Kakwenza Rukirabashaija

Uganda has warned the Germany Ambassador Matthias Schauer, to keep off issues regarding Novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija.

In January, Kakwenza was appointed an honorary member of PEN Germany in January. PEN International is a worldwide and renowned association of writers and its German chapter recently decided to accept Mr. Rukirabashaija as honorary member.

“The German Embassy has received an invitation from the PEN Centre Germany for Mr. Kakwenza Rukirabashaija to attend an event at which he will be officially admitted to this organization,” Matthias Schauer said in a letter dated Janaury 28 addressed to the Buganda Road Chief Magistrates’ Court, also copied to the Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo.

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Kakwenza is currently out of prison on bail battling charges of offensive communication, contrary to Section 25 of the computer misuse act 2011. He was arrested from his Kisaasi home after a three days twitter feud with supporters of UPDF Land forces commander Muhoozi Kainerugaba. He was detained at unknown military facility where he was subjected to all forms of torture.

During his bail application, his passport was retained by the court as a condition for bail so that he could not travel abroad. However, the writer wants to travel to Germany to pick up the writing award and receive specialized treatment for torture he allegedly received in jail.

“I would like to inform you that this embassy would receive and support Mr. Rukirabashaija’s visa application at any given time, provided that he meets all legal and personal preconditions. This refers also to being in possession of a valid passport, which – as I understand – is currently deposited at court as a condition of bail,” Matthias Schauer added.

Kiryowa Kiwanuka, the Attorney General wrote to the Foreign Affairs ministry seeking whether the ambassador first sought concurrence from them before reaching to the Magistrates’ office, because all official business from the sending state to receiving state are conducted with or through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The letter from the AG read, “We are in receipt of a letter from the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecution in respect of an intervention by His Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of Germany seeking to influence a variation of bail terms by the court in the above matter.”

“I am of considered opinion that this action by the head of a foreign mission, writing directly to the judicial officer in respect to the conduct of his judicial functions in an ongoing court case, or at all, is an egregious affront to the independence of the judiciary and a breach of the laws and conventions governing the conduct of diplomatic missions.”

“Therefore, while I may hold the view that the interference is a breach of the law, kindly advise us whether he ambassadors sought your concurrence and if so, whether the same was granted.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied that the German ambassador’s communication directly to the Buganda Road Chief Magistrates’ Court of Kampala, was in breach of article 41.1 and 41.2 of the Vienna Convection on Diplomatic relations.

“The communication was not conducted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its content in respect to the conduct of an ongoing case is a clear interference in the internal affairs of Uganda and an affront to the independence of the judiciary,” the ministry responded.

It added, “The ministry reiterates that the Government of Uganda values its relations with the federal Republic of Germany and remains desirous and committed to strengthen them deeper; however, our partnership must adhere to time-honored principles of mutual respect, non-interference and sovereignty.”

The Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court dismissed Kakwenza’s request to have his passport back so he could travel abroad and ordered for the trial to start on March 23, 2022.

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