Renowned Ugandan writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who is well-known for his scathing opinions of the government, has declared that he will shortly be going back home.
The critical writer was taken from his house by security personnel in 2021, and he was held for several days in an undisclosed location without access to his attorneys or family.
He was accused of using social media to harass President Museveni and Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Commander of Land Forces, in violation of Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act of 2011.
Rukirabashaija provided images of his tortured body during his confinement, showing large welts crisscrossing his back and numerous scars on different regions of his body.
What do you think of Uganda’s present political and social climate?
There are currently a few powerful people that are holding Ugandans captive. Given that it’s a system or policy that separates people based on their political affiliation, perhaps I should refer to it as political apartheid.
People who value impunity excessively or who are prepared to sell their moral integrity in order to support the dictatorship are profiting at the expense of others. Our nation has fallen into an abyss because there is an excessive amount of mediocrity celebrating.
What significance does Uganda’s 61st anniversary of independence hold for the nation, and how do you interpret this milestone?
A country like Uganda’s independence cannot be celebrated. What does independence actually mean? The only freedom we have is that of our flag, and even then, we are dependant. Examine our present debt. Take a look at how a tiny percentage of Indians truly earn the money that we receive.
When the people hold both political and economic power, they have truly achieved freedom. A small group of royals who were subjecting the populace to the heinous apartheid of extractive political and economic institutions were propelled to prominence by the wonderful revolution that occurred in England in 1668.
Following the revolution, the establishment of inclusive institutions created the conditions for greatness. Take a look at Singapore, where excellence was made possible by the three models of meritocracy, pragmatism, and honesty. It was poorer than Uganda in the 1960s, but it had risen to first world status by 1980. Is it endowed with assets? Nope.
Are you worried that internal strife would cause FDC to suffer the same fate as the Democratic Party (DP), which is now working with President Museveni?
Patronizing FDC leaders, Mr. Museveni, is counterproductive rather than democratic. After eighteen years of enduring Museveni’s violent tactics, the Forum for Democratic Change’s soul will undoubtedly endure his sponsorship. I have witnessed the threats and terror that have dogged the FDC from its founding as a member.
In our struggle for a democratic shift from rulership to leadership, many of us have faced the fury of the rogues, and others have lost their lives in the streets and in the dungeons. All the same, we will not give up like spectators and follow the likes of Jimmy Akena’s Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and Nobert Mao’s Democratic Party (DP) as Patrick Amuriat, Nandala Mafabi, and others whom we trusted with the party leadership surrender to Museveni’s patronage.
Democracy is about establishing a climate of mutual respect, reciprocal kindness, and adherence to a social compact that protects the rights and dignity of every person, not about crushing the opposition. The basic tenets of democracy are compromised when the opposition is silenced by coercion, violence, and threats.
What is your assessment of Uganda’s ability to function successfully in the wake of the World Bank’s statement that it would no longer be making loans because of the Anti-Homosexuality Act approved by Parliament?
As far as I can recall, we have been receiving loans from the World Bank. Uganda’s use of these loans has proven problematic. Not Ugandans, but the thieves who have been embezzling this money will suffer greatly. Uganda would have gone a long way if the loans we have been receiving had been used for manufacturing, of course, under the direction of honest individuals. I seem to recall that the majority of Uganda’s debt was written off in 1998. Now, where are we? Our revenue is approximately 22 trillion shillings, but we have a 49 trillion shilling budget. Then, almost $10 trillion is pilfered. As Ugandans, we’re just plain dumb.
Do you think that Ugandans should hold onto their hope that they will soon see a new president take office?
We will have new leadership if Ugandans take to the streets or start an armed uprising against Museveni. We will have to wait for him to pass away first since a junta cannot be overthrown by elections. I cringe when I see politicians getting ready for the next round of voting. I will not spare any opposition politician running for office in the selections in 2026. They are hopeful and eager for the next election even if they were unable to fight for their stolen triumph. Some are engaged in the competition for opposition popularity rather than the fight to overthrow the despot.
