The East Africa Law Society – EALS has added its voice imploring the government to unconditionally release Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, a Ugandan author and rights activist who is being detained for offensive communication.
Rukirabashaija was reportedly picked up from his residence in Kisaasi, a Kampala suburb, on December 28, 2021, and has since been held incommunicado.
Police say they are holding him on allegations of offensive communication after a series of belittling, derogatory and abusive tweets about Lt General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Commander of Land Forces and son to President Yoweri Museveni. Days before his arrest, Kakwenza had posted a tweet in which he called the Muhoozi “pigheaded” and “plump.”
Over the past week, his lawyers, human rights actors and the international community have relentlessly demanded for his release to no avail, yet a court order for his unconditional release secured on January 4, 2022, has also not been respected. His lawyer Eron Kiiza has said that Kakwenza was being detained at a facility run by Special Forces Command.
In a press statement issued on Saturday, Bernard Oundo, the President of the East Africa Law Society condemned the violation of Kakwenza’s rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of Uganda.
“Uganda is a party to several international instruments including the Treaty Establishing the East African Community which obliges member countries to ensure respect for human rights and observance of rule of law (Article 6 (d) and Article 7 (2),” the letter reads in part.
The lawyers add that the “EALS strongly condemns the continued disregard of the court order issued in this matter. Respect for court orders is the heart of all judicial systems and the cornerstone for rule of law. We urge the Government of Uganda to respect the court order and afford Mr. Rukirabashaija constitutionally guaranteed due process.”
The EALS is the umbrella regional bar association of the respective national law societies in East Africa (Law Society of Kenya, Tanganyika Law Society, Uganda Law Society, Zanzibar Law Society, Rwanda Bar Association, Burundi Bar Association and the South Sudan Bar Association) together with their individual members.
Kakwenza has authored books such as “The Greedy Barbarian,” a satirical writing that talks about a fictional country that tackles themes of corruption and greed and another titled; “The Banana Republic” which narrates his experience in the custody of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence – CMI where he was taken twice in 2020 and reportedly tortured
He has also sued the Government seeking compensation for infringement of his rights after he was illegally detained in 2020 where he was reportedly tortured and kept incommunicado, though his case is yet to be determined by the High court.