Author Rukirabashaija. Photo: Facebook.
A leading Ugandan author, PEN International honoree, and Black Star News columnist who has been tortured in the past by the Gen. Yoweri Museveni has once again been arrested.
Rukirabashaija had earlier at about 9 AM U.S. Eastern Standard Time posted on his Facebook page: “I’m under house arrest. Men with guns are breaking my door. They say they’re policemen but are not in uniform. I’ve locked myself inside.”
The armed men subsequently broke into Rukirabashaija’s home and took him away to an undisclosed location. His lawyer, Eron Kiiza, confirmed the arrest.
Rukirabashaija who writes a weekly column for Black Star News is the author of Greedy Barbarian, a novel about a corrupt African despot. He was arrested by Gen. Museveni’s secret police and severely tortured after the book was published, an incident widely condemned including by the U.S. State Department. After his release, Rukirabashaija wrote a second book “Banana Republic, Where Writing Is Treasonous,” relating his harrowing torture by Uganda’s Chieftain of Military Intelligence (CMI) agents whose commander Gen. Abel Kandiho was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.
On June 11, Rukirabashaija was named International Writer of Courage by PEN International. After receiving the award at the British Library in Uganda, Rukirabashaija wrote: “This is not just because I have been Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s critic for 21 years, but for having the courage to narrate the harrowing ordeal of torture that I suffered upon publishing my debut novel, The Greedy Barbarian. Instead of running away from my country despite my tormentors still being around and in power, I lived to tell the ugly tale of torture in my book, Banana Republic. I boldly wrote my story without fear as a solace that the pen is mightier than the sword..”
The question on everyone’s mouth is why does the regime keep arresting Kakwenza? This is his third arrest in the past year; Gen. Museveni’s junta fails to realize that arresting the man will not silence his pen.
That’s because Kakwenza represents every free-thinking Ugandan who feels it their duty to speak truth to the unacceptable face of power. This is precisely why Kakwenza keeps finding himself being persecuted: the regime does not want to encourage free thought because that would lead to free association and free expression, two essential pillars of freedom. The third is the courage to associate or express oneself freely, regardless of the consequences.
So when the state arrests Kakwenza, it sends a message to the rest of us that we should not dare associate or express ourselves freely.
This message has the multiplier effect of reminding us that if we do have the courage to associate or express ourself freely, our courage shall be rewarded with punishment.
You see, every dictatorship feeds on the abject fear of a people too afraid to dare the consequences of speaking out against injustice.
And assault on Rukirabashaija is an assault on the dignity of who we are as human beings.
The question now to Ugandans is: do you wish to be a product of the fear Gen. Museveni spreads when he attempts to crush the likes of Rukirabashaija?
Black Star News columnist Matogo can be reached via [email protected]