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Wild Wild Central: Woman's life took worse turn after surviving Masaka killings

Life has been a bitter-sweet gift for 69-year-old Jowelia Nakirigya, a resident of KKingo Village, since the night of August 27, 2021.

Wild Wild Central: Woman's life took worse turn after surviving Masaka killings

A police shooting, a chairman under siege and the routines of two families forever changed. At the last minute, police arrived guns blazing to scare off the attackers at which point Nakirigya lost consciousness.

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When she woke up the next day, it was to a new body that cannot function without medication despite escaping injury-free.

She recounts the ordeal to Daily Monitor in an interview about the Killings that cost 28 lives in Greater Masaka between July and September in 2021.

When police arrived over an hour after they were contacted by the Chairman, they fired in the air to scare off the attackers.

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“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,” Nakirigya says.

Unfortunately, she had had a stroke and cannot walk for long, nor do gardening like she once used to.

“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."

At 8:30pm on that fateful day, machete-wielding men smashed the windows of Nakirigya's house attempting to enter. They then damaged the security lights before ordering her and her family comprising of two sisters and six grandchildren, to open the door.

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The occupants made alarm despite the attackers' threats while the househead contacted the village leadership.

“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,” Nakirigya narrates.

Efforts to contact police were futile, "I also told one of the grandchildren to call the police, but their telephone numbers could not go through,” and through her cries of despair, the phone rang. It was the Chairman, Ronald Kateregga

“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, she continues.

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Meanwhile at the Chairman's household, he had just returned home when he heard an alarm from the neighbourhood and the sound of glass breaking. This was soon after followed by a call.

“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.

Kateregga's plan to go outside was aborted by one of the attackers in his compound seemingly laying in wait for him.

“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 narrates.

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The attacker made an attempt on his life but his dodged him and soon they walked away when their threats went unheard.

“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.

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.

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.

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He later learnt that his attackers were part of the attackers at Nakirigya's home. After chasing them from her home, police arrived at Kateregga's home but they had all vanished.

According to Nakirigya's sister, Hasifah Zalwango, 63, they ensure that all household activities are done before night fall.

“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.

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

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The medical bills from treating her have overwhelmed them. She has vowed not to participate in state investigations because they have not received assistance.

“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.

Kateregga says his wife, who was a big woman, has since lost weight. His daughter cowers when she sees security fatigue.

“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."

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