- Final part. Seven years after the Walk-to-Work demonstrations were suppressed, Gillian Nantume traces the victims to establish how they are coping and whether they received any help from government.
- Seven years after Walk-to-Work, Isaac Kasamani is still fuming at a fellow photo-journalist who stole his pictures and sold them to a news agency. He also told a funny tale about a reporter, who would run and hide every time the first shot was fired in Kasangati.
For Dinah Agoe, the widow of AIP John Michael Ariong, life has improved tremendously since his death in 2012. She continued to live in Naguru Barracks with her children until 2014.
“We never lacked because the IGP (Kale Kayihura) instructed that we should be given his monthly rations (posho, beans and cooking oil). I also began getting my husband’s pension (Shs240,000), which I will still be getting for the next nine years. The State House Comptroller (Lucy Nakyobe) and welfare officer also handed me well,” says Agoe.
In December 2014, government bought for Agoe a house in Kibaati, Kulambiro, a Kampala suburb, at Shs250 million and the President gave her business start-up capital, some of which she used to buy furniture.
Agoe is now a wholesale trader in rice with a shop in Nakawa. The State is also paying tuition for her children. In January 2016, the police construction team completed Ariong’s house in the village. Agoe, who is full of praises for President Museveni for handling her like a daughter, has also been decorated with the Independence Medal and Self Sacrifice Medal.
Others not so lucky
John Ssemyalo’s brother, Ssemugga Kanaabi, had a baby. However, his girlfriend later disappeared with the child.
“Ssemugga was my mother’s last-born and she has never recovered from his death. I educated him and when he could not go further, I spent Shs4m buying for him a stall in the market. So far, I have spent more than Shs5m following up the case at Mwanga II court but it has stalled,” he says.
Angello Mukasa and another brother look after their brother’s (Augustine Guwatudde) widow and child, who live in Mbarara District.
“I am happy I fought for his body,” says the boda boda rider, adding: “Imagine, we would not even have a grave to pour ash on.”
Sam Mufumbiro’s girlfriend, Suzan Mugabi, took their child to his mother’s home in Naibiri, Iganga District, and moved on. When this reporter called her, she said: “I do not know much about those things. Call his uncle.” Mugabi remarried and in 2016, stood for the Woman MP seat in Buvuma District as an Independent.
Making ends meet
Cissy Namugereka, the widow of John Mukiibi, who was killed in Bwaise, is now a matron and cook at Dynamic Junior School. She supplements her income with a KCCA sweeping job. She sweeps around Barclays Bank in Wandegeya.
Mariam Najjuma, Frank Kizito’s widow, has tried to make ends meet since her husband’s death.
“I divided our house into three rooms and rented out two. Each tenant pays Shs70,000 monthly. The tenants on Kizito’s land pay me whenever they feel like it. I don’t want trouble, but I wish someone would help me with the school fees burden,” says Najjuma.
Since he is a welder, Patrick Oryem, continued managing Charles Odur’s workshop in Gulu, depositing the proceeds into a joint account owned by Odur’s brother and widow to pay for the children’s tuition.
“Life has not been easy,” Odur’s widow, Pasca Apenyo, 32, narrates, adding that she returned to the village in Lukodi, leaving her husband’s land in Pece undeveloped.
“I work with Croquet Kids, where we make tyre sandals and earn Shs3,000 a day. My 16-year-old son has to sell sand to support us. I just want justice for my husband’s death. He was a responsible man who made sure his children were in school and we never skipped any meals.”
Sulaiman Wasaga is still running the stall in Layibi Market, Gulu, together with one of his son’s wives. He says if the government compensates him, he will build rentals for his grandchildren.
Michael Ssengendo, the URCS volunteer, ventured into community policing in Kasangati. For rescuing the injured in the Walk-to-Work protests, he received a Life Saver Award under the Young Achievers Awards. However, the Award was given to him a day after the ceremony because President Museveni was the guest of honour at the event.
Of the photojournalists, Isaac Kasamani, now freelancing for AFP, still covers political conflicts.
“I even talk with those men who were in the police van, including the man who shot at me. We are not friends, though. Of course, I get scared as I work but whatever happens in my life was meant to happen.”
Michael Kakumirizi stopped covering political stories. Nowadays, he is an entertainment photojournalist with this newspaper.
Trauma in the journalist’s eyes
kampala. When I accepted this assignment, the commonest question I encountered was, “Why now, after all these years?” For each person I interviewed, I gave a different answer. The most difficult person was Robert Kasolo, the chairman of Kisekka market. Getting him to talk was like squeezing milk from a stone. Three days before the 2016 presidential polls, I met Kasolo. It had been almost two years since there was a riot in the market so my first question was, “Have we seen the last of them?”
