How riots ended many lives

People walk with their hands raised up in Kampala during the riots on November 18 where scores were shot dead after the arrest of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine. PHOTO | STEPHEN OTAGE

What you need to know:

  • Grieving families and friends share the triumphs, travails and final moments of relatives in a way that offers insights into the lives of victims hitherto treated as statistics.

In the new series, we chronicle how bullets prematurely shattered the blooming dreams of dozens during two days of madness last November. In interviews with our reporter, Gillian Nantume, grieving families and friends share the triumphs, travails and final moments of relatives in a way that offers insights into the lives of victims hitherto treated as statistics.

Shot over obscene hand gesture

His friends, who prefer to remain anonymous, say Kirujja was 20-years-old. He lived in Muzaana Zone, in Kisenyi, Kampala. He did not live with his parents, but he had a girl-friend.

 No one can point to exactly where he lived as they explain that like other boys in the neighbourhood, Kirujja was just sketching life. Two of his friends we spoke to admitted to taking part in some of the rioting on Link Road in Kisenyi.
 “Kirujja ate kikomando (a meal of chapatti and  beans) at about 10am in the morning, in Muzaana Taxi Park. Like the rest of us, he had no job. When the rioting started, we moved towards Link Road to see what we could do,” one of the youth said.
The friend says Kirujja and another young man stood on the balcony of one of the buildings and called out to a soldier on the street.

“When he looked up, the other young man made an obscene hand gesture. The soldier came up to him, challenging him to repeat the sign. Kirujja did not know that his friend had sneaked away.”
 Kirujja made the obscene hand gesture. The soldier took aim and shot. The bullet grazed Kirujja’s arm.
 “He shot him again, twice, in the ribs. Kirujja died on the spot. When we got his body, it took us a long time to find his relatives,” the friend says.
 He does not know where Kirujja was buried.

Kirevu was killed from a police  station


Kirevu, 35, a mechanic, lived in Nabuti Village, Nsuube-Kauga Parish, Mukono Town Council. His wife, Zahara Namyalo, says they have six children – including twins (the eldest in Primary Five). However, she says she heard that the deceased had other children.
 Kirevu was a jack-of-all trades, who dealt in anything, as long as it brought in money.
 Hence, he was a land broker, rice seller, and a mechanic.

 A police report says Kirevu was one of the rioters who had been arrested in Wandegeya, Kampala City, but his wife disputes this.
 “He woke up very early in the morning because he had to meet with a friend who would ride with him to Wandegeya Police Sation. Someone had sold them a faulty machine and had been dodging them until they opened up a case at the police station. The man had promised to refund their money at the police station before the investigating officer,” she says.
 Being in a hurry, Kirevu refused to eat the breakfast that his wife had set on the dining table.
The mechanic and his friend spent a fruitless day at the police station as the man who owed them money failed to turn up.

 “His friend later told me that in the afternoon, police began bringing in rioters who had been arrested. They found Salongo and his friend still standing at the counter and told them to enter the cell with the rioters. My husband refused, telling them he had come to the station in the morning to follow up on a case he had reported earlier.”
 The friend, who feared to be interviewed, said an LDU personnel ordered him to enter the cell. As he entered, the LDU put the nozzle of his gun in Kirevu’s stomach to push him into the cell. A bullet went off.

 The police report says an LDU (names withheld for legal reasons) beat up Kirevu before shooting him twice in the stomach.
He then pushed the wounded man into the cell, but the prisoners shouted out for help.
 “My husband’s friend got a phone from one of the rioters and called me. It was late, people were still rioting in Mukono town, and I had nowhere to pass to reach Mulago hospital. I only saw his body the next day at 3pm. He did not even have a vigil in his home; they drove the body straight to the village,” his wife says.

 Kirevu was buried in Bugobango village, Ngando Sub-county, Butambala District.
 At the time of his death, Kirevu was embroiled in a dispute over the land where he had constructed his home.
The other party has already confiscated the land title from the wife and was threatening to evict her.
She says since that day, no one in the police establishment has contacted her to explain why her husband was killed.    

