By Ritah Kemigisa
Ugandan Novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, has been named the International Writer of Courage at the PEN Pinter Prize ceremony.
This award goes to an author deemed to have fulfilled Harold Pinter’s aspiration to “define the real truth of our lives and our societies”.
The announcement was made on Monday by this year’s PEN Pinter winner, the Zimbabwe writer and activist Tsitsi Dangarembga, who chose Rukirabashaija with whom she will share her prize.
She said she was inspired by Kakwenza’s courage even in the face of persecution for speaking about his beliefs.
Kakwenza was tortured by the government over his novel The Greedy Barbarian, which takes on themes of high-level corruption in a fictional country.
PEN has expressed grave concern about the physical safety and welfare of Kakwenza, adding that the writer has informed his lawyers that he is still undergoing treatment for injuries he suffered during his detention in April 2020.
On his part, Rukirabashaija has thanked PEN for advocating for his freedom of expression and Tsitsi for choosing to share with him the prestigious prize.
Kakwenza was arrested last year and held for seven days, during which time he was interrogated about his fiction and subjected to torture.
He has since detailed this treatment, which PEN described as “inhumane and degrading”, in his latest work Banana Republic: Where Writing is Treasonous.