Thursday, October 21, 2010

I survived mob justice by a whisker

A policeman helps a mob justice victim get onto a Police pick-up truck after rescuing him
A policeman helps a mob justice victim get onto a Police pick-up truck after rescuing him
By Vision Reporter

THE day, April 10, began like any other Saturday. I had worked tirelessly in the week, so I woke up at my usual time, 9:00am. I did the home chores and was ready to listen to the Capital Gang, a weekly local radio talkshow, at 10:30am.

That day, the panelists were hosting Lwemiyaga MP, Theodore Ssekikubo, who was drumming up support for his election as NRM party Secretary General.

After parting company with the show at noon, I told the maid, who was just one day old at home, that I was heading to the trading centre to buy meat for the weekend.

On the way, I changed my mind and decided to first visit a near-by wellness centre for a massage. I had struggled through the past two weeks with a persistent back pain. I went to Zzana, on Entebbe Road. My place of choice, a hotel in the centre, was not yet ready to offer the service. Despite that, a waitress was insisting on taking my money, contradicting the word I had received from the boy at the counter.

Her insistence infuriated me and I stormed out of the roadside Florida Hotel. I crossed the Entebbe Road to the taxi stage, ready to go back home.

A taxi stopped for me, but no sooner had I opened the front door than a group of men shouted out and instructed a man who had also crossed the road to arrest me. “The man is going and you are just looking,” they told him. I never resisted the “arrest” as the taxi driver also evaded me, thinking, probably, that I was a thief.

The man held my trousers and his colleagues, too, crossed and pounced on me. I didn’t know why I was being harassed, but all they shouted was, ‘bring the money and the phone you have stolen from the lady’. I got more confused, as blows and kicks rained on me. They forced me to cross the road back to the side of the hotel.

At that point, I began crying to be taken to the Police as other idle men joined the beating crew. When they started dragging me towards isolated places, I thought I was nearing my death. The beating continued until we met an armed Policeman.

The Policeman held my hand as he led me to Kikumbi Police Post, about 200 metres away. Some of the men retreated, while others went with me till the Police post.

By the time we reached the post, I had bruises and my sandals had been taken. My face, drenched in blood, was slowly getting swollen.

On arrival, one of the men emptied my pockets, removed my shirt and tore my belt. When he saw a scar from an operation I had had 14 months before, he ‘confirmed’ to the Policemen that he had seen a bullet-wound scar as he pushed me into the cell. This man, whom Policemen referred to as Alex, I later learnt, was also a Policeman, but plain-clothed.

From my new home, the size of a square metre, I could hear one of my beaters make a statement incriminating me. “We are tired of these conmen,” he raged. “That man came with a lady from Kawempe to Hotel Florida and then conned her of money and a phone,” he narrated to the Police. I laughed and cried. Laughed because the goons were lying to the Police and their stories would not add up. “Where is the woman who was conned,” one Policeman asked. “She went back to Kawempe in tears,” one of my beaters said. I cried because I was writhing in pain. I had gone for a massage and surely, my beaters had more than ‘massaged’ me.

After they had gone, I begged the Policemen to let me out and hear my story. Although they obliged, my narration fell on deaf ears. They wanted names of my “accomplices”. Since I had no names to give them, they sent me back to my cell.

The cops, in the presence of the O/C, were hatching a plan to transfer me to the Rapid Response Unit, a centre for hardcore criminals, in Kireka, near Kampala. When they called me out again, my story never changed. I then broke down in tears. To silence me, a Policeman, whose shirt had an inscription of the name Mugisha, hit my knee with a baton and I kept quiet.

I was sent back to the cell. It now dawned on me that I would have no headway. I painfully went down on my knees and said 20 Hail Mary’s. After about 10 minutes, the Policeman who saved me from the mob, one Mulumba, opened for me.

I was ordered to make a statement. I begged the O/C to allow me call my brother to bring my ID from home. Miraculously, he handed me the phone and I called my brother and another friend of mine, Rosaria, to bring the ID.

I was later released without any charge preferred against me, from where i proceeded to hospital.

Scans at the hospital showed no internal injuries and I was given a one-week rest. On Monday April 19, I began work, although with some difficulty. The day went well but I failed to get sleep in the night. While on my way to work on Tuesday, I started feeling backache and numbness on my limbs. I was on phone again, contacting Rosaria. She was also nearby. She abandoned work and rushed me to Kampala Hospital.

By the time I reached hospital, I was almost dead. My legs and arms were numb and stiff, my eyeball fixed in one position, the tongue heavy and I was breathing faster than normal. I stormed the doctor’s room and told her my name. When I lay on the bed, I got seizures and the body seemed as though it had been subjected to electric shocks.

Rosaria called my father, a priest and my friends. I got the sacrament of anointing the sick where I had been admitted.

He arrived, embraced me and said: “Lord, here is your faithful servant. While here he did all he could to serve you. Please Mother Mary receive him.” What other better send-off message would I require than that? At the moment, I was breathing with difficulty with half of my eyes closed. When I regained my senses, my friends had gathered around me, but my body was functioning much better.

According to the doctors, I had suffered from a panic attack. In this post traumatic stress disorder, the mind was still suffering from the traumatic incident.

I was subjected to a psychotherapy, which improved my condition. It is now five months down the road, but I am still recuperating with daily medication. I visit the doctor and the psychiatrist once a month and will continue for the next four months.

It is then that I thought of how mentally strong the people who witnessed the Kony atrocities are, and I am still looking for answers to what the government of Rwanda did to its citizens who experienced the infamous 1994 genocide.

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