The media can be innovative. The articles run towards the 1st Anniversary of the July 11, 2010 Bomb blasts has put us in the right perspective more so of the shortcomings of our Government. It was surprising to see the Government of Uganda give shs 3,000,000 to each of the bomb victims. It is clear from the testimonies of some of the survivors that their treatment is on going. What the government could have done, which is not late to be done is to ensure that these victims and those in similar circumstances are attended to by a properly established medical organ. It is shocking that some of the bomb victims are in crisis over meeting the continued treatment needed to see them in better health. The Government should have given the shs 3,000,000 as a token to the victims and then committed itself to meet treatment costs of these victims individually. This is sad more so that as the Government of Uganda alleges that the Uganda involvement in Somalia is responsible is one other reason why Government should take on the responsibility of meeting the medical care, counseling and help to see them adjust into some payment ventures given their circumstances.
William Kituuka Kiwanuka
TOUGH TIMES: Unable to pay rent, Ramathan has moved to live with his aunt Khadija’s (left) in Kansanga, a Kampala suburb. PHOTOS BY FLAVIA LANYERO.
By Flavia Lanyero
Posted Tuesday, June 14 2011 at 00:00
When two brothers decided to sit at the front of the packed Ethiopian Village Restaurant on July 11, 2010, they anticipated thrilling football action. That was never to happen. Instead, one died and the other today lives with a dislocated hip and damaged ear drum. Our reporter Flavia Lanyero, tells the story.
The excitement was fever pitch. It was the game everyone was waiting for, a Spain-Holland football World Cup final. A few minutes before the game began, Muzamil Ramathan and his brother Siraji Abiriga, squeezed their way to the front of the giant screen at the Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kabalagala, Kampala.
It was not their habit to watch football out of home. But on July 11, 2010, the D-Day, their neighbourhood, Kansanga, a Kampala suburb, suffered load-shedding. There was no way they were going to miss this once-in-a-lifetime event.
When the duo got to the restaurant, it was packed to capacity—and as they contemplated moving to another venue, Abiriga spotted a free plastic chair. He grabbed it and the siblings managed to push their way to the front—next to the screen. The chair could only sit Abiriga, so Ramathan had to make-do with the floor—sandwiched between his brother’s legs. But from that point, Ramathan does not recall what exactly happened. Whereas he knows the crowd was cheerful, he only remembers waking up in a stupor.
“It was like I was dozing,” says Ramathan. “I woke up and found myself lying on my brother’s chest. I did not know that he was dead, neither did I realise that I had injured myself. Everyone was on the floor, thick smoke was going up.” It was clear that Abiriga had shielded Ramathan from shrapnel.
The journey after that has been long and tortuous. He was rushed to International Hospital Kampala, where he spent the next three weeks—being treated for a dislocated hip. He has a metal running from his hip to knee, to try and get his thigh bone back into normal position.
The metal, doctors say, will be removed after two years. Ramathan has a year left to the operation. But whereas he might count himself lucky, emerging alive in an attack that left 15 football lovers dead at the restaurant, including his brother who was also his benefactor, Ramathan has had to contend with numerous operations.
The last was as recent as a month ago when metallic fragments were removed from his intestines.
And yet, Ramathan still carries himself with a sense of guilt. He believes he survived because his brother in a way shielded him. Problem though is that Abiriga was the family’s main bread winner. “The doctor asked for Sh300,000 just to remove fragments from my body. Now when the time comes to remove the metal what shall I do?”
I can’t offer an answer. I just look at him. I then realise that he must strain to hear me. I ask him whether he has hearing challenges. “About two weeks after I was admitted to IHK, doctors found out my eardrum had been damaged. It had a crack and I needed an operation.”
The government had already cleared the immediate bills and if my ear was to be fixed, I had to foot the bills, says Ramathan. He has never found the money—and now has to contend with the slow but painful reality that he is losing his hearing sense. But if losing a brother, fracturing a leg and suffering hearing problems were a test on his resolve, the final straw that killed Ramathan’s spirit was when he walked to his employer—a publisher on Uganda House in Kampala—who told him he was unfit to work there. He was fired.
“I have tried to plead with him. To tell him I can still work,” says the Senior Four drop-out who did mainly menial jobs at the firm. “I have now given up with him. But I hope I can find any other job. All I need is money to pay for my operation when time comes. Problem is, in search of a job I must walk—and yet doctors have advised me to avoid strenuous exercise. I can’t afford the transport fares.”
With the cost of living sky-rocketing and diminishing means of survival, Ramathan recently relocated to his aunt’s home in the same Kasanga neighbourhood, about five kilometres from the city centre. It is from here that he walks to the city centre daily in search of a job. The aunt, Nalongo Khadija, thinks the government should do more. “We have unemployment biting hard. The world would be a better place if the government looked at its own people,” she said.
Ramathan is frustrated. He wants those who planted the bombs that maimed him and killed his brother brought to book. In fact, he thinks they deserve death. “I will never forgive the al Shabaab,” he says. “See what they did to me. My brother left behind a 22-year-old widow and a baby. They are suffering.”
“Whenever people call for forgiveness of the killers, I feel bad. I want the al-Shabaab annihilated. I am willing to join the Ugandan army and go to Somalia just to have my share of revenge against the terrorists.” The militant Islamic outfit based in Somalia claimed responsibility for the attacks that in total killed 76 people and left hundreds injured. Back to Ramathan, the anger is visible on his face. He, however, is not alone.
His sister, Zulaika Saidi, also has no kind words for the terrorists. The once Arsenal die-hard fan now loathes anything football. “I dread the coming World Cup. I hate football,” she says. “If the government cannot do anything to bring to justice those who killed our loved ones, they should do so we forget once and for all.”
Ramathan too has lost attachment to a childhood love—football—that once saw him play for Kibuli FC, a youth team. Not anymore. “I can’t even watch my friends play football now. It brings back sad memories. The only thing I worry about is my leg. I hope it can heal.”
In tomorrow’s paper, read about a street boy, who after weeks of saving, decided to spend his hard-earned money at Kyadondo Rugby Club. Little did he know, he was saving to spend on what would turn out to be a traumatising experience.