What do you think of the present Ugandan Parliament, given that a lot of people think President Museveni has a big impact on it?
My issue with this Parliament is that instead of taking bold positions on legislation meant to rescue Ugandans from poverty, they are taking a radical stance on legislation that is paternalistic. From a parliament chaired by a con artist such as Anita Among, what do you expect? They are unaware of how crucial the law is in directing progress. Rather, they plunder the nation’s funds and enrich themselves through the exercise of their legislative authority. These guys, who pose as honorable legislators, ought to be taught about law and development.
Regarding the matter of torture of detained suspects by security agencies, what actions do you believe ought to be implemented to resolve these issues that have damaged the nation’s standing abroad?
The three unwavering standards of international law include torture, among other things like slavery and genocide.
I mean absolutely—there are no exclusions. The thing that bothers me the most is that the judiciary, which is in charge of upholding human rights laws, only cares about lip-sticking and pussyfooting around the subject because the people who appointed them are the ones who appointed them. Instead of being obedient to the inflexible rules of international law, you see a highly educated judicial official such as Douglas Singiza giving in to the whims of the person making the appointments.
The leaders of the National Unity Platform (NUP), led by Robert Kyagulanyi, think that undermining President Museveni internationally can aid in his overthrow. What do you think of this tactic?
Museveni has a potent international propaganda apparatus. He makes significant financial investments in the government’s PR. He tries to obstruct their work and even finance a few to fabricate reports because civil society organizations in Uganda are vital to the governments and other organizations in the West. However, as a victim of torture, I refuse to sleep. Since I ran away, I have been moving the entire world, and I’ve done a fantastic job. Additionally, Kyagulanyi is doing a fantastic job dispelling the propaganda machine’s claims. The overwhelming positive reception my book, The Savage Avenger, received is unquestionably proof of abuses of human rights.
When did you realize that writing was your passion and what motivated you to pursue writing as a career?
Go through my book, Banana Republic, to see how traitorous writing is. Its biographical section tells the whole story.
How has being a refugee affected your artistic output, and do you think it has changed your viewpoints or artistic vision in any way?
I have not requested asylum anywhere; I am not a refugee. I also won’t. Correction point made. I took a sick leave from the conflict. I’m here for medical purposes, but I recently registered to pursue a master’s degree in law.
In other words, I genuinely will go back home after finishing my PhD and pick up where I left off. Of course, a ton of books are on the way.
What advice would you like to provide other writers who could be facing such difficulties in their home nations?
Through social protest literature, authors provide an expert diagnosis of the issues that plague their society or nations. Writing is like the wind revealing to the public the buried traces of misanthropy, authoritarianism, abuse, and manipulation beneath the surface of the cloak of hypocrisy.
You are aware that there has never been a victorious ruler or tyrant over writers. If you enjoy history, you should know that writers cost King Leopold of Belgium the Congo. Napoleon was scared of writers.
I feel bad for Museveni. It is imperative for writers worldwide to recognize our unique abilities and utilize them to shed light on the dark corners of impunity.
How can the world community help artists and writers who are persecuted or censored in their home nations more effectively?
As I have always stated, the international community needs to put pressure on nations to uphold their foreign policy regarding human rights. Nobody wishes to be an exile living and writing. It is hypocritical of these western nations to disrespect their foreign policy for geopolitical reasons.
What long-term effects do you hope your writing will have, both inside and outside of Uganda?
Writing has an impact that lasts. Examine Shakespeare’s works written four centuries after his passing. Take a look at the book Animal Farm. as well as a few more. My publications have already had an influence; I’ve received recognition for them, and their literary works are taught in many university literature departments. Thus, I think there will be further effects.
While residing overseas, have you been able to stay in touch with the Ugandan literary and activist communities? In what ways have these relationships altered or evolved throughout time?
Sure. We will always be a family because we always have been. I was the chair of PEN Uganda, an organization for writers incarcerated, before I left the nation. I’m a member of several writing clubs.