Jennifer Mutesi, 36, smiles softly as depressions carve into the scars on her right cheek left by acid burns.
She is soft spoken and to imagine that someone would attack her in such a horrid manner is quite inconceivable.
At least that is what perceived when I met Mutesi in Kabowa, Rubaga Division in Kampala.
It all begun in February 2011 when she was sprinkled with acid by two unknown men as she returned to her home in Nateete.
After having irreconcilable differences with the father of her two children in 2002, Mutesi started working as an attendant in one of her relative’s shops (aunt) in Rubaga.
However, in January 2010, she started a joint business with a friend using a Shs800,000 loan that they had acquired from a bank.
Things seemed to be moving in the right direction for a year until the two developed some misunderstandings over money.
“My friend would take money out of the business without returning it. It was no longer tenable. She would tell people that I was just her worker. To make matters worse she started bringing her siblings to work in the same shop,” says Mutesi as she struggles to keep back tears.
The misunderstanding went on for some time before Mutesi quit the shop to establish her own business.
“When she heard that I had spent some days without going to the shop she demanded that I return but since I did not want to pick fights, I refused,” she says.
That was the start of troubles that worsened one night when she was splashed with acid as she alighted off a boda that she was riding on on her way home.
“I noticed a man trying to follow me after getting off a boda boda. I protected my bag because I thought he was just a thief. But after he walked past me, he signaled another man as if to confirm that I was the right person. The two then walked backwards and before I could do anything I felt a liquid roll off my face and down my shoulders,” she says.
“I felt immense pain and my eyes had been blinded,” she says.
Mutesi was rushed to a nearby clinic before she was referred to Rubaga Hospital where she stayed for two weeks. At Rubaga she paid a bill of Shs1.5m but was later transferred to Mulago hospital for further management.
After about five months, she left the hospital but life proved hard with no income to pay her children’s fees as well as buying home necessities.
However, through a recommendation, she linked up with Centre for Rehabilitation of Survivors of Acid and Burns Violence where she was able to get emotional support and training in crafts making as well capital to start and manage her own business.
Through the support, Mutesi was able to start a second-hand clothes business where on average she makes Shs100,000 a week.
She uses between Shs250,000 and Shs300,000 every week as capital. Besides selling clothes, she also has a group of other survivors that weaves baskets and bags.
However, Mutesi has not been able to get justice as police, she claims, has been asking for money to help her.
“My husband had already died. So I had no grudges with any one apart from my friend. But even with such a lead, police can not help me apprehend the suspect,” she says.
“They [police] promised to arrest the suspect but to date, she has never been apprehended,” she adds.
Call to government
According to Mutesi, government should enact a law that regulates access to acid given that many people have been maimed or killed using acid.
People who sprinkle others with acid, she says, should face heavy punishments that include lifelong or death sentences that have the capacity to deter the vice.
“These people should just be killed. It is really bad that someone can think of maiming another in such a manner,” she says.