Kakwenza Rukirabashaija. Photo: Facebook.
Sometime in April 2020 when Uganda was under total lockdown by dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s regime because of Covid-19 pandemic. I was brutally arrested by Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) gun wielding officers who besieged my home like I was a terrorist hiding rocket launchers and grenades. Ten of them pulled me from my house with my computer and novels, and took me to Mbuya Military Barracks where I was subjected to harrowing torture for the whole week.
In the course of interrogating me about the fictitious characters in my debut Novel, “The Greedy Barbarian,” about a corrupt African dictator, I was waterboarded, beaten, chained and forced to spend the entire night standing with my feet barely touching the ground, and even ordered to eat feces.
My lawyers, friends and family were denied access to the Military Barracks, and upon issuance of Writ of Habeas Corpus by the High Court in Kampala, six military men drove me from Kampala and secretly committed me to a Magistrate’s court in Iganga where I was bogusly charged with spreading Covid19.
I could hardly move by myself because of the beating and hanging. I was urinating blood. I was thereupon denied bail and sent on remand to a poorly ventilated and abnormally congested Busesa government prison that has no running water. Though the Magistrate saw the sickly condition I was in, he could not grant me bail because he sensed that the brutes would re-arrest me again because of their presence in the Court precincts. I was rather safe in the ramshackle of a gazetted prison rather than being re-arrested again by Museveni’s intelligence agency thugs.
In August, Justice Yunus Ndiwalana the Magistrate Grade One discharged me for lack of prosecution. I had been frequenting court twice a month but my tormentors had never showed up for the commencement of the hearing process. I asked the judge to discharge me on the grounds that my personal liberty had been infringed and the state was politically and financially harassing me. The prayers were granted without much ado and I went home marching with a discharge certificate.
By September, I had finished narrating my whole torture ordeal in another book, “Banana Republic Where Writing is Treasonous.” No sooner had I planned to publish it than the CMI hoodlums wielding machine guns and snipers came back and pulled me out of my bed at 6 AM in the morning and took me back to the torture chamber where I spent three days until I was released on police bond with more bogus charges of inciting violence and promoting sectarianism. I wonder how narrating my ordeal in a CMI dungeon in a book contravenes any law? They expected me to remain quiet about being tortured when Ugandan human rights lawyers, the U.S. State Department, and PEN International had also all demanded my release?
I was ordered to report to the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) every Monday in Kampala the capital even though I lived almost 75 miles away. When the cost of commuting became too expensive I begged a CID officer to allow me to report regularly at a police station closer to my home. In response I was threatened with arrest.
I need about 150,000 shillings or $42 for fuel—a huge sum considering national income is under $800—every time I traveled to honor the stupid Police bond requirements. I had no choice but to become recalcitrant since I was depleting my pockets. The government I pay taxes to was making me poorer by forcing me to spend money on stupid bail requirements even though I was the victim of torture, and the government was the criminal. Who would keep obeying such stupid conditions? Not me, the son of Rukungiri.
Later in December, the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) wrote to the Magistrate’s Court at Iganga and asked that my case which had been discharged, be reinstated. The Museveni government claimed that there was overwhelming evidence and dozens of witnesses ready to testify against me in the bogus case. I was commanded– through a letter which was dropped at my home– to appear before the Grade One Magistrate Court at Iganga and I adhered to the same.
My tormentors still never showed up in Court and the Magistrate would keep adjourning the matter for several months. This is the regime that wants to be taken seriously by the world.
Last Monday, May 17, Ndiwalana, the Grade One Magistrate discharged me of my tormentor’s rubbish. He noted, in a public court, that the government is not prosecuting but persecuting me.
Imagine dictator Museveni once claimed he had launched his guerrilla war and seized power in order to end these types of abuses and even worse, the extrajudicial killings that have once again become staple in Uganda.
Kakwenza Rukirabashaija is a torture victim, novelist, and Human Rights activist. Reach him at [email protected]