Masaka killings: Calling Jesus’ name saved me from death - Ssemanda

Mr Jimmy Ssemanda, a survivor of the attacks, arranges bricks at his home in Kisaaka Village, Kimaanya / Kabonera Municipality in Masaka City. PHOTO | WILSON KUTAMBA

What you need to know:

  • The attacks, which occured between July and September, claimed 28 lives and left several others with injuries. The attacks brought back ugly memories of similar attacks between 2017 and 2018, which left scores dead

We bring you accounts of survivors of machete attacks in the Greater Masaka area in 2021. The attacks, which occured between July and September, claimed 28 lives and left several others with injuries. The attacks brought back ugly memories of similar attacks between 2017 and 2018, which left scores dead. In this third installment, we bring you the story of Jimmy Ssemanda, who narrowly survived the attack.

On a chilly Friday morning, a visibly weak Jimmy Ssemanda, 27, steps out of his father’s house in Kisaaka Village, Kimaanya / Kabonera Municipality in Masaka City donning a sweater with white and red stripes.
Despite his poor health, he starts arranging bricks in the compound.

A staunch Christian, Mr Ssemanda quickly greets us with the “Praise God” salutation before giving us a wooden chair to sit on as we start our conversation.

“I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ in 2017 and trusted Him with everything. I survived that day because of Him,” he says before revealing the events that happened on the night of August 27, 2021 when he was attacked by the machete-wielding men.
He says the fateful day began like any other.

“I did home chores at my father’s home as usual, before going to the garden. After digging with my father, I went to my brick business at around 12 pm a few metres away from home where I spent most of the day,” he shares.

Mr Ssemanda says he left the bricklaying place at around 7pm and went back home to catch up with his family for supper.
“After supper, I continued chatting with my siblings until 9.30pm and left the home for Kisaaka Trading Centre where I used to sleep in my rented room,” he says.
The trading centre is three kilometers away from the family home.

Mr Ssemanda says he went with a solar panel battery for recharging since it serves as a backup for lighting and charging phones at home.
While approaching the trading centre, with the solar battery on his shoulder, he says he looked behind and saw two people wearing gumboots, walking towards him.

“Given the situation that was in the area at the time, I got suspicious and increased the speed I was walking at, but the sound of the boots following me got louder, before the assailant hit me on the head with a big stick,” Mr Ssemanda says.

“The attacker hit me three times on the head, I fell down shouting ‘Yesu, Yesu! [Jesus, Jesus].’ After falling down, people in the neighbourhood swiftly came to my rescue and the assassin fled thinking that I had died,” he says.

“The stick hit the battery, splitting it into pieces and that’s how I survived with injuries on the head,” he adds.
He says the attackers also killed Madi Mulindwa, 47, five kilometres away from where he [Ssemanda] was attacked.
His rescuers quickly informed the police, who took him to Masaka Regional Referral Hospital.

Hospital Bills
Mr Ssemanda says in the three days he spent at the hospital, his family was buying the drugs from the facility’s private wing and pharmacies in Masaka City. 

“The medical bills were hefty because the assailant hit the occipital lobe, the visual processing area of the brain,” he says.
“I was discharged, but continued using drugs as prescribed by the medics although I developed dizziness which I have to this day. In October 2021, police detectives came back home with a man suspected to have hit me, to reconstruct the scene of crime,”   Mr Ssemanda says.

He adds that the suspect admitted to committing the offence.
“I heard him saying that he was surprised that I was still alive. ‘I thought he died, how did he survive?’” Mr Ssemanda quotes the suspect as having told the detectives
He says he was not allowed to talk to the suspect as he was surrounded by armed detectives.

“They just allowed him to narrate what he did to me, to corroborate with what I had shared with them earlier,” he shares.
Since then, Mr Ssemanda says the government has been silent about the people who wanted to kill him.

“Because apart from the Members of Parliament that are being tried, there are other suspects who were brought to reconstruct the crime scene like that key suspect and we want to know what came out of the police investigations,” he says.

“I equally want to know why I was personally targeted and the motive of the attackers because up to now, I fear moving at night,” Mr Ssemanda says.
Ever since he was attacked, he says most of his income-generating businesses have collapsed. 

“I had a bricklaying business and I am just checking on the bricks I made over a year ago. I can’t stand in the sun for an hour. I can no longer lift heavy things and every time I have headache,” he says.
Mr Ssemanda also says he used to ride a boda boda and do farming. 

“These activities supported the family and raised money for school fees for my siblings, but since I was attacked, I’m unable to execute any of those. I only work when there is no sunshine, but when it’s there, I develop a headache and dizziness,” he says.

Mr Ssemanda accuses the government of not helping the survivors. “The government only considered people who lost their loved ones by giving them Shs10 million each, but we who were direct victims, received nothing. We ask President Museveni and his government to consider helping machete survivors in Masaka because we were left disabled and unable to support our families,” he says.. 

Looking back

Greater Masaka area has been a hotspot of mysterious killings over the last 10 years.
In June 2009, 14 murders were registered in Greater Masaka and they were attributed to contract killers.

The hackings ceased, but emerged in 2013 in Rakai District where families were attacked and hacked to death. Investigations were not conclusive.

Again in 2018, another group hacking people emerged in the area, but some suspects were arrested and others killed.  

Police said the groups behind the killings of people in Greater Masaka area were organised and sponsored by individuals.

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga at the time said 15 suspects, who admitted to the killings, were arrested.
Police ruled out monetary benefits or land wrangles since suspects did not take anything from their victims.