What it means...For your husband to kill your children

Susan Akello regrets not taking early precautions against her abusive husband. Her goal now is to protect her remaining two children at all costs. Photo by Brian Mutebi

When Susan Akello tells people that her ex-husband hacked her children, many ask where she gets the courage to keep going.

My name is Susan Akello, 24, from Anaka Village, in Nwoya District. When I got married at the age of 14, little did I know the bitter pill I would have to swallow.
I left my home village 12 years ago to work as a maid following my mother’s death.
I was seven-years-old when that happened. I also remember my father being killed by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.

My undoing
While in Anaka, a woman who lived in Kampala said she was going to adopt me. I was excited because I thought I was going to school. That was never the case.
Instead, I became a maid for two years. It was there that I met Francis Oringa. He became my first boyfriend even though he was much older.
He was working at a blankets manufacturing factory. He was a good person and I believed everything he said was right. I did not know any better.
When he suggested that I move to his village in Patongo (Agago District), to become his wife, I did not hesitate yet I was just 14.
Within four years, we had three children. Oringa also relocated and started operating a small kiosk; selling household items while I fetched water for people to supplement the family income. We did not have much but that did not matter.

Things fall apart
Things changed when my mother-in-law bewitched me. She sent me a terrible disease called Dobo because she never liked me. (Dobo is leprosy)
From that time, things changed at home and it did not take long for me to separate with Oringa. I moved to Lapudo village in Lakwela Sub-county, Gulu District, with my children.
Life was tough. To make ends meet, I started burning charcoal. That is where I met another man who talked me into marriage. I thought we would live in peace. That was never to be.
He was a violent man. He always beat me whenever he returned home drunk.
I had a son with him. My son was nine months old on February 7 when disaster struck. I had gone with the older children to burn charcoal leaving behind the younger two.
While there, the children complained of hunger so I went home to get some food and also feed the little ones.

The execution
However, when I got home I could not find the children. I thought they were sleeping. And indeed when I checked on their bed, they lay on it.
I tried to wake them up but they were unresponsive. I tried everything but they remained motionless. As a mother, I knew something was wrong.
I started wailing and neighbours rushed to our hut thinking it was the usual fights my husband and I had. One of them then told me how my husband had killed my children.
I was told my husband first gave poison to the nine-months-old boy. As he fought for his life, he got a hoe and hit him on the head.
When the little girl saw what happened, she attempted to run. He ran after her, caught her and hit her too. He then got the bodies and lay them on the bed and ran away. That is where I found the bodies; on our bed.

The aftermath
He was later arrested and he is now in prison for murder. It was too much for me, I was taken to a shelter where I received psychosocial support. I wanted to kill myself. It was too much for me, I couldn’t hold it. I was only helped by people who referred to the Shelter (a refuge for women who have suffered domestic violence). Now I am better.
I am trying to save so that I can raise Shs30,000 needed to process my son’s death certificate. I was able to get for the girl’s so I am saving for the boy. The death certificate shows Sharon Alimocan three-year-old died, instantly on February 7, of “severe brain tissue damage due to fractured skull.”
My only regret is that I took for granted the signs that my abusive husband showed. A week before he killed the children, my husband beat me for not giving him the money I had got from selling seven bags of simsim.
I wanted to use the money to take the children to school. In the scuffle, he cut me on the head with a hoe.
He was arrested but at a local council meeting, he promised to reform and was released.

This far
I am trying to move on. I got a job at a restaurant where I earn a daily wage of Shs2,000. With this, I have been able to afford monthly rent of Shs15,000. I now do not take anything for granted.
I pierced my younger son’s ears to protect him from ritual sacrifice.
These boys are my life and I have to protect them at all costs. I hope I can save enough to start a business and live my own life.
My new home is located just behind Gulu University Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies.
I want to make enough money so that my sons will not just play at the fence of the university but actually study there.

As told to Brian Mutebi