Lives we lost: Dream of escaping poverty cut short by bullet

Monday January 04 2021

This photo handout shows 22-year-old Edward Ssebika aka Kagaali who was shot dead during the deadly November 18/19 deadly chaos. Read story below for details. PHOTO/NMG.


In new series beginning today, we chronicle how bullets prematurely shattered the blooming dreams of dozens during two days of madness November 18/19 2020. 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.

Edward Ssebbika aka Kagaali

The 22-year-old Edward Ssebbika was living in Nabuti Zone, Namumira Ward in Central Division, Mukono District. He was a carrier of merchandise for traders in Kikko market (Mukono Central market).

His best friend and roommate, who did not want to be named, says Ssebbika was a very hardworking man because of his difficult upbringing.

“He had been brought up in abject poverty and he always told me that he did not want to return to the village. He was trying so hard to get out of poverty and he had a hopeful outlook towards life. After paying his share of the rent, whatever money was left, he sent to his mother,” the friend says.

His friend adds that Ssebbika was not really political, although he loved listening to and watching political talk shows on radio and television. Besides ferrying merchandise, Ssebbika also had a small shop in the market where he sold beverages.


“We worked at a depot in Wantoni, a Mukono Town outskirt, until July (2020) when our boss had to close the shop due to declining business. From then on, we began using our bicycles to make a living,” the friend says.

On the day Ssebbika died, his friend says he was jolly.

“We woke up early as we always did and he (Ssebbika) prepared tea. As we took tea, he put on music and danced. Later, we took our separate ways. He went to the market. At 1pm, a client called me to our home [where I was offered a] job of transporting beans. I left Ssebbika in town.”

When the riots began in Mukono, the friend was still at home. Ssebika called him to tell him the situation was bad in town and that he was in hiding.

“After an hour, he walked into our room. I do not know where he had passed to come home because I had heard that the situation was so bad. He told me to give him his jacket. I gave him a green jacket and he walked out. I followed him to the door and asked where he was going yet there were bullets flying all over,” the friend adds.

The two young men were renting a room a few metres from the Jinja highway. Ssebbika told his friend that he was going to collect his bicycle which he had left somewhere for safe-keeping.

“After 15 minutes, a neighbour’s child came in and told me he had seen someone being killed. Then, another man I did not know walked into our room and said the person who had been shot was wearing gumboots and a green jacket. A few minutes later, someone came with a picture on his phone. Even today, I have not recovered from the shock,” the friend adds.

The friend says witnesses told him Ssebbika had been shot in the back of the head by a bespectacled plain-clothed security operative. Ssebbika was buried in Sserinya, Busunjju County in Mityana District.

His family, who did not wish to talk to us, said no government official had reached out to them in their moment of grief.

UCU finalist shot by plain-clothed gunman 

His family does not want to talk to the press about the 21-year-old finalist at Uganda Christian University, Mukono. His uncle, Mr Frederick Mpanga, says every time they talk about Kimuli, the emotional storm stirred by his death swirls afresh.


This photo handout shows 21-year-old UCU finalist Yusuf Kimuli who was shot dead during the deadly November 18/19 deadly chaos. Read story below for details. PHOTO/NMG.

Kimuli was shot in Seeta Town, Mukono District, as he looked for a way out of the chaos, to go home. Witnesses said he was shot in the back by plain-clothed operatives driving in a private car.
Kimuli was buried in Namaliri Parish, Kayunga District.