PEN-winning Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija (@KakwenzaRukira) was imprisoned and tortured for his satirical novels and Twitter posts critical of the regime. #WhisperEyeNews
Now he calls on several democratic countries, including Sweden, to cut ties with what he calls the “dictatorial government” in Uganda.
In just over two years, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has been tortured and imprisoned three times in Uganda.
The first time he clashed with the Ugandan government was after his debut as a writer; “The Greedy Barbarian” – a satirical novel about an all-powerful dictator, in a corrupt fictional country.
In connection with the book’s release, he was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured.
- I thought I would die. They regard criticism as hate speech, but as you know, no dictator has so far prevailed against the power of the pen, says Kakwenza Rukirabashiaja.
Awarded by PEN for his courage
After he was released, he wrote about his time in prison in his second novel, “Banana Republic – Where Writing is Treasonous”. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested and tortured again.
In 2021, Rukirabashaija was awarded the Pinter International Writer of Courage Award by International PEN, for his courage. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested a third time on charges of disturbing President Yoweri Museveni’s security with a Twitter post.
Calls on Sweden to cut off aid
Last year, Rukirabashaija managed to flee Uganda when he was released on bail pending trial. Now he lives in exile in Germany where he is still undergoing treatment for his physical and mental ailments.
He also spends his time urging democratic countries, such as Sweden, to cut ties with the Ugandan government.
- My priority right now is to try to cut aid to Uganda. I travel around Europe and have conversations with various diplomats, he says.
Sweden’s aid to Uganda has grown from SEK 80 million (UGX 29 Billion) in 1998 to roughly SEK 690 million ( UGX 246 Billion) in 2021. One-third of the money goes to “Government and civil society”.
- If Sweden respects human rights, why rub shoulders with the government in Uganda? Without funding, he is nothing, says Rukirabashaija.
Kakwenza Rukirabashaija’s third book “The Savage avenger” will be released in the spring of 2023.
This article was originally authored and first published on SVT
We fixed edits for the Ugandan audience.