By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) – A prominent Ugandan writer and critic of long-ruling leader Yoweri Museveni has been charged with communications offences related to tweets critical of the president and his son, the charge sheet showed on Tuesday.
Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has been in detention by the military since Dec. 28 when armed men broke into his house and took him away.
His lawyer has said he has been tortured and that at one time he was urinating blood. Police and military have not responded to the allegations of torture.
He was charged with “offensive communication,” the charge sheet showed. It cited his tweets in December that were critical of Museveni and his son, Muhoozi Kainerubaga, a general and commander of land forces in the military.
Rukirabashaija, the charge sheet said, of offensive communications “wilfully and repeatedly used his twitter handle…to disturb the peace of his Excellency the president of Uganda General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni with no purpose of legitimate communication”.
He was remanded and is expected to be brought to court again on January 21.
A novelist, Rukirabashaija has written several books but his most acclaimed is a satirical novel “The Greedy Barbarian” for which last year he won the PEN Pinter Prize International Writer of Courage award.
The novel tackles themes of corruption and greed and has widely been interpreted in Uganda to refer to the political life of Museveni. He has previously been arrested and questioned by the military about whether the novel was about Museveni.
His detention has drown and allegations of torture have drawn criticism and pressure to release him from local activists and international diplomats and rights defenders including the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member, Jim Risch, and Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights.
“I’m alarmed by reports of alleged torture and incommunicado detention of author @KakwenzaRukira,” Gilmore tweeted on Jan. 5 and demanded his release.
Days before he was detained, Rukirabashaija posted several comments critical of Museveni and Muhoozi, including one in which he said Muhoozi was “obese”, assailed his military credentials and denounced the purported plans to have him succeed his father.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Angus MacSwan)