Kakwenza’s tormentors have gained nothing but they’ve lost a great deal

Photos showing some of the torture marks on novelist Kakwenza's body 

What you need to know:

  • Kakwenza might have sustained lifelong damages or may even get killed soon but the loss his tormentors have suffered and still suffering is certainly greater than killing or deforming Kakwenza.

I’ve tried to look for an achievement in torturing writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija in vain. The only achievement seems to be the temporary gratification of the tormentors’ anger -- which is insignificant on the grand scale of things. 

In Kakwenza’s case, the cardinal purpose of torture, I surmise, was to send a wave of fear into dissenters, insulters and maybe to shut the mouth of the victim. Has the wave of fear been effectively sent? Well, if social media posts are to go by, boldness has shot through the roof. Insulters have rapidly and greatly multiplied. 

Modest critics that were previously indifferent to the tormentors’ actions have become more stinging( or more radical) and many have emerged. Recent media articles and cartoons reflect the prevailing uneasiness -- uneasiness which borders on radical anger. 

For those that have chosen total silence, it’s more probable that their silence doesn’t approve the torture. If you pick their private thoughts, you would be able to see that they aren’t happy. In a semi-democracy like Uganda where we pretend to vote, moderation is important. 

If those holding this country’s reins of power care about Uganda’s image or, if a good image in the eyes of the international community and other potential tourists, investors and allies is important, more damage has been created because Kakwenza’s abduction and subsequent torture arrested attention from local and international media houses, social media, embassies and ambassadors (locally and beyond), prominent politicians and other civil society organisations. 

Any shrewd investor will accurately gauge the level of political polarisation in a country where a mere writer gets treated the way Kakwenza was. 

Kakwenza has promised to write another book narrating his ordeal at the hands of his tormentors. The social media posts announcing his intention to write another book have been greeted with much reactions and encouragement. 

If he manages gaining the mental stability to put together his undoubtedly horrifying experience, his book might become one of the most sought after non-academic books in Uganda. And perhaps the book will also unmask other jaw dropping facts on how many other unknown people are in torture chambers etc. 
If legacy is important to the tormentors, theirs  will always be in the gutters because Kakwenza’s book will forever mirror what prevailed during these times. It will be a bold statement on how his tormentors treated those who mildly disagreed with them. 

To make the book more accurate, Kakwenza might (or should) even choose to add his photos showing the torture marks. Because he has made his intention of writing another book public, perhaps his tormentors are now working out a formula to stop him from writing or publishing or distributing it. I hope they fail or find no interest in stopping him.

By the time Kakwenza was kidnapped, his Twitter account had less than 2,000 followers. Now, it has more than 13,000 followers and it’s continuing to grow at a terrific rate. I suppose his Facebook followership has and continues to exponentially increase too. 

Kakwenza isn’t willing to keep quiet or become less virulent as he has demonstrated on his social media accounts. That means his hostile and critical messages against his tormentors are now to be disseminated to a bigger audience. And when you have an interested and huge audience, you become even more courageous to “attack”. 

Kakwenza might have sustained lifelong damages or may even get killed soon but the loss his tormentors have suffered and still suffering is certainly greater than killing or deforming Kakwenza.

Moses Baguma,  [email protected]