EU, US Issue Tough Warnings Against ‘Untouchable’ Uganda Leaders Over Novelist Kakwenza’s Detention

EU, US Issue Tough Warnings Against ‘Untouchable’ Uganda Leaders Over Novelist Kakwenza’s Detention

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By Spy Uganda

Kampala: Uganda continues to face international pressure mainly from the European Union (EU) and the US among other human rights bodies tasking the government to immediately release novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija who has been in detention for over 10 days, allegedly over his criticism of the president and his son.

Kakwenza has been in custody since Dec. 28, accused of what the police called offensive communication.

Rukirabashaija, who writes satirical fiction, has been detained twice before over his work highlighting the failures of the government of President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s leader since 1986.

Court has ordered twice Rukirabashaija’s unconditional release this week, but Ugandan security officials have not complied with the order.

His lawyer Eron Kiiza said Rukirabashaija looked visibly weak and could barely sit down in his bloodied clothes when he was returned to his house on Monday for a search.

Now, in a tweet this week, Eamon Gilmore, the EU special representative for human rights, condemned Kakwenza’s arrest and urged the government authorities to release him immediately.

“Uganda: I’m alarmed by reports of alleged torture and incommunicado detention of author [Rukirabashaija Kakwenza]. He remains in detention without trial, despite a court order for his unconditional release. I urge Ugandan authorities to uphold rule of law and due process,”  he tweeted.

Mr Gilmore’s concerns were shared by Ms Maria Håkansson, the ambassador of Sweden to Uganda, who expressed “full support” for the EU representative.

The EU delegation to Uganda, which manages the “EU-Uganda relations, programmes and activities” also supported the call in response.

Mr Gilmore, a former deputy prime minister, and minister of foreign affairs of Ireland, is charged with enhancing the presence, effectiveness and visibility of EU human rights policy in the EU external actions.

Jim Risch, a member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a Twitter post said the writer’s detention is among “new & troubling examples” of Ugandan authorities’ efforts to suppress dissent.

Also, the U.S. Embassy in Uganda called for Rukirabashaija’s release, saying on Twitter that civil society, human rights defenders, journalists and others “all play critical roles in a democratic society & should be able to carry out their work free of harassment.”

According to Kiiza Eron, Rukirabashaija is in the hands of the Special Forces Command, an army unit that protects the first family. He said a series of Twitter posts by Rukirabashaija had apparently angered Museveni and his son, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who commands Uganda’s infantry forces.

In the tweets, Rukirabashaija described Museveni as an election thief and Kainerugaba as overweight and “intellectually bankrupt” soldier who hopes to succeed his father as president.

“They keep moving him around,” Kiiza said of the security forces. “They have defied court orders to release him, of course with impunity.”

Rukirabashaija last year was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize for an international writer of courage. English PEN, a human rights organization for writers, said in a statement that it was “gravely concerned” about the Ugandan author’s detention.

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