Kakwenza narrates torture ordeal while in detention

Some of the torture marks on Kakwenza’s back. PHOTOS/ DAVID LUBOWA/COURTESY

What you need to know:

On Saturday, novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, for first time ever since his arrest and detention for over a week incommunicado, spoke to NTV-Uganda about his experience in the hands of his captors. Daily Monitor’s Karim Muyobo & Anthony Wesaka now bring you a slightly edited version of the story.

On December 28, 2021, Kakwenza posted on his Twitter handle that gun men were breaking into his house. Below are excerpts of his narration.
“They (captors) broke the burglar proof on the window and entered the house. They started punching me in the stomach, kicking me, and hitting me with a gun butt.
I found two drones [vans] and three private vehicles [outside]. There were many [people] - about 20. The ones in uniform were around 12, others were in civilian clothes with pistols and other guns.

I could feel [that] we were on the Northern bypass. We reached somewhere and I heard taxi touts calling Kalerwe, Bwaise.
[When we arrived at the destination], they [started] beat[ing] me using batons. They started beating my ankles for no reason and I was like ‘why are you beating me, why have you arrested me, you have not told me the reason’. They did not have any arrest warrant.”
I was then taken to a room where loud music was being played and told to dance vigorously.

Whenever someone would dance slowly, they would come and hit you with a baton. Then I told the afande (soldier/police officer) that ‘sir, I am tired and I need to rest’ and he asks ‘you said you are tired?’ I said yes [and he told me to] do pushups. I did pushups until I could not do them anymore.  
He then told me if I was tired, I should dance. We [continued to] dance. There was no resting. [At around] 1am, they said ‘okay..., you rest for one hour’ so we slept. An hour or two [later], they woke us up [and] we started dancing again until morning.

We were later given food and told to shower
You are given two minutes to shower and use the toilet. The toilet is kind of detached from the room.
[After that], they interrogated me while beating me, saying I should pull down the book [from] Amazon. That is Banana Republic where I narrated the torture in CMI (Chief of Military Intelligence). The whole story was there. They beat me with batons, everywhere.”

I was then taken back to the torture dance room.
“I was dancing with swollen feet, but you have nothing to do. [If] you stop dancing, they beat you, you collapse, they beat you. So the entire time I was here, I was dancing. 
There was one time they took me for a house search in Iganga. The following day, it was a Wednesday, they sent for me. They asked me to remove [my] clothes and beat me up.
As time went by, the torture worsened and I was questioned on who was funding me. 
They started asking me about people I didn’t know, from the American Embassy, European Union, and British Council. I honestly told them that I didn’t known any of them.

I started removing my clothes except the underwear. They beat me up until I could taste my blood. Blood was all over the blindfold. I was dying. That day, they beat me until I lost consciousness. 
I regained consciousness maybe at 6pm and found the doctor working on my wounds, injecting me [with medicine]. They were injecting [me] with six injections every six hours
They started using a pair of pliers and plucked flesh from my thighs [and] everywhere. You have seen the scars everywhere. 

That day I thought I was dying and I thought of denouncing my Ugandan citizenship.
They made me stand in front of a camera, and apologise... Indeed I had to do [it] because I had nothing to do, I was dying.
At this point, western countries intensified pressure to have me produced before court or released.
There is someone who whispered to me that he thought I was going to die. ‘You are really a very strong man, we thought you were going to die but you are still here’. 
The reason they were giving me all this medicine was to produce me in court since the pressure was too much. So by Saturday, the wounds were kind of drying.
On the day he was presented in court, Kakwenza was given new clothes and it was hard to take on face value that he was tortured.

“As I was walking up to the main gate, I saw a double cabin car. I asked my escort where he was taking me as I did not see my lawyer and relatives anywhere. 
He [said] ‘you walk up to the parking’, which was about 400 or 300 meters away and that I would find my lawyers. I had seen the double cabin [pick up] parked at the gate as if it was waiting for me. The number plates were covered, so I  said this is a drone. 
I was limping and had the release court order in my hands and the medicine of course, so when I saw it, I went back to my escort. He said ‘Kakwenza, you are safe. You just walk’. That is when like six people emerged out of a maize plantation. They came running and reached where I was and lifted me
[I was taken to Makindye Military Barracks]. I found that they had already prepared a room for me. A beautiful one though very old and self-contained. 
They brought me a towel, soap, a basin of water, coffee, a tooth brush, and tooth paste. 
They asked what food I want to eat and I told them that I am vegetarian, so they [said] ‘we shall be serving you everything you want’. They told me that ‘they are good people, they don’t torture’.

A doctor came and did a manual examination of my body. Afterwards, he stepped out but I heard him speak on the phone. I don’t know who he was speaking to but he said ‘this man is not fine. You should not keep him here’. I heard him say he is not fine like five times.”
Kakwenza is taken to his Iganga home and cautioned never to tell what he went through.
We had a lead car, military police without number plates and a small vehicle I was put in without number plates. Even the one behind had no number plates, so I was driven up to my home in Iganga. We reached at 3.30am.
 

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