Kakwenza Rukirabashaija: How I Escaped Uganda Through Rwanda, And Another Country, Before Landing In Germany

Kakwenza Rukirabashaija
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The author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija in Germany, out of Muhoozi's jurisdiction.

[My Free Thoughts]

One of the high-ranking officers of the Special Forces Command (SFC) who participated in my grievous torture threatened me. I was told the only option I was left with was to accept their job offers and other material benefits. I would live peacefully in my country like other critics who had been encapsulated in patronage and co-optation. 

I was about to ask whether my peers who capitulated had also been tortured like me before joining the dinning table but you know I had to swallow such words out of fear. The officer sounded like a Mukiga satisfied with porridge and Irish potatoes. 

“If you cannot accept and then go out there and begin from where you stopped in criticizing the government, we shall kill you, your immediate family members and that stupid lawyer of yours,” he said, presumably referring to my lawyer Eron Kiiza. “Even if you go out of the country, we shall find you.” He then summoned another person through a radio call to take me back into the filthy cold cell. I couldn’t see him because I was blindfolded. 

Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, commander of the Uganda People Defense Force (UPDF) land forces had no such fears of being seen. Sometimes arrogance is good. He let me see him three times; twice while I was still in detention and the third time when, after my release had been ordered, I was abducted before I had left the prison grounds and taken to Gen. Muhoozi. 

Bobi Wine examines the permanent torture souvenir on Kakwenza's back.

It is as though my dehumanizing abuse was comeuppance for having turned down the numerous job offers since April 2020 when my horrendous woes with my torturers began. Five times I have refused political appointments and gifts.

It was around January 9, 2022 or so, when Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba brought me new clothes—pants, a shirt, a sweater, a vest and boxers. My own clothes had been bloodied and shredded during the course of the torture sessions. “You know you are an important person. You have to appear in public since we have forgiven you,” Gen. Muhoozi said, handing me the blood-free clothes.

I had hatched my plan to flee to exile immediately. A day before, I had been taken to Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in Kireka where I slept. Bill Ndyamuhaki, who is attached to Kibuli CID, picked me up and drove me to court with a lead car screaming and flashing sirens for right of way as though I was a VIP, not a regime torture-victim. 

When I was finally given bail and then re-arrested from the prison gate, taken to Makindye Military Barracks, the treatment this time was different. I was even lifted with care by six men who emerged from a maize plantation over yonder, and deposited in a numberless grey double cabin like a delicate egg or glass.

The details of my torture will be for another day. Today is about getting away from my tormentors. 

Let me first tell you about the events that followed after being dropped at my gate at 3:30 a.m. by a convoy of two Military Police trucks full of soldiers. Mind you this is me and my only weapon is a pen, or better, laptop. 

After the regime armed-men left, I called our family driver to take me to Kampala. My wife wife understandably protested. She 

wanted me around considering I had been away for a month. She missed me, but I had to rush to the hospital for treatment for the injuries from the torture. I left home at 4:30 a.m., phone-less, and with some cash in my wallet.

Upon arrival in Kampala, I asked the driver to go back home. I limped across the road where I bought a phone but failed to get a sim card. I got a cab by the roadside and asked the chauffeur to take me to Kyanja and then International Hospital Kampala (IHK). In Kyanja, I knew a friend who would get me a sim card and then proceed to the hospital. When we reached Kyanja, the friend offered to take me to the hospital. 

While at IHK, I remembered that I had forgotten my phone in the cab so we drove to town to look for the chauffeur. We found him. He gave me a look of disgust. He narrated how, immediately after he’d dropped me off, two men riding on a boda-boda —the ubiquitous Ugandan motorcycle taxis— intercepted him and detained him at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) for five hours of interrogation. The CMI is the notorious agency whose former commander Gen. Abel Kandiho was sanctioned by the United States on Dec. 7, 2021 for torture, sexual torture, and killings. The driver said at CMI he was asked how he knew me, and what I had discussed with him. He was released upon proving that he was merely a chauffeur in town for hire and that we’d never met before. 

So I was under 24/7 surveillance. In the days that followed, I moved in my lawyer’s car, from different Airbnb’s, until I left the city, while my trackers believed I was still inside a certain house. I had noticed them following us all the time, lurking around like ghosts at eateries, different hospitals, and hotels—I pretended as though I wasn’t seeing them. 

On the day of escape, I tried a ploy. My trackers were used to seeing my lawyer Eron Kiiza picking me up and dropping me at various locations. I asked another person to pick me up. Driving with this person, we actually drove by my trackers who were awaiting Eron Kiiza’s car at their usual junction so they could start tracking. 

Nine hours later, my lawyer announced that I had fled the country. The unintelligent intelligence officers are still wondering how I made it out. Up to now, my friend in the security circles wonders how I managed to escape. I even went through Rwanda, something former Uganda Police Chief Gen. Kale Kayihura failed to accomplish, when he too was placed under surveillance as captured during his attempted exit. 

When I made it into Rwanda I felt like I was sticking the a big and long middle finger to Muhoozi and his chamchas. When word got out that I had escaped, Gen. Muhoozi grabbed the phone and asked the tall, lanky and suave president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, whether he had seen me. Of course, he could not have. I entered Rwanda illegally and I slipped through to another country before I could get nabbed. 

Considering my distinctive lanky figure, and fluency in Kinyarwanda, no one would have doubted that I appeared like a Rwandese. How ironic. The SFC crooks beat me and tortured me severely—plucking off flesh from all over my body with pliers—while also accusing me of being a Rwandan spy living in Uganda and bankrolled by President Kagame. I proved to them that my father, grandfather, great grandfather, and other ancestors are buried in Rukungiri. 

Ugandans know there is a certain prominent Ugandan who can’t say the same.  

To add salt to the injury, the regime believed that by confiscating my passport, I would not be able to travel abroad.

I write this article from Germany where I arrived safely. 

 

Editor's Note: Please consider signing the petition for the ICC to hold Gen. Muhoozi accountable for Kakwenza's torture.

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