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Uganda Writer Facing Trial Flees Country, Says Lawyer


FILE - Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija appears before a court in a failed bid to have his passport returned, in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 1, 2022.

A Ugandan author facing trial for criticizing the son of President Yoweri Museveni has fled the country, according to his lawyer.

Eron Kiiza, the lawyer for Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, told VOA that the author fled the country Wednesday, two days after a court declined to release his passport.

In a telephone interview, Kiiza elaborated on his client's whereabouts, saying, "He is in Rwanda, like four to five hours ago. He's trying to coordinate his way. That's how he got out of Uganda. And finally, he will find his way to Europe."

Kakwenza had asked the court to release his passport so he could visit Germany to receive an award from the writers' association PEN International, and to receive treatment after his alleged torture while in Ugandan military custody.

FILE - A man reads a copy of "The Greedy Barbarian," a book authored by Ugandan novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, in Kampala, Jan. 25, 2022.
FILE - A man reads a copy of "The Greedy Barbarian," a book authored by Ugandan novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, in Kampala, Jan. 25, 2022.

Kakwenza felt he had no choice but to flee the country, according to his lawyer.

"The most important rule is the rule of life," Kiiza said. "He had to choose between going with a passport or taking care of his life and he has chosen the latter, after being tortured and denied a passport to rule out poisoning, following several injections while in the military detention."

Late last month, the German ambassador to Uganda, Matthias Schauer, wrote to a Ugandan court, asking that Kakwenza be allowed to travel to Germany.

In response, Uganda's state minister for foreign affairs responded with a protest letter, saying the ambassador's letter was a clear interference in the internal affairs of Uganda.

Kakwenza was arrested in December 2021 and detained in a military facility for two weeks before he was sent to a government prison.

He was released on bail last month, but still faced trial on charges of offensive communication for insulting Lt. General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, son of President Yoweri Museveni.

The general is seen as Museveni's possible successor in 2026 elections.

In a Twitter message Wednesday, the president's son said he had spoken to Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, and said that according to Kagame, Kakwenza is not in Rwanda.

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