Sunday January 26 2014

Begging police to investigate her child’s disappearance

Carol Nalwanga whose baby was kidnapped by

Carol Nalwanga whose baby was kidnapped by anonymous people. PHOTOS BY RACHEL MABALA 

By Rachel Mabala

Church is a place that one would go to for solace, comfort or solutions to one’s problems. Even when the problem is not taken away, the fact that it has been shared is healing enough. It therefore becomes mind baffling when one reads of churches becoming excessively insecure, requiring those that attend to keep looking over their shoulder.

Carol Nalwanga’s story is not one of losing a hand bag to a believer, neither is it one of a car getting vandalised. No, it is a story of losing a most treasured possession. The love of her life, a gift from God, when she had gone to worship the very God that gave her this gift.

On Friday October 4, 2013, Nalwanga left her home in Busega, Kibumbiro at 6pm, taking along her four-month-old baby, Amon Kasasa. She had recently survived a boda boda crash and was going to thank God and also ask for His protection as she intended to return to work the following week. She headed out to Miracle Centre Church in Kosovo, Lungujja for the ‘Evening Glory’ service.
As is the practice, towards the end of service, the pastor called out for people to be prayed for. Nalwanga considered herself lucky to be ahead in the queue. But the pastor told her he could not pray for someone holding a baby. This was rather awkward, since on a number of occasions many have been prayed for even with their babies.

It was at this point that the woman who was standing right behind Nalwanga in the queue offered to carry Amon for her. The praying went on for over 10 minutes, as Pastor Daniel Bbale kept telling Nalwanga and the congregation that as he prayed he got a vision that something terrible was about to happen in Nalwanga’s life. He asked her to pray harder that this thing gets averted. It was at this time that the pastor called out for a one Sister Ann, who came and smeared olive oil on Nalwanga to avert the “blood”, which the Pastor was seeing in the vision, went on.

Involving police
The case was reported at Lugala Police Post as Nalwanga accompanied by the pastors and a few members of the congregation continued the search. Nothing was left to chance, one of the faithful suggested a prophet in the area who, supposedly, could get visions and see where the child was.
At the prophet’s place, he first refused to attend to them but after several minutes of requesting, finally agreed to see them. He told Nalwanga that he felt Amon was still in the area but that is all the information he could offer. He asked that they return the next day, so that he could give more of what he was seeing. At 3am, the search bearing no fruit, Pastor Bbale and his group requested to go to rest.

Nalwanga went with her co-wife Fatuma Nantege, who had joined them in the search earlier upon receiving a call from Nalwanga. They went to Fatuma’s house, where Nalwanga spent the night. Earlier during the search, Nalwanga had attempted to call Amon’s father to inform him of the unfortunate occurrence. He had picked but said nothing. He called back several hours later and Nalwanga, feeling distressed did not talk to him, instead Pastor Bbale talked to him. He did not ask about the child, instead he requested the pastor to ask Nalwanga if she had received the money he had sent to her mobile phone for home up-keep.

The next day, the search resumed, taking it up from the prophet’s place, who did not attend to them. He asked that they return later, they preferred to wait, but after hours of waiting, they gave up and went to Lungujja Police Station. At the police station, the officers asked that Amon’s father, Joseph Kaaye, also comes to record a statement. After hours of waiting, he turned up at midday. He told the officers that he had earlier asked Nalwanga to stop going to church.
The case was forwarded to Old Kampala Police Station for investigation. Only Nalwanga and Pastor Bbale went to the police, Amon’s father refused to go. He told Nalwanga that she should hurry up and return home since there were other children to whom she had to attend.

Days turned into weeks of investigations, no arrests were made, Nalwanga recalls no one being called in for questioning. She was later advised to take the complaint to Central Police Station in Kampala. On reaching there and being tossed from one room to another, she was finally told her case could only be handled at Old Kampala from where she was receiving no attention.
Upon returning to Old Kampala, she was connected to the OC CIID, a one Batte who assured her in the presence of the Investigating Officer (IO) Mukalazi that he, Batte, had a lot of confidence in the IO. The IO then told her to handle the matter delicately as running here and there would not solve the case. More days and more weeks of waiting, only for Nalwanga and a female pastor from the church to get arrested.

She was later to be told that her husband had come around while she was in custody, recorded a statement and left. Interestingly, it was after Pastor Bbale came to bail out his colleague that Nalwanga also got to be released. Pastor Bbale was never questioned at least not to Nalwanga’s knowledge. On further probing, Nalwanga was told by Mukalazi that since her husband, the father of the child was not interested in the case, there was little that police could do.
The last that she heard of this case, several months since losing her child, was that the file had been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecution, who had in turn recommended that the husband be investigated. An officer who spoke on condition of anonymity to this magazine intimated that Amon’s father was being considered as the main suspect.

When contacted, police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba agreed that the way the case was being handled was wrong and wanting. She promised to take on the matter and contact the Investigating Officer to look into how far the case had gone.
As of now, nothing seems to be forthcoming, a mother’s heart still bleeds, never knowing if her son is alive or not. A church’s name remains in question, since all that is known of Miracle Centre Church in Kosovo is “that place where a child disappeared”.

A thorough and committed investigation could help answer so many questions, yet it remains a luxury for the concerned authorities, leaving yet another case to raise questions on the integrity of the law keepers.

The disappearance
Several minutes later, Nalwanga finished praying and turned to take baby Amon from the Good Samaritan. At first it seemed as if it was just a case of the Samaritan taking the baby outside because he was crying.
Nalwanga did not seem alarmed. She went outside to try and look out for them, to relieve the good woman of the burden of putting her baby to sleep. After minutes of searching, Nalwanga began to worry. It was disturbing because the church has only one entrance which also serves as the exit.
Secondly, the Samaritan was a regular at the church. One thing that made this particular woman noticeable was the fact that every time the church leadership offered to pray for her, she declined.
Yet, she never gave up on attending service, leaving many wondering what it was with that a person who declined prayers, was looking for in faithfully attending service.

At about 8pm, Nalwanga informed Pastor Bbale and the congregation that Baby Amon had gone missing. Prayers stopped immediately and a search for Amon and his carrier ensued.
For hours-on-end, the search went on, with the only lead coming from a child at the neighbouring house who said he had seen a woman join a man waiting for her outside the church and they had walked towards the direction of the main road.
Following that direction only led them to Busega Trading Centre and between the church and the trading centre was no clue of a baby and a woman.
Attempts were made at making announcements on a public address system in Busega, calling for anyone who had seen or heard a child cry.

These attempts were futile. A mobile public address system was also used, possibly the farther the message moved, the better the chances of catching up with the elusive woman who at this point in time seemed to be on the run.
Life’s little ironies had just sparked the beginning of Nalwanga’s misery.

Every beginning of year, the Uganda Police Force releases an Annual Crime and Traffic/Road Safety Report. Currently the report for 2013 has not yet been published. The recent one is the 2012 report.

According to the police Annual Crime and Traffic/Road Safety Report 2012, which was released last year, there are 844 cases of Child Abduction reported in Uganda. The police regard a child abducted when a relative of the child is involved in the disappearance of the child.

There were 307 cases of Child stealing reported. These are children whose whereabouts are unknown and the suspects are unknown.
There were 170 cases of child Kidnap. Police treat a child as kidnapped when one of the parents takes the child from the other parent without the other’s consent.