What you need to know:
- The attacker cut off Ms Nakyanzi’s right arm. The thumb on her left hand was also completely cut off as she had tried to raise it to defend herself.
Starting today, we bring you accounts of survivors of machete attacks in the Greater Masaka area in 2021. The attacks, which occurred 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 first instalment, we bring you the story of a survivor who is still nursing injuries to date.
When Mr Chrysostom Ssengabi, 37, was walking home at around 7pm on September 1, 2021, he met a man in his mid-30s, just 100 metres away from the family house in Kyango-Kazo Cell, Kyotera District.
The stranger looked guilty of a crime. The two were walking along a narrow path and the stranger seemed to be hiding something and walked rather close to Mr Ssengabi.
This prompted Mr Ssengabi to ask him: “Are you not part of the machete-wielding gang we hear is terrorising Masaka?”
The stranger didn’t answer but instead continued walking faster without looking back.
Little did Mr Ssengabi know that the stranger had just hacked his mother, Ms Maria Nakyanzi, 62, before fleeing the area.
“On reaching home, I found my mum helplessly yelling for help as she bled profusely. She told me an unidentified man had cut her arm, but she did not recognise him since she was bending and looking down as she swept the compound,” he narrates.
The attacker cut off Ms Nakyanzi’s right arm. The thumb on her left hand was also completely cut off as she had tried to raise it to defend herself.
A year later, Ms Nakyanzi can neither do any house chores nor carry out farming, which was her main source of income.
“The attack was indeed a big setback in my life and it has made me permanently crippled because I cannot use my hands to work and get school fees for my two children,” she says.
Immediately after the attack, Ms Nakyanzi was taken to Kyotera Medical Centre for first aid before being transferred to Kalisizo Hospital and later Masaka Regional Referral Hospital for further treatment.
“My two sons struggled to pay the medical bills during that time. They were later joined by my husband and a few relatives. However, the bills stretched them so much since all these people are smallholder farmers who survive on selling seasonal cereal crops,” she adds.
“When the bills accumulated while still at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, my husband went back home and sold off my only cow and a plot of land at Shs2.5m, which partially settled my bills,” Ms Nakyanzi reminisces.
Unaware of the trouble Ms Nakyanzi went through to raise money to pay her medical bills, some residents have on many occasions claimed that she received financial assistance from the government and simply doesn’t want to use the money.
“The financial assistance from the government, which some people talk about has not come to me, no one from the government has approached me to help, I am struggling on my own to survive,” she says.
Ms Nakyanzi says after being discharged from Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, detectives from Kyotera Police Station visited her home, but she could hardly share useful information to aid the investigations.
“They [detectives] wanted me to reveal the person who attempted to kill me, but how could I really identify the suspect whose face I didn’t see? So I did not make any statement because I did not recognise the suspect and I’m not good at telling lies,” she explains.
Two days after the attack on Ms Nakyanzi, the then Police political commissar Asan Kasingye who was in the area to assess security operations to avert more attacks, told journalists in Kyotera that the attacker would be arrested.
“Police have identified the suspected murderer and he will be tracked down and arrested soon,” Ms Kasingye said.
However, to date, no suspect linked to the attack on Ms Nakyanzi has been arrested.
“I appeal to the government to intervene and help me settle the bills, which are giving me sleepless nights. I am struggling to pay the school fees of my two children and grandchildren yet I have no income. I heard that the President gave out some cash to a few survivors and the families of those that lost their relatives. Why can’t he also consider me? I am also needy,” she pleads.
Currently, Ms Nakyanzi can’t bathe without assistance from someone. She says she still feels deep pain in the arm and only receives medication at home from a local nurse since she failed to meet regular transport costs and bills at Mulago National Referral Hospital, Kampala, where she was asked to seek further treatment.