A court in Uganda on Tuesday charged a prominent author and government critic with “disturbing” the country’s veteran President Yoweri Museveni and his powerful son in unflattering social media posts.
Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was charged with two counts of “offensive communication” and remanded in prison until January 21, said Charles Twine, spokesman for the Police Criminal Investigations Department.
Rukirabashaija, who last year won an international award for persecuted writers, was arrested at his home on December 28 and allegedly tortured after posting on Twitter about Museveni and his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba. In one post, the satirical writer had described Kainerugaba, a general who many Ugandans believe is positioning himself to take over from his 77-year-old father, as “obese” and a “curmudgeon”.
In a charge sheet released by Buganda Road Court in Kampala, state prosecutors said Rukirabashaija “willfully and repeatedly used his Twitter handle to disturb the peace of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda, Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni with no purpose of legitimate communication”.
On the second count, Rukirabashaija was accused of the same offence against Kainerugaba. Rukirabashaija’s lawyer Eron Kiiza confirmed the charges and his client’s detention in a brief text message.
Under the Computer Misuse Act, the charge of “offensive communication” can carry a year in jail. The government had challenged an earlier court order to unconditionally release Rukirabashaija from police custody.
The 33-year-old’s detention sparked calls from the United States, the European Union and civil society groups for his immediate release and protection from persecution.
The author won acclaim for his 2020 satirical novel, “The Greedy Barbarian”, which describes high-level corruption in a fictional country.
He was awarded the 2021 PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage, which is presented annually to a writer who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs.
Rukirabashaija has been repeatedly arrested since “The Greedy Barbarian” was published. He has said he was tortured while being interrogated by military intelligence about his work.