A young man is riding his motorcycle in the early evening on a dusty, bad, and crowded road. It is a powerful motorcycle, probably 250 cc, and he is riding fast. A speeding car forces him to the edge of the narrow road. As he swerves precariously to avoid the car, he runs into a young woman walking along the edge of the road.
The young woman tumbles into the drainage channel at the edge of the road. The rider, sitting on eight to nine horses powering the motorcycle, is thrown forward by momentum and lands with a thud in the same drainage channel. His head, lacking the protective layer of a helmet, slams into the stone pitching of the storm water drainage channel.
Then, just moments later, the motorcycle, now a metallic cannonball whining angrily in the early evening air, slams into him, the hot exhaust searing into his backside, adding insult to injury.
A small crowd quickly gathers around the wreck, man, and woman. Both are hurt but the rider, caught between a rock and hard metal, has obviously received the short end of the stick and is badly hurt.
Both are carted off to the nearest medical facility. The woman is treated and discharged, but the young man’s condition is very serious and he is carted off – somehow, by boda boda – to the bigger Mulago Hospital. He succumbs to his injuries a week or so later.
This is a paraphrased version of the official account by the Uganda Police Force of the events leading to the demise of Michael Kalinda, a young student, blogger and budding musician with a stage name variously reproduced as Ziggy Wine, Zigy Wine or Zigy Wyne. Doesn’t really matter: Man’s dead.
Kalinda also happens to be a beret-wearing member of the People Power pressure group and a close associate to its leader and MP Robert Kyagulanyi, whose own stage name is Bobi Wine. In the days between him sustaining his injuries and dying, Kalinda’s friends and family claimed – publicly, but apparently not to the police – that he had been kidnapped, tortured and left for dead at the entrance of Mulago Hospital.
The police explanation, only provided after his death, has been received with much rolling of eyes and shaking of heads. On these things we now live in a world where the police and the government are guilty unless proven innocent. However, let us give the police the benefit of the doubt and agree that it is a plausible account, on the face of it.
Motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of admissions to the Accident and Emergency wards at all hospitals and it is not uncommon for unidentified strangers to be dumped and treated pending identification and claim of kinship.
So let’s help the police clarify the official version by asking for answers to the following questions for the benefit of those enemies of the country’s progress who suspect foul play: Who took the motorcycle from the accident scene to the police station several kilometres away where it was eventually discovered? Was the accident reported at the nearest police post? What does the incident report say? When was it taken and what explanation was given? In light of pictures showing the deceased in a different-colour motorcycle, can we show those non-believers proof of ownership of the bike involved in the crash?
There are many CCTV cameras that would have captured the rider on the evening of the crash or being dumped at hospital. Let us shame the devil and release this footage.
The admission and postmortem reports should also end the speculation about the nature of injuries. Were the body burns from the exhaust or not? How exactly did he lose two of his fingers? One report, which claimed to refer to the postmortem findings, said the injuries to the fingers were incurred in a “defensive” manner. The way you lose a finger from slamming into a drainage channel differs from when you do while raising your hands to prevent a machete or a chainsaw from greeting your face.
There are, of course, other troubling things about such an incident, including the lack of emergency medical services even here in Kampala, health insurance, and basic record keeping and information sharing between the police and medical facilities.
For now, the most important thing is for the police to back up their story and end the speculation. After what happened to Yasin Kawuma, Robert Kyagulanyi, Francis Zaake, and hundreds, if not thousands of others, we patriots desperately need the accident story to hold up.
The alternative scenarios of what could have happened are unthinkable and heartbreaking.
Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and a poor man’s freedom fighter.