Kampala. “Gift used to pick my calls. As I told you, I am a councillor. He is the one who used to pick my phone calls or make phone calls,” Happy Namatovu Ssempaka fondly speaks about her late 16-year-old son Gift Samuel Nsubuga. The teenager is one of the many gunshot victims of the November 18th, 2020 riots triggered by the arrest of the National Unity President, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu during his presidential campaign trail in Luuka district.
He was shot in Kyebando, a Kampala suburb. According to Namatovu, because of her hearing impairment, her deceased son was a vital part of her life matrix since he served as her interpreter. Representing people with disabilities at Kawempe Division Council, she has already tested the perils of her son’s demise. “Now, the people I represent quarrel because they call and no one picks, they say I am not working,” she said.
And her new interpreter is often far away. “Sometimes, I fail to attend council because when I call him that we go somewhere, he tells me he is far away.” Namatovu recently lost in her bid for another term to represent people with disabilities on the National Resistance Movement (NRM) ticket.
She says she was outmaneuvered by competitors who were better organized and financially well off.
From the same family, Grace Rachael Nankya, a sister to Nsubuga, suffering from cancer of the eye, says that her brother was essential to her life at school.
“Whenever I fell sick, I would try to resist going home. He would soothe me and ensure that I return home to get medication,” she says. The two siblings were studying at St Henry’s College Namugongo in Wakiso District. This soothing is gone.
Such are the tales of grief, discomfort, irreplaceable losses from families that lost relatives in the November 18th, 2020 riots. We interviewed at least 13 families of victims who died in the riots. And they are all anxiously waiting to know if their relatives were “victims” and not “rioters,” as per the president’s classification of those who died in the riot. The president said families of the victims will be given financial support.
Eddie Kamoga lost his brother Shafik Kamoga 25 years old. A technician was shot in Barrack Zone, Makindye Division. “What pains me,” Kamoga says “He was not among those who were protesting. He was not. He was shot when he stepped out of the house.”
Eddie Kamoga says the incident is still haunting family members and friends who glanced at him dying. Kamoga left a six months old pregnant wife, who is jobless. “Every time I talk to my mother, all she asks is whether the government will compensate them. The government cannot pay the life of Shafik, but it can give help because Kamoga was supporting the family,” he says.
Amos Ssegawa, 15-year-old was killed by a stray bullet in Kisenyi as he scampered with his mother Hajjarah Nakitto, to board a taxi to escape the riot. “He was shot in the mouth and fell down. We were trying to save our lives,” Nakitto says. The loss, she says is haunting and irreplaceable.
“Even if they gave me the whole of Kampala, it cannot replace my son. He was young and innocent.”
Like any parent, she had high hopes in her son who was in senior two at Lubiri High School. Nakitto says her son was a footballer, featuring in the school team. And he could have made it to the national team, the mother hoped.
Nakitto says there was a CCTV camera where her son was shot. “There is evidence. They have it,” she asserts. The family has filed litigation and is demanding Shillings 2 billion compensation.
Leah Kizito Namusoke, a daughter to 54-year-old Christine Zawedde, who was shot in the riots, says the family now depends on her brother who has to provide basic needs. Namusoke explains that their late mother was the breadwinner for the family of eleven that included grandchildren.
The family, Namusoke says reported the case to the police. They submitted evidence, including postmortem reports from Mulago Hospital and Mengo Hospital. Namusoke says they have not heard from the police for two months. And they have never heard from the government.
Namusoke, recently graduated from Ndejje University with a Degree in Accounting. She hasn’t got a job to make a contribution towards looking after the family. Fred Mpanga lost a nephew, Yusuf Kimuli, 21-year-old and former student at Uganda Christian University (UCU).
The rage and frustration in his voice reveals the extent of the loss.
“I don’t want to hear what you’re saying. We used more than Shillings 20 million to bury him. I don’t even want to hear anything about government compensation,” he says.
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