SECTIONS

Author critical of Museveni flees Uganda

Africa

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who charges that he was tortured for weeks while in detention, appears before a court in a failed bid to have his passport returned so he could seek medical treatment abroad, at a court in Kampala, Uganda on February 1, 2022. [AP]

A Ugandan author who spent nearly a month in jail after criticising President Yoweri Museveni and his son has fled the country, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, an internationally acclaimed writer, was released from jail in late January after being detained in December following a series of tweets he posted that were critical of Museveni and his son, an army general.

He was subsequently charged with communications offences. He has said that while in detention he was tortured. He told a local TV station last week that he was punched in the stomach, kicked, hit with gun butts and made to dance endlessly, and that his torturers used pliers to tear pieces of flesh from parts of his body.

"Yes, he has fled," his lawyer Eron Kiiza told Reuters, adding he was destined to somewhere in Europe. Mr Kiiza said even after being released, Mr Rukirabashaija (pictured) was kept under security agents' surveillance.

"So when he asked for his passport and the court refused to give it to him, he had to make up his mind and make a choice between his life or wait for court. He has decided to choose his life," Kiiza said.

As part of his bail conditions court demanded that the satirical author deposit his passport with them. Days after surrendering his passport however he applied to the court to have it back to enable him to travel abroad for medical care.

On Monday a magistrate denied that request. Earlier on Wednesday, Rukirabashaija posted on his Facebook account criticising the magistrate.

"You value my passport more than you do to my life and non-derogable rights. ..you're a disgrace! Now, put my passport in the dock and try it. I won't face you again."

It was unclear how he had travelled without a passport.

Museveni, who has ruled the East African country since 1986, has long been accused by the opposition as well as some Western governments and pressure groups of using security forces to intimidate and harass opponents and critics. Government officials have denied those accusations.