In 2013, Ann Millicent Muwoya met and fell in love with Sadiq Zziwa, a former UPDF soldier. Little did she know that this love would cost her an eye. The year before, Muwoya had separated with the father of her three children after he sold off their marital home without her knowledge.
“I came to Kampala and began working in a hair salon. I rented a room in Wakasanke-Lugala, in Masanafu, a suburb of Kampala. My seven-year-old daughter and Zziwa’s five-year-old became friends. That is how her father befriended me.”
That year, Muwoya shifted to Bukuluji, Masanafu and using her savings, opened up a salon. She rented two rooms – the front room housed the salon while the back room was the living quarters. Zziwa, on the other hand, was married with a family and had a home of his own.
As the relationship progressed, Muwoya began noticing things she did not like about her lover. “I am a born-again Christian. He is a Muslim but he eats pork and drinks a lot. He is also a heavy smoker and hates bathing. Whenever I asked about his occupation, he gave vague answers. Sometimes, he collected market dues at Wakasanke market but he was not a local council official. He had a car and sometimes he would use it for special hire business,” she recalls.
As she demanded to know more, the relationship began deteriorating. Zziwa told her he was a corporal who had long retired from the UPDF although he frequented Mbuya Barracks.
The genesis of the abuse
One day in October 2015, at about 6pm, Muwoya woke up from a nap and sat on the verandah outside her salon. Her three children and two of Zziwa’s were playing nearby. “Zziwa parked his car nearby and came out with a man who he introduced as his brother. He asked why I looked troubled. I told him I was well.
While the guest entered the salon, he returned to his car. I instructed my son to light the charcoal stove and make tea. I served the guest tea and sent a child to call Zziwa to join us. He refused. Instead he told the child to call me outside,” narrates Muwoya.
Outside, Zziwa accosted her, demanding to know why she looked troubled. Muwoya’s explanation that she had just woken from sleep fell on deaf ears. “He took out his phone and showed me the phone number of the father of my children. He must have got it from my phone when I was asleep. I got to know later that he had been calling the man and abusing him.”
In sudden anger, Zziwa began accusing her of seeing other men, insinuating that a quarrel with one of her secret lovers was what was troubling her. When he began shouting, Muwoya walked away and entered the salon. He grabbed electric wires from the car boot and followed her.
“He locked the doors of the salon followed me to the bedroom and began beating me with the wires. His brother tried to intervene but run away in fear. When my children began screaming, he shouted at them to keep quiet. He pulled off my clothes and when I was completely naked, he dragged me to the salon in front of my children and began whipping me.
I pushed my face under the bed, exposing the left side of my body.”
Muwoya reached for her phone and called the father of her children in Kenya and told him she was being killed. Zziwa grabbed the phone and smashed it on the ground. Using his phone, he called the man again and told him he was going to kill the ‘malaya.’
“The father of my children called a friend in Kampala to rescue me. The friend called the late (AIGP Andrew Felix) Kaweesi, who in turn called the Old Kampala DPC. The DPC called Masanafu Police Station and instructed them to rescue me. By this time, I was black and blue. The two outer plastic covers of the wires had worn off and he was hitting me with the raw wires. I knew I was going to die.”
When the police knocked on the door, Zziwa opened for them and told them there was no problem. He said he and his lover had had a slight misunderstanding but now she was in the bedroom asleep. He gave the two policemen Shs20,000 and they left.
“I grabbed a dress and opened the back door and run out into the night. I got a boda boda with the intention of going to the police station, but Zziwa got into his car and followed us, and ran us off the road. When people gathered, he told them I was his wife and we had had a little fight. With their help, he pushed me into the car and we returned to the salon.”
For four days, Zziwa locked her inside the house, without treatment. He would go to the shop, buy panadol (paracetamol), and some eats for the children, and then enter the house and lock the door. He was always by her side. When her condition worsened, he dumped her at a clinic in Lugala.
