Uganda writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija definitely wasn’t in the 2021 Christmas spirit when he expressed his freedom of expression by hosting a three-day Twitter tirade against longtime (some might say self-serving) Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
And even more so against his son, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerubaga, commander of Uganda’s land forces, whom the author described as “obese and obscene” and who is considered in some quarters to be the preferred successor to the Ugandan strongman.
Finally, shortly after Boxing Day, police, who had already arrested writer Rukirabashaija twice, arrested him and held him in detention for a week – in direct violation of his constitutional rights – which Ugandan CID police spokesman Charlie Twiine accused of the ” festive period when [CID] staff absent and the courts closed The first time Ugandan police arrested Rukirabashajia was in April 2020, just after Covid-19 hit Uganda’s shores. At the time, the author claimed it was about his self-published book The Greedy Barbarian.
This book reviewer was dying to read the current Ugandan bestseller.
Unfortunately, The Greedy Barbarian for the professional book critic, although it is satirical to “tell and not show” too much where the protagonist is explained in words instead of being demonstrated in art.
Phrases like “his argumentative attitude, vulgar and brusque, would haunt him all his life” are numerous and tedious, and the reader trudges through this dense dictionary-word world of bombast throughout the book.
p>< p>The lines between the artful writer and the Twitter activist are fluid, at least as far as the literary style is concerned.
“Muhoozi butt-kissers! Dare to bully me again and I’ll show you the fire,” Rukirabashaija tweeted shortly before his arrest. “I have more verbal artillery in my toolbox to bludgeon your empty heads and filthy mouths spewing mumbo-jumbo and nonsense!”
Alas, if writing is a craft and a book, the work of that craft , Rukirabashaija perhaps has far too much verbal artillery in its author’s toolbox, which then tends to lash out at the reader (blank or not) with big words. The Greedy Barbarian can also be described as the mumbo-jumbo of a book in plot whose author has thwarted boldness but ended up in a world of ballads of evil that end up being brash.
< p> The book’s protagonist, Kayibanda, born in the fictional Muhemba (Rwanda) where his mother is a night whore, is not even an anti-hero but the novel’s outright antagonist.
Crossing over the border at the age of six years on the back of his machete-mangled mother Bekunda to Kalenga (Uganda), one can see how this could have started as a deeper story about the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi genocide; but Rukirabashaija is not interested in deeper historical analogies in his novel.
Kayibanda is really a bad seed (from a rapist father) and the author has no interest in his character development in the book. Kayibanda’s story is a linear trajectory of unadulterated evil that may seem ridiculous to the experienced reader.
He’s that bad boy at school who ranges from stealing pencils to outright mugging in violent bank robberies.
In Kayibanda’s case, he goes from stealing chickens in his childhood to killing his son’s “baby mom” in college in a foreign country (a fictional Kenya) just to please his new lover, Miss Kembaga.
Never mind that he has an economics scholarship — which the author says he has “no brains” for — but was expelled from high school after he was caught talking to classmate Kamagoba, the The baby mom he was frolicking around in the school library is murdered later in the story.
In the time between the two incidents, he goes to work as a vigilante in the village and doesn’t spare his guardian d Bamwine nor his adoptive father in his vigilante group. It doesn’t matter that “Dad” is a magician who can turn into a snake or a stone on the fly, in Aaron’s biblical language.
Rukirabashaija’s imagination is brimming forward, unrestrained, and loosely structured, making reading this book akin to trying to drive a car with an overheated engine. His imagination runs high and the book is a madness of unmitigated violence and greed.
“Kayibanda becomes a military dictator’s political hitman!”
Again, we might have seen parallels with President Musevenis “Operation Wembley” in 2002, where young Ugandan assassins were recruited and trained to take down organized crime figures in extrajudicial killings of other young criminals in Kampala; Violent crime fell by half by the time “Wembley” was finished.
Instead, we’re rushed to the scene where Kayibanda wrests state control from the strongman, and with the reins of power in his hands, he can now grab, loot and kill at will to sate his barbaric greed – while Rukirabashaija gives free rein to his rather undisciplined authorial imagination.
Complete with leaders like Milton Obote overthrown by henchmen like Idi Amin Occult practices more akin to Kayibanda than the Museveni most people assume this book is about, one is frustrated that once again no parallels are drawn.
Ended without any research and Little as far as craft goes, The Greedy Barbarian with its gore can still be a garishly entertaining read – if you were a subscriber to tabloids like Red Pepper of yore.
In August 2020 it was Rukirabashaija arrested for his alleged book Banana Republic (in which writing is treason). That may be true, but it’s hard to imagine that the Ugandan state arrested him for The Greedy Barbarian in early April.
It’s more likely that the barbarians came to his gate for his Twitter tirades against Lt. Gen. Muhoozi .
Nevertheless, Rukirabashaija was named PEN International Writer of Courage in 2021 by Zimbabwean activist and writer Tsitsi Dangaremba.
Dangaremba won the PEN Pinter Prize 2021 for works that “reveal the real truth of life in our societies” – and whom the regime of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnagwaga has tried to gag on previous occasions.
Tony Mochama is PEN International Secretary General, Kenya Chapter