Uganda’s critical book writer, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has been named by Tsitsi Dangarembga as this year’s International Writer of Courage.
On Monday evening, Dangarembga, a Zimbabwean writer who was arrested last year for protesting against corruption received her PEN Pinter prize, an award given by free speech campaigners English PEN in memory of the Nobel laureate Harold Pinter to a writer of “outstanding literary merit”.
After giving her keynote speech at a function held in the UK, the Zimbabwean writer announced Kakwenza as the co-winner of her prize for his active defence of freedom of expression that has seen him jailed on several occasions.
“I announce Kakwenza Rukirabashaija as the co-winner of the prize for an account of his experiences. It is with great appreciation that I shine with a writer on my continent whose writing portrays the struggle for fellow writers in my country and African at large,” Dangarembga said to the audience on Monday evening.
Speaking to the same audience later but virtually, Kakwenza said he was happy that his works had been recognized with the award.
“I congratulate Tsitsi for having chosen to share with me the wonderful prize. I don’t have a gun but literature is the only weapon I have. I appreciate PEN for advocating for my freedom of expression. I thank you for choosing me to share with the prize,” the Ugandan writer said shortly after narrating his arrest ordeal to the audience.
Kakwenza was last year arrested by operatives from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence and went missing for a number of days over his book, The Greedy Barbarian.
Consequently, he was arraigned before the Iganga Magistrates court and charged with doing an act likely to spread the infection of a disease contrary to section 171 of the Penal Code Act.
Court later dismissed the case for lack of evidence.