“On my return home, he locked me inside the bedroom again. I managed to escape on the fourth day and reported a case at Old Kampala Police Station. He was arrested and the file was sanctioned. However, he was granted bail at Mwanga II Court.”
The relationship between the lovers broke down, but in the course of 2015 and 2016, Zziwa continued to torment Muwoya. When she shifted to another area, he would spend the night on her verandah smoking and drinking waragi from sachets. He followed her whenever she went to church and waited until the service ended, before following her home. If she attended a prayer overnight at her church, he sat outside the church until morning. He even broke into her home and took all her property.
During that time, she lodged many complaints at Wakasanke and Lugala police stations but every time, Zziwa defended himself, saying she was his ‘wife’ and was preventing other men from loving her.
The acid attack
In December 2016, Muwoya shifted to live in a self-contained house in Lungujja. “I thought it was far enough away from him and for a week, I was at peace. On December 13, I traveled to the village to attend my sister’s graduation. On my return later that evening, I wanted to go for the prayer overnight but I had to first cook for my children. As I was entering the house at about 8pm, I noticed some men standing at the corner but I thought they were the neighbours because the place I was renting in is congested.”
As her 14-year-old son carried the food to the outer kitchen, Muwoya followed him. Suddenly, she was grabbed from behind by two men. One of them placed his palm on her mouth. She could not shout out to her son who was a few feet ahead.
“They carried me to an unfinished house nearby and tied up my hands and legs, and placed a piece of rubber in my mouth. The men were wearing heavy boots and black police uniforms but they had pulled masks over their faces. Zziwa stood in front of me and gave me a choice. If I wanted to live, I should follow him. I was crying. I just kept looking at him.”
Zziwa pushed her against the wall and she hit her head. He told the policemen to give him his package. “I thought he was asking for a gun and I began praying to God, asking Him to save me. I begged Him to let me be shot in a place which could be treated. Suddenly, I felt fire in my face. It was like many spears were being pushed into my skin again and again. I was in so much pain. I could not scream because of the rubber in my mouth. I was just writhing on the ground.”
Meanwhile, Muwoya’s son had begun to wonder where his mother was. As he walked back to the house, he saw Zziwa walking quickly out of the unfinished house. He run into the house and found his mother trying to crawl out. He began screaming for help and the neighbours gathered. They poured on her face whatever remedy they had heard could stop the pain – water, milk, and urine. Later, they put mother and son onto a boda boda to Rubaga Hospital.
Trying to kill her other children
Meanwhile, Muwoya’s 10-year-old and seven-year-old children were asleep, oblivious to what had happened to their mother. After the hullabaloo died down, Zziwa returned with the two policemen and they entered the house. He sprinkled petrol all over the sitting room and woke them up.
“They told me he took out every valuable. He even went to the kitchen and took the raw food and saucepans. Then, he returned to the house and broke the bulbs and gave them a candle and matchbox, instructing them to light the candle when he left. I thank God that they were too frightened to light that candle. They would have been burnt to death.”
Muwoya spent five months in hospital as the doctors tried to save her eye. The acid had been thrown on the left side of her face, but most of it had ended up in her eye. She eventually lost it. During this time, Zziwa kept calling her on phone, taunting her. With the help of police officers at Old Kampala Police Station, Muwoya was introduced to Action Aid Uganda. They took up her treatment costs and accommodated her at their gender-based violence shelter in Kampala.
Zziwa was arrested in April 2017 in Eastern Uganda and is now on remand in Luzira Upper Prison. The case is before court.
“I live in fear of that man returning to normal society because I know that will signal my death,” Muwoya says.
Although she has hairdressing skills, she does not have the capital to open up another salon.
1. Take time to study a man before you fall in love with him. If I had not rushed into the relationship because I feared being alone, I might not have been in this situation.
2. When a man’s behaviour makes you uncomfortable, end the relationship.
3. If he is violent, shift from the area to a place he does not know.
4. If you do not have children together, cut off all communication.
5. Always let the Police in the area where you live and let the neighbours or landlord know about your fears.