Died on way to hospital


Mukiibi, 17, a Senior Two student of Mbogo Mixed School in Kawanda parish, Wakiso District lived with his family in Central Zone 2, Kazo Lugoba, in Kawempe Division, Kampala.  
His mother, Juliet Nakato, says:  “He was a quiet boy and wanted to become a mechanic.”

 Day one of  the riots (Wednesday), he was watching movies.  His mother says she heard the rioters on the main road at about 4pm.  “I went outside to watch what was happening, and my neighbour joined me, we could see people burning tyres. When the police came, the rioters ran up the ascending road and disappeared behind houses. At 5pm, electricity went off and Mukiibi came to the verandah and asked why there was so much noise in the neighbourhood, ” she narrated.

 He was informed that there was a riot and he decided to go two houses down the slope and get a clearer view of the rioting. About 200 metres away from his home, he met a group of friends.
“There was another round of gunfire, and this time, it was too much. When I saw the rioters coming, I also ran, entered the house and locked the door. My neighbour  too ran to her house. About 15 minutes later, a boy came running and told me Mukiibi had been shot in the thigh and rushed to a nearby clinic.”
He  died as they were transporting him to a bigger  hospital.

Ssegawa was shot in the mouth


He was a 15-year-old student of Lubiri High School (Buloba Campus) in Senior Two. He lived with his parents in a two-room rental in Kikajjo, Namasuba, in Kampala City. Ssegawa was his mother’s first child. Due to the closure of schools, Ssegawa was free and because the festive season was approaching, two weeks before the rioting, his mother, Hajara Nakitto, began taking him to her shop in Kisenyi.

 She says since she was 15 years older than her son, they understood each other well. They discussed business plans and he was obedient and also God-fearing.
 “I had anticipated that the Christmas season would be busy so I needed help. I sell clothes in Kisenyi and his main job was to dress the mannequins in the morning. However, when the customers were many, he would help me to serve them. He had just begun to understand how the business is run.”

 Nakitto says at about 11 am – on the second day when the riots seemed to intensify, she decided to close the shop and take her son home.
“We walked towards Usafi Taxi Park with our arms held up. Although our arms were up, my hand was on one of his arms. At Cornerstone Plaza, we saw a military pick up speeding towards us from Mengo. Their guns were pointed at us, but we kept on walking with our arms up. When the soldiers shot, Ssegawa fell down. I also fell away from him – in the middle of the road,” she says.

 The bullet hit Ssegawa in the mouth and exited through the right side of his neck. He died shortly afterwards. Well-wishers, including a   Spark TV journalist  Joselyn Nakibuule, took him to Doctor’s Clinic in Mengo, but he was pronounced dead on arrival.
 Ssegawa was buried in Kinoni parish, Kisekka Sub-county, Lwengo District.
The family lodged a complaint with Uganda Human Rights Commission. Nakitto now has only one child, a 12-year-old girl.

Kayondo’s colleagues watched him die


The 28-year-old carpenter was a football enthusiast. He played number nine in Pentagon City FC, and on the day the riots started, his club had a match at 4pm. He never made it.
 Kayondo was a carpenter at Pentagon City near Kubiri roundabout in Wandegeya. He had worked there since 2010. He lived in Kazo Angola Village, Kazo Ward Parish in Kawempe Division and had two wives.

The wife he lived with had one child, while the second wife, who was living in Lusanja, was pregnant with the couples’ first child.
 He worked with two of his brothers and they were pooling money to complete a house they were building for their father in the village.
 His friends and colleague, Isaiah Lutalo Sseggwane says Kayondo loved having fun.

 “He joked a lot. He was a talker. He also loved making practical jokes on people. Before the coronavirus, we would often take time off on the weekends to go to Entebbe and have fun at the beach. Because of his love for football, we had nicknamed him Ngolo Kante. He loved singing but he had such an ugly voice that we always laughed when he began singing.”
 On the fateful day, Kayondo was helping out another carpenter to work on a set of sofas on Gayaza Road. When people began rioting, he decided to walk back to Pentagon City.

