Masaka killings: How 69-year-old Nakirigya got paralysed after attack

Jowelia Nakirigya whose home was attacked by machete-wielding men in Kkingo Village, Kkingo Sub-county in Masaka District on August 27, 2021. PHOTO | GERTRUDE MUTYABA

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. In this second installment, we bring you the story of Ms Jowelia Nakirigya whose life has changed for the worse after an attack.

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 second installment, we bring you the story of Ms Jowelia Nakirigya whose life has changed for the worse after an attack.

The night of August 27, 2021, will remain engraved in Ms Jowelia Nakirigya’s mind for the rest of her life.

That night, at about 8:30pm, Ms Nakirigya’s family comprising her two young sisters and six grandchildren was attacked by machete-wielding men who smashed the windows as they attempted to enter the house.

The attackers first damaged the security lights before ordering the occupants to open the door.

“I asked the children and my sisters to make an alarm so that our neighbours could come to our rescue, but the attackers shouted, warning us to stop making noise and threatening to kill us when they enter the house, but this never stopped us, we continued yelling as I made phone calls to the village chairperson,” Ms Nakirigya says.

“I also told one of the grandchildren to call the police, but their telephone numbers could not go through,” she adds.

As she was crying out for help, the village chairperson, Mr Ronald Kateregga, called her.

“He said we should calm down, the police were coming to rescue us. But we continued making the alarm.  It took about an hour for the police to arrive. And during all that time, we were exchanging words with the attackers,” Ms Nakirigya says.

When police arrived, they fired in the air to scare off the attackers.

“But because of my illness [high blood pressure], I fainted and regained consciousness after being taken to Masaka Regional Referral Hospital. I thank God we did not suffer physical injuries,” she says

Since that incident, Nakirigya says she got a stroke and can no longer walk for long.

“When I sit in one place, my heart starts to pump very fast. When I finish eating food, I become sleepy immediately. My life has never been the same and I am on medication all the time,” she says

She says she used to go to the garden to dig, but can no longer do so because she feels general body weakness, and some of her body parts are not functioning well.

“Every time I hear movements around my house at night, I get scared, thinking that the attackers have come back,” she says.

Due to the current economic hardships, the family sometimes fails to meet Ms Nakirigya’s medical bills.

“We had expected the government to help us meet the hospital bills but we received nothing. I now hear they are planning to use us as witnesses in the case against the two MPs [Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana] and others, for me I will not go there since they abandoned us at a time we needed them most,” she adds.

Ms Hasifah Zalwango, 63, a sister of Ms Nakirigya, who sleeps in the quarters adjacent to the main house, says she was able to see the attackers.

“I peeped through the window and saw eight men standing outside and brandishing machetes. We started yelling for help and we were finally helped. Since that incident, we make sure that everything is done and by exactly 6pm, everyone is expected to be in the house,” she says.

Mr Ronald Kateregga, the chairperson of Kkingo Village, says he had just returned home, but a few minutes after entering the house, he heard an alarm from the neighbourhood, followed by a sound of breaking glass, which he later noticed were window panes.

“After a few seconds, I received a distress call from my neighbour, Ms Nakirigya, informing me how machete-wielding killers had attacked her home,” he says.

Mr Kateregga says he then prepared to go to their rescue.

“Unfortunately, as I stood in my living room, ready to move out, I saw a stranger through my glass window brandishing a panga. I canceled my plan and continued communicating with Ms Nakirigya on the phone. A few minutes later, my window pane got smashed, but this did not scare me, I continued talking on the phone,” he says.

“After creating a hole in the window, one of the attackers raised a panga and tried to cut me. I used a club I was holding to hit the panga, but unfortunately it fell outside and the assailant seems to have picked it,” he adds.

Mr Kateregga says the attackers then warned him against calling the police.

 “I heard one of them saying they know me, I am the village chairperson and I shouldn’t call the police, threatening that if I do so, they are going to kill me and all my family members,” he says.

“A few minutes later, I heard them walking away. I called the police who responded immediately and on arrival, they started firing live bullets, which still haunts my family,” he explains.

Mr Kateregga says he later learnt that police were pursuing the same attackers right from Ms Nakirigya’s home and by the time the officers arrived at his compound, the former had already fled.

According to Mr Kateregga, his wife, whose identity he prefers to remain anonymous, was big in size, but she has gradually lost weight since the incident.

“My daughter, whenever she comes across soldiers, runs away crying. I still believe all the people who suffered at the hands of the machete gangs should be offered free psychosocial support, that is the only thing the government can give us since they failed to support us as survivors,” he says.

He also calls for an expeditious trial of all those believed to have been behind the attacks.

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 detectives ruled out monetary benefits or land wrangles since suspects did not take anything from their victims. Besides, those targeted were at the lowest of the economic ladder. The criminals operated in three cells, two of which were in Lwengo while the other was in Masaka City.

Mr Enanga said the two cells in Lwengo District had been dismantled by security agencies.