A two-year old toddler was killed in a house fire, with her mother left fighting for her life in hospital, after her estranged partner poured petrol on them and set them ablaze.
The woman, Annet Mirembe, was admitted to International Medical Clinic (IMC) at Namungoona in Wakiso District.
The suspect, who also suffered burns, was put under medical observation at the Orthodox Hospital at Namungoona, under police guard.
The man reportedly grabbed the woman, as flames covered her, in what eyewitnesses said was an attempt to die with her.
Lying in agony on her hospital bed, Mirembe said she had separated with her abuser but he kept pestering her to get back . The man, the police said, is a resident of Sembabule District.
“He calls a lot. When he first called me, my phone was engaged, and this made him furious, thinking I was talking to another man and not giving him time. But I had nothing to say to him; I was done with him. Then he told the children that he would come on Monday but since I was not home, he came with petrol and did not want anyone to touch his bag…and at 2am (on Saturday), he burnt us [with petrol],” Ms Mirembe said.
Mirembe said she sustained most of the injuries while trying to save her baby, Victoria Nambooze, who was asleep at the time.
“I tried to save my baby…The fire was intense, I failed to get her out,” Mirembe said.
Mirembe’s eldest daughter was with her in the one-roomed house at the time the suspect reportedly started the fire, but she escaped unscathed as her mother urged her to run away.
The daughter (name withheld) told Sunday Monitor that her father tried to convince her to leave the house before he set the house on fire but her mother questioned why he was pushing her daughter to go out into the night.
“He kept coming in and out of the house; we didn’t know what his intention was. He then poured stuff allover mum. I don’t know what it was. He then lit a matchstick and threw it at her. He grabbed her and held her tightly. He then tried to throw fire at me but I threw a bedcover at him and I ran out. The neighbours rushed to rescue the baby but he blocked the door. They were also afraid of the fire,” Mirembe’s daughter said.
Mr Charles Wasswa, the area defence secretary, said he was called in haste to come and save the family but it was late.
“I peeped into the house and saw the baby’s body, completely burnt,” Mr Wasswa said. He said the police arrived at the scene when the suspect had run to the police station, claiming Mirembe had tried to burn him.
Mr Geoffrey Ssemwombwe of IMC Namungona, where Mirembe is admitted, said she sustained deep injuries on her right side, from her arm to the back.
“She was in a lot of pain when they brought her in. She was screaming and was restless. What has affected her most is the issue of her baby. In trying to save it, she got badly burnt. We gave her painkillers and washed the wounds. She is doing better,” he said.
Mr Luke Owoyesigire, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, said the police are treating the incident as a case of arson and murder, and the suspect will be charged upon recovering.
“We are still investigating the exact cause of this violence, but so far we suspect there was contention on who the real father of the child was,” Mr Owoyesigire said in a statement.
The village defence secretary said the couple had five children together.
The body of the toddler was taken to Mulago Mortuary.
Reports of domestic violence have increased during the lockdown period, with reports of partner violence featuring prominently. The Ministry of Gender reported that between March 30 and April 28, a total of 3,280 cases of Gender Based Violence and 283 cases of violence against children were reported.
This case also adds to an emerging trend of Ugandans setting themselves on fire, especially in view of the recent of case in Masaka where a boda boda rider Hussein Walugembe, whose motorcycle was impounded reportedly set himself on fire inside the police station and tried to grab a traffic police officer so they would die together.