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Ugandan court issues arrest warrant for author who fled to Germany

Ugandan writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has been charged with communications offences
FILE PHOTO: Ugandan author of ‘Greedy Barbarian’ Kakwenza Rukirabashaija reads the book at his home in eastern Uganda’s Iganga district May 11, 2020. Picture taken May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Aubaker Lubowa

March 23, 2022

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) – A Ugandan court on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for an international award-winning author who fled to Germany last month to be treated for injuries inflicted while being tortured by security guards, his lawyer said.

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was arrested in late December and held for nearly a month before being charged with communications offenses related to tweets criticizing President Yoweri Museveni and his son.

“It is true that the court issued an arrest warrant for him,” his lawyer Eron Kiiza told Reuters.

“It’s just a continuation of his harassment because the court could have chosen to try him in his absence, which is permissible, but they chose to ignore that option.”

After his release in January, Rukirabashaija said he was tortured by security forces while in detention. Pictures of his body showed signs of torture, which provoked public outrage.

He told local broadcaster NTV that he was punched in the stomach, kicked, beaten with rifle butts, danced endlessly, and that his torturers used pincers to rip pieces of flesh off parts of his body.

Police said they could not comment on the torture allegations as they were part of Rukirabashaija’s trial.

On February 9, he announced he had fled the country and eventually arrived in Germany, where he said he would seek treatment.

Rukirabashaija is a satirist best known for his novel The Greedy Barbarian, which criticizes corruption and political repression in a fictional country. In Uganda, the book was widely interpreted as a shot at Museveni’s government.

Last year he won the PEN Pinter Prize for International Writers of Courage. He is the second Museveni critic to have fled Uganda this year after Stella Nyanzi, a university lecturer and author, also announced in January that she had fled to Germany.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Hereward Holland and Mark Heinrich)

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Bobby Allyn

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