention where his lawyer said he was tortured.

Kakwenza (33) is best-known for “The Greedy Barbarian,” a novel about greed and corruption in a fictional country that has been widely interpreted as a satire about President Yoweri Museveni.

Last year, Rukirabashaija won the PEN Pinter Prize for an “International Writer of Courage”.

Gunmen broke down his doors on December 28, 2021, and detained him incommunicado in an undisclosed location until January 11, 2022, when he was charged with “offensive communication” over tweets about Museveni and his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, a military general.

Many Ugandans believe Kainerugaba is being groomed to succeed his 77-year-old father who has held power since 1986.

“Given the circumstances of this case it is my considered view that it is not even necessary to consider expensive bail conditions,” magistrate Douglas Singiza ruled at a Kampalacourt.

He told Rukirabashaija to pay 500 000 Ugandan shillings ($142), deposit his passport and not comment on the matter in the media.


Rukirabashaija’s lawyer Eron Kiiza told Reuters he had shown signs of torture when security personnel took him to his house for an evidence search: marks on his legs and feet, vomiting and urinating blood.

In a letter to Rukirabashaija’s legal team, the prison service also said a medical examination found his body bore “healing scars on the back, the buttocks, thighs and hands” but that the wounds were sustained before he came into their custody.

Police and military spokespeople did not answer calls for comment.

The case has drawn condemnation from activists, diplomats and politicians in Uganda and abroad, including a US senator and senior European Union official.

In 2020, Rukirabashaija was interrogated for five days in the Ministry of Defence over whether “The Greedy Barbarian” is about Museveni.

He was beaten and chained, sustaining a damaged kidney, the author said afterward.

“I was like, tomorrow I will tell them anything because I am going to die,” he told Reuters at the time.