He smiled and told me to make a formal appointment. An hour after I left the market, Dr Besigye was arrested at Punjani roundabout. A riot broke out in the market. I was, inevitably, caught up in the riot at Wandegeya. When I called Kasolo, four days after the elections, we laughed over the fact that he had fled to the village fearing the aftermath of the elections.
When we met, he took a photo of my identity card. And after I entered his shop, a heavily built man in blue overalls, stood casually at the counter, blocking the only exit. After the interview, this man only moved away after Kasolo told him to. We had to stop the interview for a few minutes when a mechanic came to engage Kasolo in a long conversation about genuine spare parts. His appearance unsettled Kasolo because he threatened to sue me if I “defamed” him.
Namasuba, the spy haven
By some strange twist, I landed on the wrong boda boda rider in Namasuba. He took me to the chairman’s home but when the chairman’s wife saw him, she refused to talk. I was in a dilemma because the boda boda rider had settled in for a long wait. I realised that she was looking pointedly at my phone. Finally, I got it. I gave the rider Shs1,000 to buy me airtime. And sure enough, the nearest shop was three minutes away.
She told me the rider was a known spy and no one would talk to me as long as he was with me. As if to confirm my fears, as we were leaving, this man asked what I was doing in Namasuba because, “you did not look like you belonged there.” I immediately left Namasuba. Three hours later, I was back, through another route.
When I reached Angelo Mukasa’s neighbourhood, I was subjected to a tough interview. “Have you come to finish him off as well?” neighbours asked, before deliberately giving me a wrong phone number. However, a day later, Mukasa called me.
The first man I was connected to in Layibi, Gulu, gave me a lengthy interview. I realised later that it was all heresy. I was frustrated. Either because Dan Musa Wasaga was not an Acholi or because of fear, those who know about his death are reluctant to talk about it.
In Layibi Market, the secretary to the market committee said she had never heard of Wasaga although she has been working in the market since around 2009; and it is a small market. Outside the market, a welder agrees to an interview, but when I ask the hard questions, he suddenly becomes busy. He begins noisily sawing through a pipe, his unspoken order for my exit.
Sulaiman Wasaga was as slippery as an eel. We made several appointments, but he stood me up. Finally, though, we met, by pure chance. The first thing he told me was the Shs20m he was awarded was too little. Then, in the same breath, he denied receiving the money.
Interview in a pit-latrine
Finding Cissy Namugereka was an uphill task. After four hours traipsing through Bwaise, I found myself standing outside a den behind the taxi park. It was a wet evening and my jeans and sneakers were caked in mud. When I explained to a friendly man what I wanted, he took me inside. In the semi-darkness, about 15 taxi drivers were chewing mairungi. Almost all the men were bare-chested and sweating. That friendly man, sensing my fear, explained my plight. Suddenly, the men were so happy to see me that they invited me to sit. We talked for a while, and they gave me directions to a house in Bokasa zone. But night time in Bwaise is not for the uninitiated. I returned after two days.
In Bokasa Zone, Namugereka lives in a place that is almost unreachable. The alleyways between the houses are too narrow; I had to walk sideways through some of them. A few feet from her house is a wide canal containing foul, stagnant water. From her looks, Namugereka has been beaten by life. We conduct the interview in the only room available – a disused pit latrine. I sit on a dirty crate, while she stands over me. Kato Sanoni is an electrician who has just returned from South Sudan but lives in Agip slum in Kibuli. He posted informers by the roadside, and the moment I passed by – they informed him of my presence, and he called me, describing what I was wearing.
In Bweyogerere Industrial Area, as I sat on the health centre lawn, interviewing Ismael Ssewannya, heavy trucks drove up and down the road, enveloping us in clouds of dust. In Ndikuttamadda, I stumbled upon a bitter family feud. Frank Kizito’s widow, Mariam Najjuma, first had an affair with his older brother, Ronald Kiberu. They have a child together. When I called Kiberu, he was acerbic and common sense told me not to meet him in person. Every time I mentioned Najjuma, he shouted hateful words in my ear.
Then, meeting Michael Ssengendo, the URCS volunteer, was an experience. He acted out the entire interview. He talked non-stop for two hours. We even walked together from Namuwongo to the city centre as he talked continuously. Finally, I got into a taxi, and left him in mid-sentence. Naturally, the conversation continued on phone.
We had agreed on an appointed time with Francis Mwijukye. When I reached the hotel, I ordered a drink, and the wait began. All this while, Mwijukye was watching me. When I telephoned him to ask when he would arrive, he told me he was sitting behind me. There was no way I could have seen Mwijukye hidden in a corner, yet in such plain view.
Seven years after Walk-to-Work, Isaac Kasamani is still fuming at a fellow photo-journalist who stole his pictures and sold them to a news agency. He also told a funny tale about a reporter, who would run and hide every time the first shot was fired in Kasangati.
“He would keep calling me every five minutes to ask what was happening. He wrote his stories just by looking at the pictures I took.”