 “He took off his work clothes and wore his regular clothes, saying, ‘Ebya leero biganye.’ (loosely translated: Today, business has not been profitable). We walked up to Nsangi Nursery and Primary School, just a few feet away from the carpentry shop and sat there for a while. However, when the rioting intensified, he told me he was going home. He got up and walked towards Bwaise. He was shot as I watched him go,” Ssegwanne says.
 Willy Mugambe, Kayondo’s brother, says he was shot in front of Masjid Bitaamisi – about 200 metres from his workplace – as he crossed the road. “There was an army patrol car moving along the road. When it passed him, a soldier shot him in the forehead. It was about 5pm.”

 His colleagues rushed to carry his body back to their workplace and organised a car to transport it to the mortuary.
 Kayondo was buried in Mirembe Village, Kilokola parish, Kalamba Sub-county, Butambala District.
Mugambe says no government official has visited the family. He adds that only National Unity Platform party officials, including its president, condoled with the family.

Woman, 57, killed in accident


The 57-year-old grandmother and bar owner sustained grievous injuries when a speeding car rammed into her as she took shelter from the riots at Mini Price in Kampala City.

The car had been painted yellow with President Museveni’s stickers. The driver was speeding away from rioters who wanted to destroy the car.
 Nalwadda lived in Kibogo, near Masitoowa in Nansana Town Council. She had rented at the same house for the past 20 years. She sold beer and waragi (local gin) in her bar.
 Her grandson, Julius Kaita, says Nalwadda had gone to town to get treatment for her leg at Kiruddu Hospital.

 “Someone had hurt her right leg as he was closing a door and she had been having persistent problems with it. Previously, the doctors had wanted to operate on the leg, but then, they changed their mind after they saw she was improving just by taking medication. She always went to the hospital with my mother, but on that day, my mother was busy, so she went alone.”

 Nalwadda called her daughter at midday to inform her that she had received treatment and had been given medication. She was on her way back to Nansana. The car ran over  Nalwadda at about 4pm – and shattered her left leg – as she was waiting for a taxi at Mini Price. She lay on the road, without help, for a long time.

 Nalwadda’s sister, Rose Mukabuteera, says,: “That man did not intend to knock my sister. He was also trying to save his life because people were throwing stones at his car. That is why he was  speeding.”
 Nalwadda died while being wheeled into the theatre at 11pm. She had lost a lot of blood.
 She was buried in Ndibulungi village, Ttamu parish, Busimbi Sub-county in Mityana District.

Mother struck while heading home to find her children


Thee 36-year-old mother of four lived in Kazo Lugoba, next to God’s Church International. Her sister, Pauline Nakyejjwe, says she was not into politics. The two sisters were not close, but Nakyejjwe says Nabakooza had separated from the father of her children and had a new boyfriend.
 Nabakooza was a juice seller at Kawaala junction in Kasubi parish, Rubaga Division.

She had a shop where she made the juice and sold it to her customers around the busy junction. Prior to that, she had spent five years working as a waitress in a restaurant.
 Her friend, Hajjat, who has a roadside stall at the same junction, says:  “That day, there was rioting at Kawaala junction, but most of the business people remained at their shops and stalls guarding their merchandise. Maama Winnie also remained in her shop, although it was wide open. She did not close the door.”

 When the police and soldiers arrived to quell the riots, the rioters began a game of hide-and-seek, lighting up tyres a few metres away from where the police were.
 “As the situation in the junction began to calm down, Mama Winnie told me she wanted to go home because her children were alone in the house. She said they were probably scared from the sounds of the bullets and teargas. She carried her black backpack and began walking towards Kazo.”

 At Kafunda, a place about 500 metres from the junction, Nabakooza came upon a group of rowdy rioters. As the police and soldiers shot at the rioters, she was struck in the right eye. She fell into a drainage channel opposite the mini market.
 Nabakooza was buried in Lugo village, Seeta Bweya parish, Kalamba Sub-county in Butambala District. Her sister says she is afraid to go and lodge a complaint at the police station because she heard that the man who shot Nabakooza works there.