By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK (IDN) — A human rights watchdog group is calling on the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to investigate claims by internationally acclaimed writer, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, that he was severely tortured while in detention for his social media postings.
Human Rights Watch called the arrest of the satirical novelist a testament to the continued repression of dissidents in the East African country through strict cyber security laws.
Rukirabashaija was arrested shortly after Christmas over a series of unflattering social media posts about the President and his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
The 33-year-old published writer said military officers broke into his home in Kampala, beat and blindfolded him, confiscated his phone, and drove off with him to an unknown location where he was kept for 14 days without access to family or lawyers.
On February 9, two days after a court denied his application to have his passport returned, Rukirabashaija said he fled the country to seek medical treatment for the injuries caused by the beatings.
Rukirabashaija is the author of the books “Banana Republic—Where Writing is Treasonous” and “The Greedy Barbarian” for which he will share the PEN Pinter International Writer of Courage prize with Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga.
Activists have been repeatedly targeted using the strict Computer Misuse Act which muzzles freedom of expression online, especially if it involves criticism of senior government officials or “wilfully and repeatedly uses electronic communication to disturb the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person.”
Rukirabashaija thanked Ms Dangarembga for choosing to share her PEN prize with him. “If it weren’t for PEN, I would still be somewhere in prison – perhaps forgotten,” he said. “When I was hanging on chains in the dungeons, I swore to my tormentors that I would never write again if they gave me a chance to live… Truth is, I survived death.”
“The authorities should end the criminalization of protected speech online and offline and address legitimate concerns raised by critics instead of persecuting them,” HRW researcher Oryem Nyeko said.
In a related development, popular social activist Oliver Barker-Vormawor, Ghanaian leader of the lobby group #FixTheCountry, was arrested this week after making comments on social media against a controversial bill.
The bill, popularly known as E-Levy, proposes a 1.75% tax on electronic transactions including mobile money payments. “If this E-Levy passes… I will do the coup myself,” wrote the activist for which he was arrested. [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 February 2022]
Photo: Ugandan award-winning novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija. Source: The East African
IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.
We believe in the free flow of information. Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International, except for articles that are republished with permission.