Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court has issued a warrant of arrest against four people who stood surety for satirical novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who was facing charges of offensive communication.
The sureties include lawyer Julius Galisonga, the Secretary-General of the National Unity Platform David Lewis Rubongoya, Annah Ashaba, a teacher at Kololo Secondary School and an activist Job Kiija. The warrant against the four was issued after Kakwenza’s failure to appear before the court for the second time in a row.
Kakwenza was on January 25, granted a cash bail of 500,000 Shillings by the Buganda Road Court, after nearly a month under detention for offences related to a series of tweets he posted about President Yoweri Museveni and his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
In one of the tweets, Kakwenza referred to the President as an election thief and in another, he calls Muhoozi overweight and intellectually bankrupt. But these were seen as an attack on the first family and he was subsequently charged for disturbing the peace of the President and his son with no purpose of legitimate communication.
As part of his bail conditions, Kakwenza was directed to deposit his passport with the court for a period of six months. But even without the passport, Kakwenza fled the country days after his bail, reportedly through Rwanda, and settled in Germany under the Writers-in-Exile, a program that provides grants to authors facing persecution in their home countries.
But on March 23, 2022, when Kakwenza was expected to appear before the court, State Attorney Joan Keko asked for a warrant of arrest against him and notices to his sureties to explain why they shouldn’t be arrested. Today, when the matter came up again, Keko asked the Court to extend the arrest warrant because Kakwenza is yet to be arrested.
Keko asked the same court presided over by the Chief Magistrate Dr Douglas Singiza to issue a warrant of arrest against the sureties on grounds that although the notices requiring them to appear before the court were duly served, they still failed to show up. While Rubongoya’s lawyer said his client was not served, Ashaba and Kiija’s lawyers said they were served late, over the weekend, yet they were upcountry.
While he said he was unwell, Julius Galisonga also challenged the jurisdiction of the Buganda Road Court to issue the notice. But in his ruling, Dr Singiza said that the sureties are ‘trying to stop water that is passing under the bridge’ and ordered that the four sureties should be arrested and forced to pay the 10 million Shillings that each of them committed in the event that Kakwenza skips bail.
He added that if the sureties pay that money, they will each be set free and their respective warrants of arrest will be cancelled.
As the events unfolded, Kakwenza launched a fundraising drive to collect the money on behalf of the sureties. He is looking for 5,000 people to each contribute 8,000 Shillings, to enable him to raise 40 million Shillings for the four sureties.
“My friends who stood surety for me owe court 40m because I fled the country for my life. It’s now incumbent on me now to raise the money and pay court–in respect of summons–but I’m broke as a mouse. I’m looking for 5,000 people who can manage to send UGX8,000 to MTN +256785367367 registered as Kakwenza Rukirabashaija,” Kakwenza posted on social media.