Monday, June 13, 2011


TOUGH LIFE: Ms Kabanyoro and her children. PHOTO BY FLAVIA LANYERO
By Flavia Lanyero,

Posted Monday, June 13 2011 at 00:00
Flavia Lanyero, speaks to a widow who is struggling to pick up the pieces after her husband died in the blasts.
“There are nights when my husband did not come back home, but if that happened, he would call and let us know,” Ms Hawa Kabanyoro says in a soft tone. “On that particular day, I did not receive his call although I expected him back in the morning.”
The morning after, other than her bubbly husband, Moses Sevuma, walking back home, Ms Kabanyoro received a call from a stranger at 9am.
“I picked this phone at Kyadondo Rugby Club from your husband’s body. He died in last night’s bomb blasts,” said the stranger before hanging up.
Whereas she had heard talk about a “disaster” in the middle of the city on the night of July 11, 2010 as people watched the football World Cup finals, the last person Ms Kabanyoro thought would have been caught up in it was her husband.
“I rushed to Mulago Hospital. I got into the mortuary and immediately saw the body. It was him.” At this point she pauses for a couple of minutes, a tear drops from her eyes.
“Being Muslims, we could not wait any longer. That same afternoon, we took his body to Mubende District for burial.” Days later, she had to come back to Kampala—and that is when the harsh reality dawned on her. For 20 years, Ms Kabanyoro had been a housewife, solely depending on her husband, a vendor at Nakasero Market in Kampala.
Her husband had put food on the table, dressed the family and taken care of their medical needs on a small trader’s income. Ms Kabanyoro could not even fathom how he had managed, when she now thinks about it.

Bleak future
For a while, the Shs5 million that the government had given the family as compensation helped sustain her five children. But she knew this money would only last for a while and she had to think hard lest the family starved.
“I used the Shs5 million mainly to pay the children’s fees. But after that, life has been tough.” An attempt to seek relatives’ help yielded nothing as many just turned her away. Ms Kabanyoro turned to selling samosas and pancakes.
But even then, the breastfeeding mother (her husband died when she was five months pregnant) says the income is too meagre to meet her needs. Her biggest worry is how to get the children through school, especially now that the first born, Abasi Magala, is few months away from doing Senior Six final exams.
“I don’t know, I don’t know where to get fees,” she says, her eyes staring at the dusty floor, her head shaking. “This is the hardest time of my life.”
She adds: “Should sickness strike, I become even more helpless. I can’t make any savings from these pancakes. The cost of living is high. I need a real job.”
To try and make ends meet, Ms Kabanyoro has decided to keep some poultry. But with limited space in the two-bedroomed house, she has decided to share space with the birds. They sleep in one room—as she crowds in the other with the children.
As we conduct the interview in a stuffy living room, which boasts two rickety chairs and an aging carpet, the chicken keep walking in, cackling and pecking at our feet.
The struggle to survive has become vicious for Ms Kabanyoro. She now has thrown the children into the deep end too. During holidays they have to do odd jobs in search of that extra coin.
“I push them to do all sorts of jobs so that they can get pocket money to go back to school. They need it, I do not want to see them suffer and feeling low among their friends because they don’t have,” she said.
Magala, the eldest, is a lover of fine art. He sells art pieces—and on a few lucky days—comes back home with some money. The younger ones now help their mum vend samosas and pancakes. On some weekends, they have to go to Nakasero Market—the place their father made a living. She wants them to acquaint themselves with goings-on there and Ms Kabanyoro hopes her late husband’s colleagues will help the children learn some tricks of the trade.
Amidst the challenges, she hopes her children can make it. Her prayer is that Magala can study journalism and specialise in broadcasting.
“It excites me to see people on TV. I would be proud if I saw him reading news,” she says, the first time her face seems to brighten up.
There is one sport, however, Ms Kabanyoro does not want her children to get involved in. Football. It claimed their father, she says, they should keep away from it.
Were you affected by the July 10, 2010 bomb blasts? Did you lose a loved one? Are you a survivor? Share your experiences with us by writing to

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.

Fatal U-turn
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.

Two-year wait
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.”

Tough times
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.”

Seeking revenge
“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.

1 comment:

  1. I would wish to help mr Ramadhan with his Ugshs 300,000 bill if they could email me at